They Saved Einstein’s Brain! (1969)
Director: Tim Sleeper (as Alan Smithee)
Producer: Miles Athena
Writer: Tim Sleeper & Leith Seaman and Miles Athena
Elis Mathena
Leah Amstein
Hasan Leitem
Neil Eastham
Music: Marcus Geraldstein
Editing: Miles Athena
Distributor: Liberty Pictures

First-time director Tim Sleeper had an idea for combining the schlocky production values of 1950s and 1960s sci-fi cheapies with an inward-looking philosophizing more common in the New Wave films coming out of Europe, at the time. “A movie you’ll go to for a good time, only to find yourself thinking about some real issues” was how he put it at the time. Sleeper has been evasive about his original vision over the years, claiming that it was everything from before-its-time postmodern ironic to Neil Blomkamp-style visceral mashup. All that’s clear is that the final product didn’t meet his expectations in the least.

Miles Althea (born Miloš Althszeghy) was a Hungarian-American businessman who had taken over ownership of Liberty Pictures after a stream of bankruptcies and mergers. He, acting as producer, actively courted young (cheap) talent like Tim Sleeper with an eye toward competing with American International Pictures as the low-budget sleazy grindhouse king of Hollywood. Acting as producer, Althea clashed with Sleeper from the beginning, eventually rewriting large portions of the script and filming the actors delivering alternate lines after Sleeper had left the set. In some cases, film wasn’t even put into the cameras while Sleeper was “filming.”

The result was that Althea completely altered the tone of Sleeper’s original works, even reediting and redubbing the scenes that the director had shot, so much so that Sleeper demanded his name be removed from the movie. The DGA agreed, and the film became the second to be released under the “Alan Smithee” pseudonym (after Death of a Gunfighter released earlier that year). The completed picture, with mad scientist Mathena attempting to resurrect Albert Einstein’s preserved brain, only to have said brain turn violent and homicidal, enjoyed only a brief run at the box office before a lawsuit by Einstein’s surviving family pulled it from distribution.

Badly edited and redubbed to tiptoe around legal issues, the film eventually became a staple of late-night schlock blocks and found an audience of a sort in the 1990s as fodder for parodies and bad movie marathons.

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