Looking for a name for his new Manchester rock group, Glyn Geoffrey Ellis re-christened himself Wayne Fontana and dubbed band members Eric Stewart, Bob Lang and Rich Rothwell "The Mindbenders." They had a #1 hit with “Game Of Love” in the Spring of 1965, but Wayne Fontana left by the fall and their follow-up hit in the Spring of 1966, “A Groovy Kind Of Love” was recorded without him. The music of the Mind Benders lingers on, but had its young founder actually seen and understood the little-known 1962 horror film that inspired him to christen the band?
“The Mind Benders” movie is at last on DVD and it is every bit as horrifying as I thought it was when I first saw it as a kid on television. It is never shown on either broadcast or cable channels anymore. Why? Is it because sensory deprivation experiments hit way too close to home in the 21st century? Screenwriter James Kennaway based his story on the research conducted at American universities, but insisted that the movie was fictional. As directed by the great Basil Dearden, it plays in an eerily realistic way and what you see lingers in the mind long afterwards.
An MI5 agent, Major Hall (John Clements) wants to know why Professor Sharpey, a top British scientist threw himself off a train. Sharpey had left behind research films of the efforts of long-term isolation on a variety of subjects all of whom looked like death warmed over. Dr. Henry Longman (brilliantly played by Dirk Bogard) suggests it is the isolation itself that is responsible for the subjects’ mental deterioration. “Right,” Major Hall says: “Would you be willing to help me prove exactly what happened to Professor Sharpey?” Being a logical man of science, Dr. Longman agrees and his nightmare continues for the rest of the film. Dr. Longman is placed in an underwater isolation tank for eight hours, until he screams hysterically to be released. Then Major Hall and Michael Bryant as Dr. Tate (he is not-so-secretly in love with Mary Ure as Dr. Longman’s lovely wife) proceed to see if Longman can be brainwashed as they suspect Professor Sharpey was. The two well-meaning mind benders systematically destroy Longman’s belief in his wife, programming him to think that he never loved her. At a critical point, Longman insists that he is jut fine, thank you, that the entire experiment has been a wash-out from start to finish and he walks out on them. Major Hall and Dr. Tate forget about Dr. and Mrs. Longman and their four gorgeous kids (with a fifth on the way) for many months until they finally get a clue that their mind-altering strategy has worked only too well.
“The Mind Benders” is one scary movie. To watch a madly-in-love couple disintegrate simply to prove a scientific point to a clueless MI5 agent and a besotted doctor is scarier than imagining the ugliest monster in the universe. It does make you wonder: how did the American Universities recruit all those volunteers for such a creepy, long lasting experiment?
© 2005 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 7/13/05
The Mind Benders
UK - 1963