Why Is ‘The Simpsons’ Obsessed With This Weird Nazi Movie?

by Lindsey Francy Jun 5, 2023 News
Why Is ‘The Simpsons’ Obsessed With This Weird Nazi Movie?

The fear of a looming threat from the East inspired many B-movies and creature features. Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Panic in Year Zero were examples of films that addressed the fear of the times. Astro zombies and Day of the Triffids were two of the others that leaned further into the weird ideas of this fear. The Return of Mr. H was a World War 3 movie written and directed by David Bradley.

The film was called Madmen of Mandoras and was released in 1963. The Nazis plan to take over the world by kidnapping an American scientist to get the preserved head of Hitler, and by keeping the head in a jar. After the film's limited run at drive-ins, a group of UCLA students were invited to shoot another 18 minutes of footage for the film. According to Charles P. Mitchell's book The Hitler Filmography, a higher fee was charged for the film when it was sold to television. One of the worst films ever made was called "They Saved Hitler's Brain" and was given a new title.

'The Simpsons' Has Made Many References to 'They Saved Hitler's Brain'

Hitler's head in a jar in They Saved Hitler's Brain

It's understandable that "so bad they're good" movies could become a joke within workplace friendship. The Simpsons has made a number of references to They Saved Hitler's Brain. Bart stole a game from the local Try-N-Save and was banned from the store, only to have his mother tell him he wasn't good enough. "Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge" is one of the games that can be seen in the scene. "Make sure Hitler's brain is saved."

In an episode titled "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'", they mention Hitler's brain again. At one point, Abe recalls a time he had the Fhrer in his sights, and before he pulled the gun, he exclaimed to himself "Now they'll never save your brain, Hitler!" We need to cross reference the creatives behind each episode in order to understand the reason behind this recurring reference. Different people write and direct the episodes. Steven Dean Moore directed The former while Jeffrey Lynch directed the latter. The idea may have started with the writers, Bill and Josh Weinstein.

Lisa sitting at the head of a conference table in a board room meeting in The Simpsons' episode They Saved Lisa's Brain
Image via Fox

The Season 10 episode "They Saved Lisa's Brain" was written by Matt Selman and was a reference to They Saved Hitler's Brain. From his time in the writers' room, could he have continued the joke's legacy? It was written at the end of 1998 after Bill and Josh left the show. The Simpsons had a story titled "They Fixed Homer's Brain" in 1996's Simpsons Comics #27, the same year as Season 7 aired.

The writing duo's first episode as part of the writers' room was in Season 4 and the show's earliest reference to They Saved Hitler's. In the fourth season of "Duffless," Hitler's head is seen in a jar on a table during a Barney Gumble scene. Fans of Matt Groening's shows are familiar with this type of imagery, with the preserved heads of history's famous faces featured frequently in the show. When the Professor says "Everyone's always in favor of saving Hitler's brain, but when you put it in the body of a great white shark, ooh, suddenly you've changed your mind", he's referring to They Saved Hitler's Brain. After leaving The Simpsons, Oakley and Weinstein worked as consultants on the show.

The cover of the DC comics issue called They Saved Luther's Brain
Image via DC Comics

This 1960s B-movie has been referenced in many different media throughout the years. In the comic book series, Hitler's brain is attached to a gorilla's body, and the film was used as inspiration for a 1988 Action Comics story in which Lex Luthor clones himself. Local H's song "They Saved Reagan's Brain" is a reference to They Saved Hitler's Brain. The Dead Kennedys wrote a song about it. There is a recipe for a fictional cocktail, the Trickie Dickie Screwdriver, in the lyrics.

We wondered if there was something in the water in animation writers' rooms in 1996 after the title of an episode of Duckman was "They Craved Duckman's Brain" In the card game "Illuminati: New World Order", they saved Hitler's brain, and in the issue of Flaming Carrot Comics, the Flaming Carrot has to face an army of cloned Hitler heads. It's clear that They Saved Hitler's Brain has made an impact on many people. Over the years, its title and premise earned it several "worst film ever" monikers, but it also earned the film infamy that was greater than that of its peers. Thanks to The Simpsons, this film could have been forgotten, but instead, it's still demanding attention 60 years after it was first released. The Simpsons saved the brain of Hitler.