Only a small percentage of movies created since 1923 are in the public domain. Those movies lost their copyright either because the copyright claimants all died, or they intentionally released the rights, or they simply failed to properly renew their registration back when that was a requirement.
A few of the movies that entered the public domain subsequently became famous because late-night and cable television stations took advantage of the free rights and aired the movies repeatedly. This is how "It's a Wonderful Life" became a holiday classic, and this contributed to "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" becoming one of the most famous of all 'B' movies.
The Public Domain has long been a gold mine for musical theatre writers, yielding smash hits like Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, Jekyl and Hyde, Oliver, etc. In each of those cases, there have been multiple musicals based on the same source material, and in many cases the original was not the one that became famous. There is a strong case to be made that the "generic knock-offs" benefit greatly from the fame of the Broadway hits that everyone knows.
I have found evidence online of at least a handful of THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE adaptations popping up over the last few years. One of my favorites is called "The Head that Wouldn't Stay Dead" and it received a full community theatre production in Huntsville. Another is "The Brain that Wouldn't Die: in 3D!", which was recently staged at the 2011 New York Musical Theatre Festival. Another interesting one is a 3D movie (non-musical) that an actor named Robert Kurtzman is trying to develop.
Of the productions listed, I don't think any are a credible threat to my project. A community theatre production in Huntsville, a festival staging in New York, and a facebook page announcing the desire to raise funds for a new film adaptation are all a long, long way behind a 5 month full run with an Equity and SAG cast in LA. (The festival production only had seven performances!) My musical has been titled "Head: the Musical!" in all of its stage productions, but for the film production I am using the title "The Brain that Wouldn't Die: the Movie Musical" instead. So any information online relating to my project will be found more easily by searching for "Head the Musical."
Regarding the "New York production," it's important to understand that musical festivals - even the NYMTF and the New York Fringe Festival - are NOT Broadway or even Off-Broadway. They are limited engagements produced under special union exemptions for the development of new works. If a festival work were very successful, it MIGHT be lucky enough to get a full production like I had in Los Angeles, where it MIGHT sell well enough to get extended three times like mine did. Their blog makes no mention of being picked up for a production anywhere, so my guess is their next stop is a community theatre production somewhere like Huntsville. Actual Broadway productions cost millions of dollars, which is one reason why Broadway productions don't get turned into $140,000 movies.
I should also address another potential source of confusion, which is my name. In the LA production I had them spell my name "Kevin Fry," and in the Phoenix and Tucson productions I sometimes used the pen name "Ivo Shandor." I did this because I also write musicals for teenagers and I like to keep my R-rated projects separate. Otherwise theatre moms would google me and demand to know why their kids are performing in a play by the author of "Head the Musical" lol.
Hopefully this clears some things up. I didn't mean to lead anyone to believe that I have exclusive rights to adapt the original movie into a musical. I DO however have exclusive rights to adapt the stage musical, "Head: the Musical!", with all of its original dialog, comedy, music, and lyrics, into a screenplay (since I wrote both versions). Exclusive rights to anything are very expensive - probably more than the total budget for this film! Yet name-recognition and proof of concept are extremely valuable, which is why a number of people like myself have sought to capitalize on "The Brain that Wouldn't Die," which is both famous and in the public domain.
While I'm at it, I'll address a few other frequently asked questions.
Q: Is the music on the website the same that will be used in the film?
A: No, those are just demo tracks sung by me and my partner Leah, and the instruments are all virtual. However, the songs will remain substantially the same in the film version.
Q: Who is Leah?
A: Leah is my partner who sings on all my musical albums and helps with the vocal arrangements. She shares a piece of the producer's stake of the Company with me but has no active management role in the Company.
Q: Is the trailer video on the website any indication of the expected quality of the movie?
A: Heck no! For one thing, I edited that trailer, and I am not an editor. A real editor will cut the movie. We plan to shoot the movie on the ARRI Alexa, arguably the best camera in the world. That trailer was cut from footage of a community theatre production of the musical.
Q: In the trailer, you are seen playing a role in the play. You don't plan to cast yourself as the lead in the movie, do you?
A: Heck no! The video used in the trailer is from a production I directed down in Tucson. It is NOT from the LA production. (Because the LA cast was largely union, that production was only recorded for archival purposes.) The great thing about movies is that the best talent comes out to audition for them, so I can be extremely picky. I hired Good Faith Casting to hold auditions in Phoenix and found a fantastic crop of local actors, some of whom are well known in Valley professional theatre. The casting director and I will be holding auditions in LA, too, and accepting submissions from New York. And we have been contacting some bigger-name stage actors to see who is available. The bottom line is that casting is the most important part of my job, and I am taking it extremely seriously.
Q: Is the movie going to be filmed like a play, or filmed like a regular movie?
A: Like a regular feature film you would see at the movie theater, NOT like a filmed play you would see on PBS.
Q: Is the March production target realistic?
A: UPDATE: No, in order to meet the March target we would have needed the funding and the casting in place by mid-December, which did not happen. Therefore our hold on the studio was rescheduled to September, which will give us more time to raise money and put the perfect cast together.
Q: Why not use a SAG Ultra-low Budget contract to get union actors?
A: This is something I gave a lot of thought, but ultimately I think it would be a bad move for the investors. The SAG Ultra-low Budget contract is not what it seems to be on the surface, something which I am happy to discuss in greater detail. Ultimately, I believe the best musical actors are stage actors, and I can hire all the professional stage actors I want for a film without dealing with the stage union (AEA).
Q: Why not shoot in 3D?
A: This is something I looked into. Costs for producing in 3D are coming down fast, but shooting in 3D would still inflate the production costs while complicating things. If I had half a million I would be very tempted to shoot in 3D. But the safer course, I believe, is to keep the budget low and focus on the fundamentals that will make this a great film. Up-converting the footage to 3D is always a possibility later on, and it is not a whole lot more expensive than shooting in 3D to begin with.
Q: Are there any tax advantages to investing in this film?
A: You will have to talk to your accountant about that. All I can say is that the first scene has already been shot. That doesn't mean the first scene will actually make it into the film, but that does mean that technically film production has already begun in 2011, which may have beneficial tax implications. Have your tax advisor look into "Section 181."
Q: Can you really make a good movie on $140,000?
A: Yes, but only with lots of planning. We didn't pull that figure out of thin air - we prepared the budget very carefully. This is a subject I am always happy to discuss at lengthl; just give me a call and we can go through the details.
Q: Do you have any skin in the game?
A: I've put around ten grand into Head, not including money I risked but made back on the Tucson production. Many of the production budget items have actually already been paid for - such as the casting director, the deposit on the studio, and much of the music development. I do not expect to be refunded for those costs. Furthermore, I will not receive payment for my directing, writing, or producing contributions. My interest is in my Common Units in the Company, which will participate in the back end only after the Preferred Unit Holders (the investors) have made back 115% of their investment. So my interests are aligned with those of the investors. 
Q: Do you own a clear chain of title to the musical and all its parts?
A: Yes. I have Work For Hire contracts with any artists or composers who have developed material for the movie.
Q: Why should we trust someone who has never made a feature film before?
A: I am stacking the production team with the best, most experienced people I can find. My job will be to work with actors, manage a production team, balance the egos of everyone on set, and guide the production safely through from start to finish - all the things I have done multiple times for my theatrical productions. As for my support team, the Director of Photography will be my right hand man. You can look at his resume and watch his reel at and decide for yourself whether this project is in good hands.
Q: Would you sell out your investors by taking a bad distribution deal in order to advance your career?
A: Absolutely not. Despite what some filmmakers seem to believe, nobody makes their career by getting screwed. People make their careers by making their investors rich. I want to make a fortune on this picture so I can do it again and my investors will jump in with me.
I am happy to answer any other questions anyone may have about myself, the project, the production history of my musical, copyright questions, my plans, etc. Just give me a call or shoot me an email: 602-320-3176,
Below are links to some of the other The Brain that Wouldn't Die versions:
The one that was at the festival. I wish I had grabbed this domain name first!
The Huntsville, Alabama community theatre version. Very small-fry, but still sounds funny:
The movie, non-musical project. From its facebook page I don't see any sign that it has received funding. To do 3D right costs at least an additional $100k, so they would need a fairly substantial budget to pull this off. (To me it's much more sensible to up-convert to 3D once the movie is a hit):
Another community theatre production in San Antonio. My original Phoenix Fringe Festival staging actually beat this one by six months or so:

There may be others, but these are the ones I have been able to find. If my movie is successful, all of these versions will likely benefit, just as my movie would benefit if another version became a smash hit Broadway show. Increased name-recognition is a good thing!