Friday, September 21, 2012

Brain from Planet Arous

The Brain from Planet Arous
Nathan Juran

Since the nineteen-fifties, the brain has reigned supreme as the internal organ most likely to turn monstrous and start blowing up planes or hypnotizing teenagers in Canada. It makes a lot of sense; the brain still isn’t fully understood. It’s fragile and complex, while at the same time, it defines us, controls us, and if it turns on us, we’re in a lot of trouble.  It’s interesting to note that in most killer brain movies often the only way to win is through physical violence with axes and guns, while the brains often assault us through pure thought.

Slightly less often, their sinister plans get a little sidelined in pursuit of sex with 1950’s housewives.

John Agar plays, Dr. Steve Marsh, a scientist who detects unusual radiation coming from a place out in the desert known as “Mystery Mountain.” He brings along his trusty assistant, Dan (Robert Fuller) and the two head into a strange cave  at the base of the mountain. The mystery in "Mystery Mountain" is actually an evil floaty brain monster from outer space named, Gor. Gor fries Dan and possesses Steve. Steve/Gor returns home, and it is here, that Gor really takes a shine to Steve’s fiancĂ©e, Sally (Joyce Meadows). By shine I mean he grabs and paws at her like a dog after a pound of raw hamburger. Speaking of dogs, it isn’t too much later when Sally and her dad John (Thomas B. Henry) find out that Steve’s dog is possessed by a good floaty brain monster named Vol who has been after Gor since he escaped from a planet of brains. Seems that Gor is looking to use Earth to build a space armada and invade his home world, and if he has to pointlessly blow up some airplanes with his mind, so be it.

Even if you’ve never seen Brain from Planet Arous, no doubt you’ve been exposed to its imagery at some point. The final showdown between Steve with axe in hand verses the floating, bobbing balloon Gor has been used countless times in montages and even the opening credits of television show Malcom in the Middle. The film is a solid example of 1950’s b-movie science-fiction complete with atomic scientists, space monsters, the threat of World War III, and just a hint of sleaze.

The cast is across the board pretty bland, except John Agar who really comes alive when he’s portraying being possessed by Gor. He’s sinister, sarcastic, horny and it’s a delight to watch.  The sets are limited and small, and the camera work feels cramped and static. Thankfully only running 71 minutes means there isn’t much downtime in the story.

The brain effects are laughable; the giant brains with little glowing eyes are almost cute rather than scary. Gor’s very visible thread holding him in place while Dr. Marsh wails on him with an axe makes him a less than credible threat.  However, when the possessed Dr. Marsh starts making nuclear explosions with his mind and sporting his eerie silver eyes, he’s a good villain. When he reveals he’s got more in mind than just  carrying off Sally, in the style of some his 1950’s movie monster brethren (Robot Monster (1953) I’m looking at you.) , he actually becomes a pretty notable villain for the times and a much darker character.

An enjoyable b-movie and a great piece of 1950’s trash cinema. 

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