Film

Don't Open That Door! #1: 'The Brain From Planet Arous' (1957)

Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: the adventure on Mystery Mountain that is The Brain From Planet Arous.


The Brain From Planet Arous

Director: Nathan H. Juran
Cast: John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller
US Release Date: 1957-10-01

Alternative title: Earth Girls Are Easy (But Only Some of Them)

POSITIVES:

John Agar at his leering, grinning, demented best.

One of the most important characters is a dog.

Catastrophic events are accompanied by cackling laughter.

Low-budget masterpiece is barrels of fun.

NEGATIVES:

Somewhat erractic pace is slow at times.

SYNOPSIS: Physicists Steve and Dan are baffled by radioactivity readings coming from over there on Mystery Mountain -- that's right, Mystery Mountain, "the most godforsaken spot in the desert." The boys grab something that looks supiciously like a large hair dryer and hustle out to investigate, despite the reservations of Steve's fiancee Sally and her eagle-beaked dad, John. Out in the desert, the two intrepid scientists discover a cave, a glowing light, and one heap big radiation. They also find a floating transparent alien brain that takes over Steve's consciousness. Oops! Should've listened to Sally, for once.


As it is, Sally is left to deal with formerly-weird-but-now-even-weirder-since-he's-been-possessed-by-an-alien-brain Steve. The new Steve is positively, um, Arous-ed… According to him, Dan has made of off for Vegas. Sally is skeptical, which causes Steve to jut his chin out even further than normal while half-closing his eyes, just before trying to yank all her clothes off. Fortunately, loyal pooch George is there to pull him back.

Following a cold shower and a few minutes of alone time, Steve is visited by the disembodied brain, which calls itself Gor and explains that it needs Steve's body because he is a "recognized nuclear scientist". Oddly enough, Gor is also hot for Sally. What are the odds? Steve isn't too happy about any of this, but Gor's not asking permission. Soon afterward, Steve's eyeballs turn silver and he gets weirder than ever. Sally, being motivated and courageous, goes to Mystery Mountain to explore along with John. They find the cave, along with -- hey, what's that? -- a body. They also discover a disembodied alien brain named Vol, sent to Earth to capture the criminally wacko Gor. How this will be accomplished remains vague, but Vol's plan apparently involves one large, white, none-too-bright dog. (And Vol's supposed to be the sane one.)

Meanwhile, Steve/Gor sets into motion his dastardly plan of planetary domination by blowing up stuff during the few minutes each day that he isn't trying to hump Sally. During an atomic bomb test, Steve demonstrates his newfound powers by blowing up more stuff, then demands a meeting with various heads of state. This affords him the opportunity to blow up yet more stuff, before demanding all the uranium and plutonium in the world, along with the entire industrial infrastructure and the population of Earth used as slave labor. The politicos don't like it of course, but they’re helpless in the face of the Steve/Gor's nefarious power. After all, what's it gonna take to stop this guy -- a dog?

What gets destroyed in a brainwave: A scientist; a plane with 38 passengers; a lawman; numerous structures and vehicles; a soldier; another plane. The credibility of the UN takes a few knocks too, but what's new.

Best line of dialogue: "Ha-ha-ha-ha-hahhhhh!" (Repeat as necessary.)

Party game: Play "Brainiac." Each player writes a list of five demands for the puny human race to fulfill. Lists are then collected and read out anonymously. Players vote on the best list—that is, the list that most fully demonstrates the pitiful human race's utter humiliation in the face of superior power and intellect. The writer of the winning list is declared Brainmaster of All the Universe.

Moral of the story: It's all in your head.

This reminds me of…Evil Brain from Outer Space (1956), a Japanese movie featuring tubby Superman-figure Starman, who helps Earthlings resist the unwanted advances of a disembodied alien intellect.

Somehow their careers survived: B-movie hero John Agar (Steve) starred in 1955's Revenge of the Creature and Tarantula, as well as The Mole People (1956), Attack of the Puppet People (1958) and Invisible Invaders (1959). The 1960s would bring more glory with Women of the Prehistoric Planet and Zontar, the Thing From Venus (both 1966). Joyce Meadows (Sally) played an unlikely harem girl in Omar Khayyam (1957), but would have a meatier part in the 1958 western Frontier Gun (also starring John Agar) plus lots of TV. Robert Fuller (Dan)’s extensive TV career included starring stints in Laramie (1959-1963) and Wagon Train (1959-1965). Thomas B. Henry (John) had small roles in Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Next Voice You Hear (1950), co-starring God and Nancy Davis (soon to be Reagan); besides tons of westerns and war films, he enjoyed roles in Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956), Blood of Dracula and 20 Million Miles to Earth (both 1957), How to Make a Monster and Space Master X-7 (both 1958). This was the first movie for Bill Giorgio (the snippy Russian ambassador); later films would include Attack of the Puppet People, War of the Colossal Beast and Earth vs the Spider (all 1958).

BOTTOM LINE: Thoroughly enjoyable, from over-the-top to bottom.

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