Monday, March 3, 2008

13th April 2007: "The Brains That Ate Brisbane" triple!

The Brain Eaters

USA 1958 b&w

Director Bruno VeSota Executive Producer [uncredited] Roger Corman Writer Gordon Urquhart

Cast Ed Nelson (Dr. Paul Kettering), Alan Frost (Glenn Cameron), “Jack Hill”/Cornelius Keefe (Senator Walter K. Powers), Joanna Lee (Alice Summers)

Good evening and welcome to Schlock Treatment. Tonight you will SEE Good Brains, Bad Brains, Floating Brains, Disembodied Brains and Horny Brains in our Brains That Ate Brisbane triple bill.

First up tonight is The Brain Eaters, a 1958 B-programmer from American International Pictures. Liberally adapted from Robert A. Heinlein’s novel The Puppet Masters, the film also exploits the whole Invasion Of The Body Snatchers genre, but gives it a novel twist. The small Americana hamlet of Riverdale (no Archie or Veronica here, but I’m sure it’s no coincidence) is baffled by the appearance of a mysterious white cone. Before long the mayor, the police and most of the town’s upstanding moral fibre are acting strange and trying to cover up their red necks with white collars. It turns out the alien menace are odd little slimy parasites that attach themselves to the back of their victims’ neck leaving two puncture holes. Bloodsuckers from outer space - or are they? More like a Communist-style menace that makes everyone crave order and lack of conflict while their brainwashed peacenik philosophy spreads like a disease across humanity.

The Brain Eaters was directed by tubby character actor Bruno VeSota who worked through most of the Fifties exclusively for Roger Corman. He directed three films in his career, and it would seem he learnt everything from watching Corman, the notorious Master of the 7 Day Quickie and, with no surprise, the uncredited Executive Producer of this movie. Maybe not everything - without Corman’s directorial flair, The Brain Eaters just comes across as cheap, disjointed, confused and just plain WRONG, full of distorted camera angles that are at odds with the surrounding TV quality footage, and lighting that either underexposes or overexposes each scene. Then there’s the incessant and completely redundant narration from the main character, a pipe-smoking scentist who comes across like an even more smug Dick Van Dyke.

But don’t get me wrong - this is no criticism, and in fact the jarring quality adds to the film’s enjoyment. With an unexpected appearance by a younger Leonard Nimoy playing an aging biologist, it’s the perfect bottom of a Brains triple-bill as we tuck into the 1958 The Brain Eaters.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

USA 1962 b&w

aka The Head That Wouldn’t Die

Director Joseph Green Writers Rex Carlton, Joseph Green

Cast “Herb”/Jason Evers (Dr Bill Cortner), Virginia Leith (Jan Compton), Leslie Daniels (Kurt), Adele Lamont (Doris Powell)

A Brains triple bill wouldn’t be complete without a disembodied head floating on a plate full of plasma. The head in question is the beautiful cranium of Jan, a young beauty pageant hopeful decapitated in a car accident (and no, she isn’t played by Jayne Mansfield) and kept alive by her increasingly insane surgeon fiancee Dr Bill Compton and his disfigured assistant Kurt.

You know you have a winner when one of the opening lines is “The corpse is yours. Do what you want with it.” It seems Dr Bill has been stealing limbs during his routine amputations and has been constructing a human jigsaw, known by all as the “abomination”, that he keeps in the closet. Like the kitty cats in Pet Sematary the head is not happy she’s been brought back from the Other Side, and forms a strange psychic connection with her new body in order to exact her terrible revenge. Meanwhile her fiancee has been cruising beatnik bars and strip joints - and it’s all for love, remember - for new body parts amongst the more salubrious of the town’s female inhabitants. By the time the head and body are joined together and burst out of the closet, you’ll be so pleased to have witnessed one of the most bizarre films in the history of Psychotronic Cinema.

If the story sounds familiar, it is - an amalgam of the horror classics Donovan’s Brain and Eyes Without A Face, but with hookers. Director Joseph Green seems to have been suffering from a legitimation crisis, wanting to make an important statement about science crossing the moral boundaries from good into evil, but despite these delusions his film is pure exploitation, and was reworked by Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter into the even more outrageous Frankenhooker, in which his scientist feeds his prostitutes exploding crack cocaine.

Unlike Henenlotter, who has made a successful career updating exploitation cinema motifs with his own directorial stamp, Joseph Green sank into obscurity almost immediately, leaving us with his sole masterpiece, the 1962 decapitated head anti-classic The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

The Brain From Planet Arous

USA 1957 colour

Director Nathan Juran Writer Ray Buffum

Cast John Agar (Steve March), Joyce Meadows (Sally Fallon), Robert Fuller (Dan Murphy), Thomas Browne Henry (John Fallon)

Our third and final brain flick tonight will really fry your banana: The Brain From Planet Arous is hokum of the finest order, a nuclear age lesson in morals and propriety with a pair of battling Brains to boot.

Cult favourite (and former Mr Shirley Temple) John Agar stars as Dr Steve March, a nuclear physicist who heads to Mystery Mountain with his dashing young assistant Dan to investigate weird intermittent gamma ray signals. He comes across Gor, a giant floating brain with what look like car headlights for eyes - possessed by Gor, he kills his young assistant and emerges from the desert hornier than ever for his fiancee Sally, who notices the difference when he practically starts dry-humping her leg. “You’ve never kissed me like THAT before,” she pants, but it’s the evil brain at work, who finds Sally “a very exciting female.... she APPEALS to me...”

Lust soon transforms into lust for power as Steve, now well and truly under Gor’s control, holds the world’s nuclear powers to ransom, and through stock footage of nuclear blasts, shows what a well-educated brain can achieve. Luckily Vol, a Good Brain from Planet Arous, is on the case and possesses the family dog. Will he save the planet in time? Good boy!!!

Good Brains, Bad Brains, stupid uptight Humans and John Agar in a pair of black contacts that will make your head bleed - we present the third and final in our Brains That Ate Brisbane triple bill, the 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous.

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