Saturday, October 22, 2011
The Brain Eaters!
The Brain Eaters is a great title, punchy and direct. But sadly it's attached to a woeful movie which itself I guess is lifted from a classic of sci-fi.
This 1958 Roger Corman offering begins in a small town called Riverdale, and like most low-budget affairs features a load of voice over to try and make something of the hash of images which tumble forward as the movie "progresses".
Our narrator is Glen Cameron (Allan Frost), son of the mayor of Riverdale, a town which has been besieged by mysterious and brutal murders and which seems to have acquired a peculiar metal object hidden in the woods. This metal cone is thought to be a spacecraft and is explored extensively by Dr.Paul Kettering (Ed Nelson) and his elder partner Dr.Wyler (David Hughes). They are met at the site by Senator Walter K. Powers (Cornelius Keefe) and his silent aide. This blustery official tries his best to punch the weary script with the pure force of his bravado, but it's a failed effort mostly.
Kettering is one of those know-it-all-even-stuff-he-shouldn't types of scientists who populate these movies, to move the plot and condense the need for more actors. My favorite moment is when a fully-qualified doctor after a detailed examination of a victim reports dutifully to gives his explanation of the cause of death and Kettering jumps in from the blue and gives the explanation for him. It's unclear why he knows what he does, and frankly he couldn't. He also insists on smoking his pipe nearly all the time, even when he clearly shouldn't be.
What is causing all the mayhem in Riverdale are some leech-like critters which attach themselves to the base of a human's neck and then take him over. They run a human like a puppet more or less. This detail is what got the movie sued by Robert Heinlein, author of a little novel titled The Puppet Masters in which almost the identical thing happens. These critters end up being from inside the Earth, but it's all the same otherwise.
The "continuity" in this movie is what really makes your eyes bleed. Scenes are cobbled together with little rhyme or reason and it's left to the narration to try and make it at least seem like the same movie. People shift position from the woods to the heart of town on a whim, and for part of the movie they spend a goodly period away from the main prop (the Cone) and wander the woods being attacked by various drones.
The secondary hero Glen is always accompanied by his new wife Elaine (Jody Fair) who has the job of screaming at the appropriate times, and often other times as well. My favorite scene for these two are when they end up in a miserable excuse for a movie cabin and get trapped and our "hero" starts shooting his gun left and right to free them. There's another chick in this flick, the love interest of Kettering named Alice Summers (Joanne Lee) who gets nabbed by the enemy and spends some time in the movie wandering around in her night clothes, the movie's cheesecake offering.
Sometimes we get scenes of townsfolk overcome by the critters who are acting very zombie like. These can be oddly effective, surprisingly so.
This movie is a pretty thorough mess, with Leonard Nimoy even getting a small role which you'll likely miss since he's under heavy make-up and in a heavy mist.
The creature effects are laughable and the climax is painful to watch as the "professional" actors try mightily to rescue this turkey from itself. There is a charm nowadays for flicks like this, they can be fun for all their ineptitude, and this one gets right on the line.
Here's the trailer for the movie.
And if you don't mind having the movie completely spoiled and you want to learn a whole lot more about its director Bruno VeSota, check out this link.
At least now we know what caused all those odd goings-on in the town of Riverdale, and we have the long explanation for the unusual vitality and peculiar habits of a certain high school gang. Monsters from the Earth's depths is as an adequate explanation as any I suspect.