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Creature with the Atom Brain (1955)

Unrated | | Crime, Horror, Sci-Fi | July 1955 (USA)
An ex-Nazi mad scientist uses radio-controlled atomic-powered zombies in his quest to help an exiled American gangster return to power.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Richard Denning ...
Dr. Chet Walker
...
Joyce Walker
S. John Launer ...
Capt. Dave Harris
Michael Granger ...
Frank Buchanan
Gregory Gaye ...
Dr. Wilhelm Steigg (as Gregory Gay)
Linda Bennett ...
Penny Walker
...
Dist. Atty. MacGraw
...
Reporter #1
Larry J. Blake ...
Reporter #2 (as Larry Blake)
Charles Evans ...
Chief Camden
Pierre Watkin ...
Mayor Bremer
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Storyline

Several years earlier gangster Frank Buchanan was deported to his native Italy through the efforts of law enforcement authorities and rival gangsters who inform on him. While in Europe he meets scientist Wilhelm Steigg, who has perfected a method of reanimating dead people and controlling their behavior with oral commands. Buchanan underwrites Steigg's experiments and uses his technology to wreak revenge on his enemies. Unfortunately radioactive poisoning is a by-product of the process, and authorities use radiation detecting devices like Geiger counters to pinpoint the source of the sinister plot. Written by Gabe Taverney (duke1029@aol.com)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Shock-Full of Thrills! See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

July 1955 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le tueur au cerveau atomique  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

To keep the budget low, like many directors of the period, Edward L. Cahn chose to shoot the film with in as few breaks and edits as feasible, so that the characters are constantly standing, sitting, and pacing to avoid the tedium of talking-head shots. Even when characters move from room to room, there are very few cuts. The effect is both impressive and amusing, once the viewer becomes aware of it, and could inspire a Drinking Game based on spotting the edits! See more »

Goofs

When Dave goes to Chet's home, we see a name tag with 'Chet Walker' just above the doorbell. It's only there as he rings the doorbell. All other shots show a plain doorbell with no tag. See more »

Quotes

Frank Buchanan: Steigg, you may be a crackpot, but you're also a genius.
See more »

Connections

Featured in 100 Years of Horror: Zombies (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Uncle Dave
29 October 2006 | by (Kentucky) – See all my reviews

Fans of late night 1950's science fiction (insert Cleveland's "Goulardi" show here) remember this not as "Creature with the Atom Brain" but as the movie with Uncle Dave. John Launer (in his first movie role) played police Capt. Dave Harr, whose niece was seven year old Penny Walker (Linda Bennett). Care is taken early to show that Penny adores her Uncle Dave and late in the story (in the most famous scene in the whole 50's sci-fi genre) he visits her on her birthday. But it is the re-animated Uncle Dave, whose changed voice Mrs. Walker credits to a cold. She leaves Penny in the living room with Dave and goes into the kitchen. Penny then gives Dave her doll Henrietta. Cut to Mrs. Edwards startled face when she hears Penny screaming in the living room. Poor Henrietta!

Launer pretty much steals the film from the rest of the cast, both before and after he is killed. As Captain Harr he cracks wise in every scene and his dialogue is actually extremely funny.

The premise, to quote Penny's father (Richard Denning): "Remote-controlled creatures, their brains powered by atomic energy, roaming the streets, directed from a central point".

The background involves the deportation of Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger), an American gangster who vows revenge and finances a not so mad German scientist (Gregory Gaye) who is developing a process (based on then trendy radioactivity) to animate dead bodies. They set up a laboratory in the lead lined walls of a LA mansion, steal a few bodies from the morgue, and begin a cottage industry of wiping out Buchanan's list of enemies.

The scientist spends most of his screen time complaining about the corruption of his noble experiment for evil means. The set design for the lab is unexpectedly elaborate and the sequences of the two men crawling around in a 1950's idea of radiation suits are especially effective.

One of their creatures in the climatic scene looks a lot like Treat Williams. This scene has a "Night of the Living Dead" flavor. Although the authorities have discovered that the bodies are controlled by electrodes surgically planted in their brains, they conveniently fail to mention this to the police and national guardsmen who are fighting the monsters; allowing the climatic scene to continue until other means are found to deactivate the creatures. Up until this scene, the movie deliberately used almost entirely wide master shots, much like the "mise en scene" (limited editing cuts within a scene) technique of some Hitchcock films. Probably done for budget reasons, it serves nicely to set up the climax, which is full of sudden cuts to extreme close-ups of the walking dead. This must have been quite frightening on the big screen, particularly after being accustomed to the more distanced style of the first sixty minutes of the film.

I suggest that potential viewers ignore the IMDb voting, this is a scary horror/sci-fi film done with a trace of self-parody. Another one of Producer Sam Katzman's money making B-movies; where he exploits the growing fear of a nation learning to deal with the atomic age, and its fascination with the concept of radioactivity.


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