The Brain from Planet Arous (1957)
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While the films special effects are cheap, they are no better or worse than those in most other programmer films made on this budget from the same period. The film does has some really ludicrous moments already mention by previous reviewers. Some complaints mentioned in this forum are unjustified and seem to be the result of straining. Like the commentator who complained about bodies not decaying. It's absurd, but it is the kind of mistake that turns up all the time even in "good" movies.
One of the films main problems is John Agar. As film historian and 50's science fiction expert Bill Warren has pointed out, John Agar tries, but he can't pull it off. When he becomes possessed and tries to be evil, he comes across more as comical than menacing. If a much better actor was cast, perhaps this film might be more highly regarded. I think a good example would be to compare Agar's performance to that of Lew Ayers in DONOVAN'S BRAIN (See my entry on that film). DONOVAN'S BRAIN has a similar theme: evil disembodied brain bent on world conquest takes over the body of a scientist. Ayers was convincing, Agar is not.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this film is that when it first came out, reviewers dismissed it as a "routine programmer" "conventional science fiction" and "just another double bill shocker." Regardless of what you think of this film, I'm sure you will agree those words certainly don't apply to BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS.
Till next time...Your Old Pal Jim.
The characters are pretty much what one would expect: the men are all hot-headed, while the one woman is desperate. The main character Steve March is played by John Agar, aka Shirley Temple's first husband. I also saw him in "Journey to the Seventh Planet" (although I paid slightly more attention to the hot babes in that one). Maybe he starred in '50s and '60s B-sci-fi movies because his reputation as Shirley Temple's ex limited his opportunities (actually, I don't know whether that limited his opportunities). Also starring are Joyce Meadows as Steve's hubby Sally Fallon, Thomas Brown Henry as her father John, and Dale Tate as the voices of Gor and Vol. If this had ever gotten shown on "MST3K", Mike or Servo or Crow probably would have said "If Planet Arous has a brain, why didn't the people behind this movie?" But I personally didn't think find this a bad movie. Like any '50s sci-fi flick, you have to accept it for what it is.
Back at the lab, the brain emerges from Steve, introduces himself as "Gor" from the Planet Arous, and tells Steve he'd better cooperateor else. Since Gor is so powerful, he can control everything Steve does, and pretty soon Steve starts getting quite lecherous with his fiancée Sally (Joyce Meadows). This has to be some sort of cinema first a sex-starved floating brain! Later, Sally and her dad John (Thomas Browne Henry) are visited by yet another floating brain, this one's named "Vol" and is a law-enforcement brain from Arous. Vol announces that he also needs a body to hide out in, and after thinking it over, decides to hide in Agar's dog, George. Not silly enough yet? Just wait .
When he's not pawing Sally or tormenting Steve, Gor blows up a passenger plane, kills the local sheriff, burns up an Army colonel, and sets off a nuclear explosion. He then assembles representatives from all the world's countries and tells them that they must help him construct a fleet of spaceships so he can conquer Arous, then the universe! (At least Gor doesn't think small.)
Things are looking pretty bleak, so Sally has a chat with Vol. He tells her that Gor could conceivably be killed by a direct blow to the top of his, uh, cerebrum in the area of the "Fissure of Rolando". She leaves a note to Steve telling him about Gor's weakness, so when Gor emerges again, Steve grabs a convenient ax, and beats the offending brain to death in a bravura climax.
Probably the most fascinating thing about this movie is that the cast keeps perfectly straight faces throughout the whole film. If you're in for vintage entertainment with the most outrageously silly sci-fi plot of all time, you should watch this.
Whenever Gor/Agar is using his telekinetic powers, Agar's eyes become shiny black orbs (an nice bit of makeup). Gor/Agar demonstrates his mental powers of destruction for a group of generals and diplomats by `willing' an atomic explosion to occur in the nearby desert (great stock footage of buildings being destroyed by shock waves and heat flashes). Then Gor/Agar orders them to put Earth's population to work creating a space fleet so he can return to his own planet and conquer it.
Meanwhile, a second alien name Vol comes to Earth to save it from Gor. To spy on Gor, Vol takes control of Agar's dog. Vol/dog elicits the aid of Agar's fiancé (lovely Joyce Meadows). She's glad to help, because she already knew SOMETHING was wrong with Agar after he turned kinky and tried to rape her on a lawn chair.
Beware: the finale is a short and unexciting struggle between Agar (armed with an ax) and the floating Gor brain. And Agar's closing line to his fiancé' is painfully stupid. When she tries to tell him that a good-guy alien has been in control of the dog, John doesn't believe her. He just laughs and says, `Oh, honey -- that imagination of yours!'
If you're absolutely desperate for a 1950s sci-fi flick you haven't already watched to death, this one might be worth watching -- but only to laugh at.
I will say it was heartwarming to see how quickly the girlfriend and her father accept the presence of the second, good alien brain. They would be ideal emissaries to alien worlds in view of their great flexibility of mind. The desert settings used in this film are also attractive. Finally, I must hand it to the U.S. military for being so quick to deduce that an alien invasion of some sort was taking place.
All suspense is lost early on when we see the evil alien, an uninspired floating ball with two sleepy eyes. And of course the ball speaks English, convenient for the film's characters --- and the intended audience. Near the end of the film, the alien makes a little speech (in English of course), rambling on about Caesar, Napoleon, and Hitler. Seems our alien is both talkative and well educated.
The film's plot is painfully anthropomorphic. The idea of a criminal "brain" hungry for power is hardly alien; it's all too human. And John Agar's performance has to be seen to be believed. His facial expression right before he kills the sheriff is true camp. The abrupt ending of the film gives the impression that it ended simply because the producer ran out of money.
This campy, 1950's sci-fi flick is a lot of fun. I get more laughs out of it than I do out of some contemporary comedies.