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Movies like this were what drive-in managers lived for back in the 1960's. Originally co-billed with THE BEACH GIRLS AND THE MONSTER this is one fine example of gonzo filmmaking at its best. Directed by Joseph Mascelli, who was director of photography on Ray Dennis Steckler's THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED UP ZOMBIES, the very ineptness of this picture is what makes it attractive to lovers of B-movies. Wealthy Mrs. March (Marjorie Eaton) wants her brain transplanted into a young body so she hires Dr. Frank (Frank Gerstle) who has so far succeeded in transplanting the brain of a dog into a man and creating a . . .well . ..a dog-man and lets him install a nuclear reactor in her basement. When three beautiful au-pair girls from Europe show up its obvious one of them is going to lose her mind, literally! I just love movies that involve brain transplants. GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, RETURN OF THE APE MAN, THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL and this film to name only a few, all depict brains being switched back and forth with relative ease and without having the shave the patients head! Before the 66 minute running time has gone by a girl gets the brain of a cat (sadly she and the dogman never get to fight each other), one girl gets her eye gouged out and Mrs. March finally gets her brain switched, but not exactly the way she had planned. Oh and that nuclear reactor in the basement? You just know that's going to provide a bang-up of an ending! The cast is good, no of them betraying just how ridiculous the plot is. Judy Bamber, who plays the Cockney girl, was in Roger Corman's A BUCKET OF BLOOD. You can spot Marjorie Eaton in ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU (1957)and NIGHT TIDE (1962); and Frank Gerstle played the FBI agent in KILLERS FROM SPACE (1956). Once a staple of late night TV (and deservedly so!) ATOMIC BRAIN can be had from several mail order video sources. See it, you'll be glad you did.
I'm kind of surprised by the nature of many of the comments here. OF
COURSE the movie is terrible, people! But I don't think you or anyone
needs the MST3K commentators to know that this is a mega-turkey on a
grand scale and add your own commentary! I'm also really surprised how
many people find the sexism of the film "offensive." Wow, I never would
have expected a 60's drive-in exploitation film to be sexist! I can't
I found this movie totally enjoyable, and at 66 minutes it's just the right length. The story about switching bodies with a younger person and willing all your posessessions to them (that is, to YOU, after the switch) is from a relatively well-known 18th-century ghost story... I actually wish I could find it again. There were so many enjoyable aspects... the ridiculous narration that tries to cover for the fact that they can't form a coherent story with the footage at hand... the idea that you can fit a human brain into a cat's skull... the animal noises coming out of the people (which is actually fairly effective)... the hideous accents ("Me no speak good English")... it's just a hoot from start to finish.
Some notable moments: >>When the mad scientist explains that if anyone discovers the lab he'll just trip off a NUCLEAR EXPLOSION that'll take care of them! ...and of course the few miles around the house as well. And really, how many of us have space for a nuclear reactor in our basements? >>I love how the two remaining women are getting freaked out and decide that they have to leave, NOW. So they go downstairs to the first floor (where presumably the front door is), but they just keep on going, down to the basement, where they witness the old lady (previously wheelchair bound) up and walking around near her nuclear reactor. So they go back up, pass the front door again, and go back to their room where they proceed to read a magazine! >>The acting in this film is just so on the surface. Like the scene in which the blinded woman reaches around above her until she hits the lamp and sends it swinging, THEN removes her bandage... because if not, what excuse would we have to see the gouged-out eye socket in the chilling swinging light?
Excellent cheese! Ridiculous, glorious, and yeah, a bit on the disturbing side.
--- Check out my website devoted to bad and cheesy movies at: www.cinemademerde.com
I enjoy bad movies. There is such a wicked delight in watching
something that fails on many levels. Because of this enjoyment, I had
originally intended to regularly review a movie from the Treeline 50
Sci-fi movie collection. But that was until I watched "The Atomic
Brain" (aka Monstrosity).
It all came to fruition in a particular scene which made me uncomfortable with my whole bad movie fascination; like finding out that your first girlfriend has since turned into a lesbian.
But first, a quick précis of the film.
Given that its a black and white film called the Atomic Brain (aka Monstrosity), you should be guessing that you are about to watch a movie with obvious D-grade plot, photography, acting and script. And you would have made an excellent guess.
But what differentiates this film from other D-grade fodder are two unique aspects.
The first is the voice over. This film must have the longest voice over introduction in history. The only voice you hear for the first 15 minutes of the film is the voice-over guy. Normally, the voice-over guy is a device to setup a film, then he vanishes, to maybe reappear at the end, if everyone has died, with an "I told you so".
But this voice-over is unique. Firstly, the delivery is akin to the "You will follow the great leader" type you might associate with mass hypnosis cults. Except, instead of delivering the facts, the voice-over not only paraphrases the feeling of the main characters, but in places provides disparaging editorial comment on the actions taken by the main characters. Its all quite strange.
The second aspect relates to the uncomfortable scene mentioned earlier. Essentially, voice-over guy in his first 15 minutes establishes that the old lady wants to transplant her brain into a new young body. So, later in the movie, we have this scene where the old lady is asking the young women to model some underwear (so she can also check out her shape), and our friend the voice over guy reappears, and you sense lewdly enjoys telling us what she thinks, with comments such as "she is so nicely rounded in places men like".
Basically, listening to a disturbed voice-over guy explaining the desires an 80 year old women has for the body of a 19yr old girl is not something I would like to experience alone again. Especially when the old lady has the same name as your first girlfriend.
Worth only watching so that when you view the Mystery Science Theatre version, you actually begin to see how clever those MST guys must be to make it enjoyable.
Really strange and very bad movie. The tip off is that any horror movie than needs a narrator throughout is always bad - no exception here. Another early tip off on this movie is when "Dr Frank" (can't they be more original?) is grave robbing, his assistant kills a watchman. Rather than using the fresh corpse, Dr Franks goes after the entombed body of the young woman. The only good performance was by the black cat. The only reason I gave this flick a 2 rating rather than a 1 is because of its surreal quality at times.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE ATOMIC BRAIN is a Grade-Z masterpiece. It has the schizophrenic patchwork quality of any self-respecting drive-in rush job. It has overwrought characters that are surreal to the point of parody. It has a plot so ludicrous it could have been penned by a small child. It has cinematography that is dark and murky. It has stock library music that is instantly familiar, yet evocative. It has cheesy f/x and a sense of desperate wonder. In short, it has all the makings of a laugh riot, and yet is something other: creepy, atmospheric, grim, perverse, forlorn and sinister. Seeing poor little Anita, given a cat brain, eating a mouse is quite disturbing, and really freaked me out as a kid. And for pure schlock thrills, you can't beat the scene where crabby old Mrs. Marsh, turned into an actual cat, manipulates the buttons on the nuclear reactor, to fry the traitorous Dr. Frank. Add a world-class TV title (which refers to Frank's entire brain-transplanting process), and a real "huh ?" ending, and you have one of the great hours in odd film history. This film also seems to imply something very dark about the nuclear family, in which a domineering matriarch designs to kill her "daughters," while a corrupt father desires to incest them, vicariously. A really oddball, super-sick classic. Ignore the protests of MST3K weenies: enjoy this movie in its original incarnation!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dr. Otto Frank (Frank Gerstle, best known for his TV and radio
voice-over work) is a grave-robber and scientist who, with help from
his hairy "monstrosity," steals fresh corpses from a mausoleum to
further his brain transplant experiments. His lab and 'cyclotron'
machine (which is used to reanimate dead bodies with new brains) is
located in the basement of a large mansion belonging to old crone Hetty
March (Marjorie Eaton), a rich, bitter, wheelchair-bound matron who
funds his experiments and wants him to put her brain into a "fresh
young live body" when he finally does master his technique. The two
hire three international 'domestics' (from Austria, Mexico and England)
to come to their home. Mrs. March pokes and prods them with her cane,
makes them spin around and forces them to strip down to their underwear
for a thorough investigation of what kind of bodies they're packin'.
The Hispanic one (Lisa Lang) is deemed "useless" because she has a
birthmark on her back, so they transplant a cat's brain into her head.
She eats a mouse, claws out eyeballs and spends most of her screen time
crawling around hissing at people. There's also another monster kept
chained up out in the yard and a 'walking corpse' (a benign zombie lady
who doesn't really serve any purpose). This ridiculous mess has a
ludicrous plot, terrible acting (those awful 'foreign' accents from the
ladies about take the cake), silly dialogue ("She doesn't have a brain.
There may be advantages.") and some timid flesh-baring (nude women put
into the cyclotron heave their naughty bits covered by a couple of
Erika Peters (who was also in MR. SARDONICUS and HOUSE OF THE DAMNED) stars, with Judy Bamber, Frank Fowler and introducing Xerxes as the pussycat brain donor. It's narrated by a young Bradford Dillman. The film is also available with commentary from the Mystery Science Theater crew, but it's just as funny without it. Also known as MONSTROSITY.
Not likely to attain cult classic status, "The Atomic Brain" concerns a
rich old woman, Mrs. March (Marjorie Eaton), who is funding researcher
Dr. Otto Frank (Frank Fowler) to discover a way to transplant her brain
into a younger woman's body. Otto has a small nuclear reactor in the
basement of Mrs. March's house. The laboratory set looks even cheaper
than similar stuff on the original "Outer Limits" television show.
The scientific basis behind Otto's experiments and the need to radiate his subjects is never adequately explained, obviously they needed the reactor to justify the original "Atomic Brain" title, the word fission is unconvincingly thrown around several times. I can only assume that the alternate title, "Monstrosity", is someone's comment on the quality of the film. At the start of the movie Otto's success has been limited to the transplant of a dog's brain into a man (who has large teeth and looks a bit like the goon in one of shorts featuring "The Three Stooges").
Mrs. March is encouraged when the doctor steals a woman's corpse from the graveyard and reanimates it to zombie status. Needing fresh living bodies for her transplant she hires three attractive young girls from Europe serve as housekeepers. Mrs. March has no other staff at her mansion, only a wimpy "companion and gigolo" guy who is turned on by the young girls. His name is Victor and the narrator sums up his motivation with the movie's best lines: "Three new bodies. Fresh, live, young bodies. No families or friends within thousands of miles, no one to ask embarrassing questions when they disappear. Victor wondered which one Mrs. March would pick. The little Mexican, the girl from Vienna, or the buxom blond? Victor knew his pick, but he still felt uneasy, making love to an 80 year old woman in the body of a 20 year old girl; it's insanity!"
Despite the low budget and feeble scripting, the movie is not entirely awful. Eaton (who played the fortune teller in cult classic "Night Tide") is wonderfully evil and nasty. Fowler (a veteran of countless golden age television classics) is amusing as your basic mad scientist, and the house itself is appropriately sinister. In fact, when the girls first arrive I thought that it might actually turn into a decent film as things get very spooky and suspenseful. One of the girls is played by Erika Peters, who was quite underrated as an actress - her talent dismissed because she was so beautiful. Unfortunately the other two actresses (neither did any subsequent film work) are not up to even modest acting challenges and things pretty much fall apart until a nice twist at the end (which would have worked much better if they had not spoiled it with a second twist). Despite the frequent use of a narrator to explain much of the story, so much happens off camera that is never explained that it is likely there was a much longer original version that was extensively trimmed to get to the present 72 minute running length. This much slash and burn editing does have the benefit of requiring viewers to exercise their own atomic brains whenever a narrative gap occurs. But the story follows the genre's formula so closely that it is not too difficult to fill in the blanks each time this occurs.
Only fans of bad 50's-60's science fiction are likely to ever actually watch "The Atomic Brain" and they should find it fairly representative of this genre. At least the premise is decent, with a significantly bigger budget for sets and competent supporting cast members it could have been an entertaining movie.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
Okay, it starts out a little slow, which is never a virtue in a 67 minute movie. Things really pick up once the Mexican maid is transplanted with the brain of a cat. Actually, it's the first time that that character displays any personality, even if it is hissing and spitting and eating a mouse. The last ten minutes make the whole thing worthwhile. Was it the hat pin murder in the library? The cat with the old woman's brain pushing buttons and flipping levers to start the auto-destruct sequence on the cyclotron? Or the girl with the fake cockney accent being electrocuted when she runs back (in her shorty pajamas) to retrieve her severed eye (clawed out by the Mexican maid/housecat of course)? People of earth - it's time to stop relying on two robots and a lonely janitor. Start screaming your own jibes at the television. On a more somber note, the actress who played the old woman was only 63 when this was filmed. If I look like that at 63, I'll be robbing graves, too.
In The Atomic Brain, Marjorie Eaton does a wonderful job of creating a
thoroughly unlikeable rich old woman (Hetty March) with a scheme to
have her brain transplanted into an attractive, healthy, younger body.
To accomplish this, she supports the research of the brilliant
sociopath Dr. Frank (Frank Gerstle), who has successfully transplanted
various animal brains into humans - creating a dog-man and, later, a
cat-woman. Once it becomes clear that cadavers are not going to
suffice, Mrs March hires three young women from Europe to serve as
maids (and, unbeknownst to them, possible body donors). Erika Peters
does well with the Austrian Nina. Judy Bamber - the English Bea - is
lovely but overacts and sounds about as English as Tom Cruise. Finally,
Anita from Spain (nicely played by Lisa Lang) isn't fully human long
enough for us to get a good sense of her personality. Overall, the
acting is OK.
The pace is decent throughout most of the film, and the plot, though ridiculous, remains the central focus. Unfortunately the cinematography is, to say the least, uneven - there are a number of unnecessary shots of people moving about. This is sort of surprising since the director was later hired as a cinematographer for some higher profile films. And the voice-over narrative - which is also unnecessary - really seals the deal.
In a sort of in-your-face way, Atomic Brain portrays stereotypes of the rich, the elderly and the feminine gender, and really makes a horror of them. It also adds the cliché of the mad, self-righteous and egotistical scientist, and the somewhat lurid exploitation of youth and beauty. It is not an entirely thoughtless film, but it is not a good film either. Recommended for late night viewing after or during intoxication events.
The Atomic Brain (or "Monstrosity", if you will) can be described best as Universal's Frankenstein for dummies with no money! The basic story is clearly imitating the classic Mary Shelley story, but so many hectic sub plots and extremely poor visual effects are added that the wholesome becomes incredibly bad. The Drive-In-Cinema type of bad The MST3K type of bad! Or, in other words, so bad it becomes hugely entertaining again! "The Atomic Brain" is a totally WHACK movie that indeed features all kinds of monstrosities but absolutely no suspense, logic or continuity. It looks like the writers tried to camouflage their lack of inspiration and talent by constantly adding more genetically mutated monsters! Three young girls from different corners of the world are lured to the Californian mansion of the wealthy Mrs. March. Supposedly to work as servants, but the malicious wheel-chaired woman plots to steal their youth and virility! She has the bizarre Dr. Frank (got it?) experimenting with brain-transplants in her cellar and she pays him to surgically put her old brain into the body of one of the young beauties. As some kind of practice, Dr. Frank already created a half-man/half-ape monster, a zombie-girl that he keeps around for amusement (!) and a woman with the brain of a cat! This is pretty stupid 60's B-cinema with pitiful effects and an overload of obvious errors. For example, how the hell can you measure an adult's brain into the skull of a cat? Or vice versa? Oh heck, it doesn't really matter since it provides a few good laughs and at least the movie is never boring, unlike so many other poverty row Sci-Fi movies from that era. The finale is sensationally over-the-top and if they EVER plan to make a sequel, I suggest an appropriate title already: "Revenge of the Brainiac Cat". By the way, keep an eye open for the Oscar-worthy performance of Xerxes; the cat!
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