Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Brain from Planet Arous (1957)

The Brain from Planet Arous is a 1957 science-fiction film that features the theme of alien possession Cult fave John Agar (Tarantula, Invisible Invaders) gets the chance to step out of his well-worn hero shoes in this one. As a scientist possessed by an evil alien intelligence, Agar shoots down airliners with his mind and fries people with a glance, laughing maniacally. Now that's entertainment!

Dr. Steve March (Agar), a nuclear research scientist in southern California, is picking up strange bursts of radiation on the instruments at his desert lab. He and his young assistant, Dan Murphy (Robert Fuller of TV's Emergency!), can't think of a rational scientific explanation for the phenomena. These radiation bursts appear to be emanating from the befittingly named Mystery Mountain, only 30 miles away in the desert. Steve and Dan decide to go to the mountain and check things out, but not before chowing down on some tasty burgers grilled by Steve's dutiful fiancée, Sally (Joyce Meadows). It will prove to be Dan's last supper. When the pair find a strange cave at the mountain's base that wasn't there before, they naturally go spelunking for answers. A giant floating brain — with eyes — appears in the cavern, knocking Steve unconscious and burning Dan to death with some kind of mental power ray. The brain (actually, the balloon) then takes possession of Steve, transferring itself inside his body. When Steve returns to visit Sally, he explains to her that he and Dan found nothing at Mystery Mountain. Dan has taken off for some R and R in Las Vegas. Sally ain't buying it. Steve just isn't acting himself. She definitely realizes something's amiss when he practically almost rapes her on the patio lounger. (Well, "rape" as far as '50s movies go... By the way, Agar really gets into his role here.) Sally asks her father John (Beginning of the End's Thomas B. Henry) to approach Steve but the scientist throws his future father-in-law out of the lab in a tirade. Determined to get to the bottom of Steve's weird behavior, Sally and her dad go out to Mystery Mountain and poke around. The discovery of Dan's burnt body seems to confirm the worst. Then they, too, are startled by the appearance of a giant floating brain — only this time there is no danger. The brain speaks to them, explaining that it is named Vol, from the planet Arous Vol is here on Earth to capture Gor, a criminal brain that escaped from his home world, and take him back for punishment. Gor wants to enslave humanity as absolute dictator. He "voided" Dan and took possession of Steve's body as the first step in this scheme of conquest. Vol asks for John and Sally's help in stopping Gor. To do this they must keep silent about Vol's existence. All precautions possible will be taken to keep Steve unharmed when taking on Gor. Sally and John agree to help Vol nab the evil gray matter that has Steve under its control. So Vol goes undercover... in the body of Sally's faithful dog George! While Vol waits for the right moment to make his move, the possessed Steve blows up an airliner for fun — with his mind — and again tries getting in Sally's pants. (Gor taunts Steve with his lust for Sally: "She gives me a strange, new elation.") He also threatens a conference of generals and scientists with wholesale destruction of cities if his demands for total capitulation are not met. Like Invisible Invaders, this flick is one big tasty hunk of 100% American-made sci-fi cheese. The special effects are hilariously bad; check out the baldly visible wires holding up the brain balloons. (The best by far, though, is the explosion of the second airplane destroyed by Gor-Steve... It blows up, but a big piece of one wing remains airborne — swinging back and forth on a string!) The chief pleasure here is Agar's over-the-top performance when his character is possessed by Gor. Playing the villain this time, he gets to cut loose like his typecast "by-gosh-we'll make-it, ma'am" heroes never could.
Review by Brian Lindsey

70 MIN

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