Monday, January 17, 2022

Watch Party Watch: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957)

Watched:  01/14/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Firstish
Director:  Nathan Hertz

I'll tell this story again here, so...

The year is about 1978 or 79.  For reasons I cannot remember, my mom has to keep me busy while she deals with something else in the house.  I am about 3 or 4.  My mom does something she never does:  she puts me in my folks' room and turns on the TV and says "look at that til I get back".  I am left alone with a black and white movie on the TV.

The movie is well underway, I don't understand what's happening and then this shit appears on screen:

I lose it.  Giant floating menacing brains with glowing eyes are not something I yet take for granted.  

Then, violence:

I have not seen an actor be able to wail on a prop with an axe before.  The woman is frantic.  Shit seems very, very real and very, very scary.  I am absolutely left with the memory of the terrified woman and the man beating on the brain which will murder them if he fails.

Soon, my mom returns, and I know she got that I saw something scary on TV, but Lord knows what I described that I'd seen.  

For years and years, the image of a brain floating around with glowing eyes is embedded on the wallpaper of my mind.  I expect one day that I will figure out what the movie was with the brain with eyes, but it never shows up on MST3K, and searching for a 1950's movie about a brain can net you far too many results to be useful.  

Circa 2015 or so, looking at someone's blog, the image of the brain was suddenly there.  In the meantime, I had literally begun to wonder if I dreamed the whole incident or how I had never seen the thing again.  But, nope, there it was.  The movie has a name:  The Brain From Planet Arous.  

The movie was not heavily referenced in fan circles in 2015, but people seem to know what it is.  But it's also not available on home video.  

Well, every few months I check to see what is going on.  A DVD appears out there for $70 or so, which seems... steep.  But then, I guess in just the last couple of months, The Brain From Planet Arous became available, and is now streaming on Amazon for a modest fee.  

In January of 2022, I make a bunch of people watch it.

In a way, I really liked The Brain From Planet Arous.  It had this scene, and how can you hate a movie that says "this is what we're going to show people"?

Yes, that is a benevolent alien brain merging with a dog that looks a bit like Scout.

The basic gist is that John Agar is a scientist living in the desert studying radiation.  He and his sidekick go out to look into odd spikes in radioactivity and come across a malevolent alien brain thing.  A week later, John Agar shows up telling people his sidekick went to Las Vegas (he is dead in a cave).  Agar immediately gets extremely handsy with his fiance, Sally (Joyce Meadows), who is freaked out.  

As Evil Brain in John Agar plots to blow up the world unless it falls under his rule, Sally and her dad meet a nice space brain, who takes up residence in George, the family dog (I think Sally accidentally calls the dog by its real name, Stuart, at one point in the movie, and they just left it in.  It's that kind of movie.)

Anyway, as near as I can tell, what I caught of the movie back in the 1970's was just the last five minutes or so.  It's by far the craziest part of the movie and has all the things I remember in one scene.  

It's a B-movie that wants to play on a larger scale, and does a lot with limited funds.  There's a giant floating brain with glowing eyes.  That's it.  NO UFOs.  No special effects with scaled shots or anything except one model airplane exploding.  Maybe four or five locations in the film.  A quick runtime.  A dog that sort of follows commands.  There's a reason I thought MST3K would cover it, and the Mads did finally in 2020, it seems.  It also looks like Elvira showed the movie as part of Midnight Madness back in the day. 

It is odd to actually, finally watch the movie.  Whatever "trauma" I had from watching it had been replaced by curiosity long, long ago.  I remembered the fear, but knew it was mostly because I was watching something alone that I had never seen before.  And when I found out the weird images just barely hanging in there in my mind's eye were a very real thing all those decades later, it was kind of thrilling.  So to finally see the movie and for the film to be exactly the kind of kooky sci-fi horror I would up mainlining in high school was a delight.    

I guess some folks have a bad experience with movies as a kid and never return to them.  For me, that's been The Last Unicorn.  I've not seen that again since watching it in the theater.  A floating brain has nothing on unicorn genocide.



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