John AgarJoyce MeadowsRobert Fuller
The Brain From Planet Arous
Medium: film
Year: 1957
Director: Nathan Juran
Writer: Ray Buffum
Keywords: horror, SF
Country: USA
Actor: John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller, Thomas Browne Henry, Henry Travis, Tim Graham, Ken Terrell
Format: 71 minutes
Website category: Horror pre-1970
Review date: 7 June 2002
"The Brain From Planet Arous?" I hear you cry. Why, it's the 1958 B-movie that's just been released with Teenage Monster (1957) on a double-feature DVD from MPIC Video. Fancy not knowing that! Pressing "play" on the DVD player, I expected a dappy cheese-fest along the lines of Plan Nine From Outer Space. In fact it's not. All things considered, its production values are pretty good (though that's a not insignificant caveat.) For the most part it's not bad enough to be funny. Sadly, it's just a bit dull.
The DVD's blurb promises much. "A diabolical space-brain takes over the body of a nuclear physicist in an attempt to conquer the world." How cool is that? And sure enough, the brain talks in a classic fifties Evil Space Brain voice, uttering gems like, "None of your puny weapons will affect me." It also finds Earth women sexy. Beats me why a gigantic space brain should get the hots for a bunch of primates. Ah well. I guess that's all part of the fun.
John Agar plays that nuclear physicist I mentioned and he's apparently a big name in the canon of bad fifties B-movies, the star of such titles as The Mole People, Daughter of Dr Jekyll, Attack of the Puppet People and Zontar The Thing From Venus. He looks like a cross between Kelsey Grammer and Larry Hagman, hamming it up like nobody's business (though only when evil) and intimidating generals and diplomatic representatives. His eyes turn silver when he's using his death ray vision. That's rather creepy, actually.
The military are rather quick to assume they've been invaded by aliens - but that's more or less it for the unintentional comedy. The movie's problem is that it's telling the story of an indestructible space brain that can do whatever the hell it likes. No one can stop it. There's another space brain, popped along for exposition purposes, but it doesn't actually do that much. Joyce Meadows and the other human characters get little to do except tag along behind John Agar and hope he doesn't fry too many people before his diabolical space-brain conveniently corporates so they can kill it.
Since John Agar is the main character, eventually his evil persona becomes the hero. He can blow planes from the sky! He can cause nuclear explosions with the flick of a silver contact lens! So he wants to enslave the Earth and build a gigantic space armada with which he'll conquer his home planet, Arous. Everyone needs a hobby. It's fun watching him wreak some modest havoc, but one still gets the sense that the movie is drifting.
This movie does almost everything right. It looks good (with a great DVD transfer) but at the end of the day it's a story that unfolds independently of its characters. I'm afraid it rather bored me, but I suspect it'll improve on repeat viewings. Anyone watching these fifties B-movies in search of excitement will be sadly disappointed - instead, it's best to expect genteel dullness and an offbeat, naive sincerity.