Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964)

Evil Brain from Outer Space (1964)

directors  Koreyoshi Akasaka, Akira Mitsuwa
viewed: 12/13/2017

Evil Brain from Outer Space is my type of pop surrealism, like someone slipped some acid in your cheap hot sake.

It’s like an old fashioned serial meets 1950’s Superman TV show, madein Japan, of course, with bananas hackneyed dubbing, writing, and voice acting.

“I was trying to bring the brain here to you , Dr. Sakurai . Because it’s imperative that it be destroyed. To do so won’t be easy. Its indestructible.”

Okay, making fun of the dialog or voiceover is like shooting fish in a barrel. That said, I’m not sure the American soundtrack could be improved upon. It’s pure silly awesome genius.

This film, as it is, is an edited fabrication for American audiences of a couple of Super Giant movies from late 1950’s Japan.  Really, it’s one of a set, including Atomic Rulers of the World, Attack from Space and Invaders from Space, all adapted from the film series featuring Japan’s first cinematic superhero.

The action is almost non-stop and trying to transcribe the plot seems near impossible. It’s best taken as is, a straight-up late-night (or anytime) hallucination of cosmic weirdness and hilarious wonder, and 1950’s parkour, by which I mean lots of jumping and editing for action fights and leaps and flying by the seat of your tights (attached to a visible cable). Also, some really cute kids are in it, though they turn into other cute kids partway through (I think.)

That’s the point: don’t think. Just enjoy.

The Night the World Exploded (1957)

The Night the World Exploded (1957) movie poster

director Fred F. Sears
viewed: 11/01/2017

One of the first ever natural disaster movies (please check me on this), The Night the World Exploded shows that it’s not nice to trick Mother Nature.

“It’s almost as if the earth were striking back at us for the way we’ve robbed her of her natural resources. Not very scientific, is it?” This line is spoken by “Hutch”, played by Kathryn Grant, not only the sole woman in science, but virtually the sole woman in the movie.

Made by producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears as second feature with their astoundingly hilarious The Giant Claw (1957), The Night the World Exploded is by contrast a more earnest horror film. Human activity has brought about a new very unstable element higher into the planet’s crust, causing massive earthquakes.

Hopeful science, like cloud-seeding, saves the day. The element is neutralized in water, so busting dams and flooding places, causing rain somehow solves everything. I say it’s hopeful because humans are able to clean up their messes. An unlikely scenario in which we currently reside.

It Conquered the World (1954)

It Conquered the World (1954) movie poster

director Roger Corman
viewed: 09/24/2017

It Conquered the World (spoiler: It didn’t)

Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World is really a half-decent 1950’s sci-fi alien invasion picture. It’s undermined (or alternatively enhanced), however, by a classically comical schlock monster that is almost impossible to take seriously.

In the 1950’s it’s always about Communism, isn’t it?

The film starts with a nice opening shot following cool, low budget title sequence. More than anything, it features a cast of folks who perform well and would go on to bigger, better things. Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Peter Graves perform nobly.

It features some quintessential 50’s sexism, what with women not understanding stuff like science and whatnot, though also winds up having the wife take on the monster with a shotgun towards the end. So, feminism?

“The world is full of fat heads, full to overflowing.”

Charming.

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958)

The Hideous Sun Demon (1958) movie poster

directors  Tom Boutross, Robert Clarke
viewed: 09/20/2017

“Whiskey and soda mix, not whiskey and science.”

That line, uttered early in 1950’s sci-fi/horror flick, The Hideous Sun Demon, is the film’s tell as to its real significance. Alcoholism isn’t subtext so much as pretty well-woven into the film’s full text.

Many have compared The Hideous Sun Demon to a werewolf movie, probably because the monster is brought about, rather than by recognition of a full moon, but under the eye of the sun. Writer/star/director Robert Clarke thought it more of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of thing, but it’s not the sun as much as the booze that brings out the beast in Dr. Gilbert McKenna (Clarke). It’s his own booziness that caused the accident that exposed him to nuclear radiation in the first place and warranted the “whiskey and science” quip.

And it’s his need for hooch that drives him continually out of the shadowy confines of his home and into dangerous situations. It’s what leads his to meeting Trudy, the lounge singer (played by the voluptuous Nan Peterson), who he leaves naked on a beach when his monstrous realization starts again. Peterson “sings” Marilyn King’s “Strange Pursuit”, a nice jazzy number, reminiscent of Chet Baker.

Some of the best parts of the film are the location shots around more desolate parts of the greater 1950’s Los Angeles, especially the oil derricks and old shacks. I also though that Suzy the little girl (Xandra Conkling) was pretty funny. She’s petulant and conniving like no other 1950’s moppet I’ve seen on film or television. She was taking those cookies and sneaking out no matter what mom said!

Oh yeah, and the monster costume is pretty cool.

For an independent production, shot on weekends with USC students, it’s really a pretty decent film. Perhaps more interesting as a cheapo The Lost Weekend meets 1950’s science fiction that any straight-up pure quality.

From Hell It Came (1957)

From Hell It Came (1957) movie poster

director Dan Milner
viewed: 06/18/2017

If they made Moana in 1957, it might have come out as From Hell It Came. It’s a time when depicting stories from the South Seas had nothing to do with broadening inclusiveness. Rather these islands were exotica and the primitive all rolled into one, and the depictions herein are as mangled and weird as any rendering Polynesia on film.

But goddam! The “Tobanga”, tree zombie, resurrected for revenge. Made by Paul Blaisdell, he might not exactly get around all that easily, but he can carry a swooning beauty with any monster from the 1950’s. Add that together with the pretty awesome poster and the title, From Hell It Came, and you’ve got a pretty compelling potash no matter what actually happens in the movie.

Me, I love this kind of stuff. So much so, I don’t really know exactly how to rate it.

It features a slew of really funny lines, whose intentionality ranges broadly. The monster tree has a heartbeat (apparently exterior) that looks quite like a swollen sphincter as much like a knurl. Wonderful crackpot pseudoscience too.

Sublime junk.

The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

The Astounding She Monster (1957) movie poster

director  Ronald V. Ashcroft
viewed: 05/16/2017

To be fair, The Astounding She Monster has an astounding movie poster. This one is another by artist Albert Kallis, who drafted many great 1950’s horror and science fiction images for Roger Corman’s AIP and others. I love his work so much.

The movie The Astounding She Monster is another thing altogether. The “She Monster” of the title is just a blonde in a body suit with some funny eye make-up. She kills by touch and falls into a rural kidnapping plot that isn’t probably worth describing. True or not, that Ed Wood, Jr. worked on this picture as a consultant, isn’t really all that surprising.

I have a serious soft spot for 1950’s horror and science fiction and even I will tell you that this is not as much fun as many others. But at 62 minutes, you won’t have to sacrifice much of your life to check this one off your list.

The Neanderthal Man (1953)

The Neanderthal Man (1953) movie poster

director Ewald André Dupont
viewed: 03/28/2017

How many mad scientist reverted to caveman movies were made in the 1950’s?

I grew up with Jack Arnold’s Monster on the Campus (1958) but little did I know of Ewald André Dupont’s The Neanderthal Man of five years earlier. Mad scientists gotta do what mad scientists gotta do and sometimes that is to play around with formulae to revert evolution. To be fair to the scientist of Monster on the Campus, his coming about was more by pure near slap-stick accident. The Neanderthal Man‘s scientist is more driven by discovery and having been rejected by his peers.

Dupont was once a prominent German director of the Silent Era, but his career shifted once he landed in Hollywood, and somehow late in life he found himself directing his first monster movie.

I’d say it’s almost exactly half-bad. Which means that it’s exactly half-sort-of-good in that 1950’s sci-fi/horror way. 1953 is still the early part of the decade and this looks like a B-production’s B-production, so this is a mix of not yet full-on clichés and rather uninspired film-making.

But I’ve got a soft spot for this biz.

World Without End (1956)

World Without End (1956) movie poster

director Edward Bernds
viewed: 01/30/2017

Ah, the perils of space travel.

Like the later Planet of the Apes (1968), World Without End features a group of American space travelers who find themselves returned to marooned on a planet that turns out to be Earth, only centuries in the future. Only this Earth isn’t overrun by apes, but by one-eyed mutant cavemen!

And hiding underground from the fallout, the intellectuals have fled. Over time, the men have become weak and increasingly impotent, while the women have all gotten all VA-VA-VA-VOOM!!!

Turns out well for our healthy, hunky strong AND smart men of the 1950’s, brains, brawn, and good looks. There is something Zardoz-ian about it, but no loincloths or flying giant heads.

The always likable Hugh Marlowe stars and Rod Steiger gets his breakout American role. It’s directed by Edward Bernds who made a handful of sci-fi flicks (as well as a lot of Three Stooges pictures).

I love 1950’s sci-fi, good or bad. This one is sort of on the mediocre side. But the poster, the poster is amazing.

Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

Night of the Blood Beast (1958) movie poster

director  Bernard L. Kowalski
viewed: 10/26/2016

When you’ve watched enough Roger Corman 1950’s horror and science fiction films, you begin to feel that there is a rather low ceiling to how high the quality will ever rise.  But like any creative toiling prolifically in pulp, especially one who brought on lots of first time talent on the cheap, every once in a while, something more interesting comes along.

Re-using the monster costume from his film Teenage Cave Man shot only weeks before, Night of the Blood Beast is typically cheap but atypically interesting.  It was written by Martin Varno (his only writing credit per IMDb), apparently under the spell of Howard Hawks’s The Thing from Another World (1951).  It has, however, more in common with The First Man in Space (1959), a pair of space race sci-fi/horror stories about what might happen when man first made it out of Earth’s atmosphere and tried to return.

In Night of the Blood Beast, the pilot comes back dead but impregnated with alien fetuses and revivified by the creatures he carries inside him.  The monster is pretty silly looking but the image of the embryos under the fluoroscope, as well as an opening title image and visions of cells under the microscope are cheaply but interestingly animated and drawn.  There is also a suggestively gruesome corpse with half its face torn off, dripping blood in near silhouette.

I would not try to suggest that this is necessarily “good” science fiction, but there are some interesting ideas here.  The male impregnation is definitely on of them.  The script also has the pregnant pilot struggling with empathy for the aliens (for whom all the other humans have a “destroy first and ask questions later” attitude about.  It’s almost as though the story was hedging its bets as to whether these were benign aliens or true “blood beasts” until the very end.

Ultimately, I think this has a bit more going for it than some give it credit for.  It surprised me a bit.

Monster on the Campus (1958)

Monster on the Campus (1958) movie poster

director Jack Arnold
viewed: 10/01/2016

Of all of Jack Arnold’s wonderful 1950’s horror-scifi, Monster on the Campus is probably the silliest.  This is the man who delivered It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955), Tarantula (1955), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and The Space Children (1958), a ranging list that includes a few true classics.  But even if you throw in 1957’s The Monolith Monsters, which he provided story but didn’t direct, Monster on the Campus is still a winner for silliness.

This might be one of the only coelacanth-oriented horror films out there.

A professor at a small state college lands himself a coelacanth specimen upon which to experiment, only to discover that the fish has been irradiated in shipping.  This modern form of sterilization might not sound too bad initially, but it results anything that ingests, injects, or even smokes the blood of the coelacanth suddenly reverts to their own prehistoric form.

For a German shepherd, wolf-life fangs and a nasty personality.  A dragonfly turns gigantic.  For the professor, he reverts to a gruesome, murderous troglodyte.  Though we are eventually given a transformation scene, showing make-up fades into progressive hairiness, it’s a rubber mask monster in its full form, a pretty ugly one at that.

What tends to the hilarious is just how the professor manages to take in this coelacanth  blood.  The first time, he cuts his hand on the dead fish’s teeth.  The second time, blood dripping from the knife with which he skewered the giant dragonfly, drops into his pipe, and he winds up smoking it.  Though that is probably the most hilarious of events, he does later twice inject himself with coelacanth blood, finally to prove to the authorities that he is the “monster on the campus” who needs to be gunned down.

Like The Monolith Monsters, and like a lot of Arnold’s movies, I grew up with this one on TV, and even though it’s a lot more silly than a good horror film of the period should be, it still found a soft spot in me.