Monday, 29 January 2018

The Atomic Brain (1963)

The Atomic Brain (the original theatrical release title was Monstrosity) is classic Z-grade sci-fi horror schlock.

This is a mad scientist movie and it has all the right ingredients. Of course having the right ingredients doesn’t guarantee a good movie.

The mad scientist in question is Dr Otto Frank (Frank Gerstle) and he is on the verge of perfecting the technique of brain transplantation. He’s transplanted animal brains into humans and now he’s ready to take the next step - human brain transplants.

His experiments are financed by a rich old lady named Mrs March (Marjorie Eaton). She wants to be young again and she wants Dr Frank to transplant her brain into the body of a beautiful young woman. Of course not many young women are likely to volunteer to donate their bodies and for the operation to succeed the body has to be fresh. Mrs March and her boyfriend (gigolo might be a more accurate description) Victor (Frank Fowler) come up with the idea of obtaining a young female companion from a domestic employment agency. They get three applicants, all from overseas (obviously they don’t want nosy families sniffing about if the girls happen to vanish).

The three girls are Bea (Judy Bamber), Nina (Erika Peters) and Anita (Lisa Lang). Bea is English (and Judy Bamber’s attempt at an English accent has to be heard to be believed), Nina is German (luckily Erika Peters is German so she sounds convincing enough) and Anita is Mexican (with another not wholly convincing accent). Mrs Match quickly decides that Bea is the prettiest and so it’s Bea’s body she wants, although for complicated reasons that decision changes later.

There are a couple of Dr Frank’s earlier experiments wandering about and they’re pretty much zombies, plus the telephone wires have been cut and the girls are locked in they don’t take too long to figure out that something bad is going on here. They figure that leaving might be an excellent idea but that’s easier said than done.

You might be wondering where the atomic element comes in. Atomic energy is what Dr Frank uses to re-activate his transplanted brains.

The Atomic Brain is one of those movies that pops up on worst movies of all time lists. It is pretty bad but it’s certainly not bad in the way Ed Wood’s movies are bad. There’s a certain basic level of film-making competence at work here. There’s even the occasional shot that is moderately well composed. And it has a coherent plot. I’m not suggesting it’s a good plot but it is coherent. It’s very silly, but since when has silliness been a problem in science fiction or horror movies?

The mad scientist laboratory is not too bad for a very low-budget film. There are no attempts at elaborate special effects, and that was probably a very wise decision.

The main problem here is that it’s all rather stodgy. It just doesn’t quite have that spark that makes for great low-budget schlock.

It does have its moments though. The scene in which Mrs March has Nina modelling clothes is pretty creepy when you consider that Mrs March is more interested in checking out Nina’s body (which is soon to be hers) than the clothes.

These sorts of movies tend to have very predictable endings (you know that the mad scientist is not going to get away with his evil plans) but this one does throw in a couple of decent little twists.

Something Weird released this one on a triple-feature disc along with a real obscurity called Love After Death (which I have yet to watch)  and The Incredible Petrified World (a bad sci-fi movie that is unfortunately very dull indeed). The Atomic Brain gets a pretty good transfer.

If you’re in the mood for enjoyable sci-fi silliness then you could do worse than watch The Atomic Brain, although it has to be said that there are better movies (including low-budget movies) dealing with much the same themes. Recommended, as long as you don’t get your hopes up too high.

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