Monday, October 14, 2013


The Creature With The Atom Brain is one of those movies that was once a staple of late movies on local TV and became a monster kid favorite. Like The Rats Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here, the title just screams bad horror film. Some reviews and film history books try to make this 1955 thriller a statement on Cold War hysteria like The Thing, Invaders from Mars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I don't think the script of the movie was well thought out enough and if there is a political subtext it certainly doesn't make itself known.

The plot of the movie revolves around a gangster named Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger), who with the air of a Nazi scientist (Gregory Gaye), is using dead men, brought back to life with atomic power, to kill people responsible for having him deported. The atomic power makes the dead men impervious to bullets and gives them super-strength.

Forensic scientist Dr. Chet Walker (Richard Denning) and his partner, Capt. Dave Harris (S. John Launer), work to find who is controlling the dead men. Walker makes the connection between two victims and the killer's words, recorded on a victim's Dictaphone. "I said I would see you die and I will!" It turns out Buchanan told the jury that convicted him "I will see you die!"  When they start getting close, Dave is kidnapped and turned into an atomic killer. Luckily, he only succeeds in dismembering Dr. Walker's eight year old daughter's doll.

Besides being a classic Late Late Show fixture, this movie inspired the 1980 Roky Erickson song by the same name. Erickson incorporated re-enactments of the movie's dialogue including the first creature murdering mobster Hennesey and his goons shooting at the creature, as well as the news report of D.A. McGraws murder into the song. The lyrics focus on the discovery that Capt. Harris has become one the creatures ("Threw the doll right down, Ripped its guts out and threw it on the ground")

"Do you think he is one of them?"

Even though the script was by Curtis Siodmak, it seems like this could have been put together in a meeting of the marketing department at Columbia Pictures."Let's see what do people like in movies...I know, we will make a movie with gangsters, Nazis, atomic power, walking dead, soldiers and police shooting people. Okay, Siodmak, knock out a script on that."

While I don't believe this is an allegory about the Cold War, it is certainly a product of the Cold War and the 50s. You could almost do MST3K style riffs on the film, while satirizing the idiotic right-wing rhetoric found in memes on Facebook.

  • Remember the good old days when the paper boy delivered the newspaper to your door?
  • Remember the good old days when men slapped their wife's butt on the front porch in front of the neighbors?
  • Remember the good old days when women were too feminine and delicate to drink martinis?
  • Remember the good old days when our military would use all of their resources to find radioactivity in cities?
  • Remember the good old days when eight year old girls talked like four year old girls and they played with giant dolls instead of twerking in clubs all night?
  • Remember the good old days when zombies wore nice suits and had saddle stitching on their foreheads?
The Creature With the Atom Brain is a fun movie, because it can't be taken too seriously.

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