AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCIENTIST!
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THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957)
|"As long as you are alive, you will have me using your body. Directing your brain. Turning your simple little will on and off like a key in a lock..."|
Director: Nathan Hertz (Nathan Juran)
Starring: John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Thomas B. Henry, Robert Fuller, Dale Tate, Ken Terrell, Henry Travis, E. Leslie Thomas, Tim Graham, Bill Giorgio
Screenplay: Ray Buffum
Synopsis: A strange light hurtles towards Earth, resulting in a violent explosion in a remote desert area. Nuclear physicist Steve March (John Agar) and his assistant Dan Murphy (Robert Fuller) discover that strange, intermittent bursts of radioactivity are coming from the direction of Mystery Mountain. Over lunch with Steve’s fiancée, Sally Fallon (Joyce Meadows), and her father, John (Thomas B. Henry), Steve and Dan announce their plan to travel to the mountain to try and locate the source of the radioactivity. The scientists drive into the desert. Near their destination, they find the road blocked and get out of their jeep to walk. After finding an unexplained rock fall, the men discover a cave freshly blasted out of the base of Mystery Mountain. Strangely, there are no footprints in the dirt before the cave entrance. Steve and Dan explore, and again detect the periodic radioactivity. The men see a strange glow, and call out for whoever is in there to show themselves. Suddenly, the radioactive signal strengthens, and the scientists are confronted by a huge, floating brain. The men fire their guns to no effect, then collapse in agony under the influence of a strange power exerted by the brain. The brain then takes possession of Steve's body.... A week later, Sally phones her father to tell him of her plan to search for Steve and Dan, who have not returned from the desert. She is startled when Steve suddenly appears at her back door; the two kiss passionately. Steve tells Sally that Dan went to Las Vegas. Sally senses that something is wrong with Steve. As he is denying it, Steve is gripped by a sudden pain, which he attributes to a toothache. Steve grabs Sally again, embracing and kissing her so roughly that he tears her blouse. Sally’s dog, George, alerted by her cries, attacks Steve, who fights him off. When the frightened Sally suggests that Steve see a doctor, he repulses her angrily and leaves. At Steve’s house, the scientist writhes in agony as the alien brain, Gor, leaves his body. Gor tells Steve that he intends to use his body as a dwelling-place, and that he was chosen because of his profession and his access to restricted facilities. Having seen Sally, Gor is even more pleased with his choice of a host. Meanwhile, Sally tells her father of her sense that Steve is somehow changed Steve, and that she does not believe that Dan went to Las Vegas. John goes to see Steve, who tries to tell him about Gor, but is again overwhelmed by pain and screams at John to leave. Sally convinces John to accompany her to Mystery Mountain, to try and find a clue to the mystery. The two locate the new cave and, to their horror, discover Dan’s body. There is a sudden glow, and Sally and John find themselves confronted by a second alien brain….
Comments: The late fifties were a particularly rich time for science fiction movies involving bizarre aliens invading planet Earth, their intentions sometimes peaceful, more often hostile. Although the field was probably led by Roger Corman and his co-conspirators at AIP, it would not be fair to overlook the contribution of Nathan Juran, who in addition to the floating brains from the planet Arous blessed the cinematic world with a rampaging Venusian Ymir in 20 Million Miles To Earth and a giant alien with powers of embiggenment in Attack Of The Fifty-Foot Woman. Of course, it might not be apparent at a casual glance that the same man was responsible for all three films, since he signed his name only to 20 Million Miles To Earth, being credited as “Nathan Hertz” on the other two. The director’s use of the latter (his middle name, by the way, and not just – or not only – a suggestive pseudonym) is generally taken to mean that he was less than thrilled about the production in question; but when we run an eye over his résumé we see that he used his real name for both The Deadly Mantis and Hellcats Of The Navy, so perhaps there was more to it than a simple value judgement. I like to think so, anyway, because for all of its absurdities there’s more going on in The Brain From Planet Arous than immediately meets the eye.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here...
As we all know, during the 1950s science fiction became a powerful vehicle for the expression of political ideas, and films from both sides of the ideological divide proliferated. A number of these are thoughtful, intelligent works that weave their thesis carefully into the fabric of their screenplays...and then there’s the rest, where you have to stop and wonder whether the political stuff was intentional or just a reflection of the extent to which prevailing political tensions had become an aspect of everyday life. In the specific case of The Brain From Planet Arous, it might well be that its overtones are a carryover from its obvious model, the previous year’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Like that film (and many others of the decade), The Brain From Planet Arous is a paranoia story which plays on the fear of being taken over by a mysterious Them; but while Invasion Of The Body Snatchers allows for multiple interpretations – even if its director really intended only one – The Brain From Planet Arous leaves no room at all for individual readings.
In fact, what we have here is a glaring piece of anti-intellectualism, in which Gor the Evil Space Brain figures as a literal interpretation of the phrase “dangerous mind”. The Arousians are, of course, crude kissing-cousins to the Krell from Forbidden Planet, which was also released the previous year: a race that has evolved to be wholly of the mind – in this case, physically as well as metaphysically. As one of the greatest intellects on a planet where “intelligence is all”, Gor is, inevitably, undiluted evil; his pure intellect is purely destructive. Meanwhile, Vol, the “good intellectual”, who comes to Earth to arrest the fugitive Gor turns out to be completely helpless and ineffectual. Though he brags that he has “powers that equal and even surpass those of Gor”, Vol is reduced to hiding out in the body of a dog while the resourceful humans do his job for him.
Of course, Gor, too, for all that he intends to rule the world with his mighty intellect, must resort to using Steve March’s body to put his plan into action. Indeed, Gor’s mere presence on Earth is an admission of an extremely embarrassing realisation: that being the universe’s supreme brain isn’t a damn bit of use if you don’t have the opposable digits to back it up. Gor might be able to design the greatest invasion force ever conceived, but without the help of someone who can operate a Phillips’-head screwdriver, his plans aren’t going to amount to very much.
SCIENCE!! All kinds of SCIENCE!!
And while it is busy demonstrating the limitations of the intellect, The Brain From Planet Arous throws in plenty of positive reinforcement by showing us the pleasures of the non-cerebral life. Much of the film’s running time is spent in demonstrating just how much more fulfilling and fun it is just to be Joe Lunchpail, rather than one of those high-brow types. Once ensconced in Steve March’s body, Gor discovers a whole world of hitherto unsuspected pleasures, including pipe smoking, alcoholic beverages, driving a convertible, blowing up planes and eating potato chips. And then there’s the big one...
Hand-in-hand with the recurrent fifties theme of lookalike aliens ran a deeper, still more primitive fear: that the outsiders not only looked like us, they wanted our women!---usually just as incubators for alien spawn, the invaders having eliminated “useless emotion”. The Brain From Planet Arous, however, may well be unique in that its invading alien is not the least bit interested in Sally Fallon as a breeding partner.
If there is one thing likely to grant a slice of immortality to this movie – apart from its aliens, of course – it is the absolutely outrageous relationship between the possessed Steve March and his horrified fiancée, Sally. In fact, it’s remarkable how often this gigantic brain lets his smaller one do the thinking for him; not for nothing is his home-world called Arous. Revelling in the “strange new elation” he feels, Gor simply cannot keep his newly-acquired hands to himself, and repeatedly takes time out from his plans for world domination to investigate further the mysterious human past-time known as “nookie”.
All this, and giant transparent floating space brains, too!
The opening frames of The Brain From Planet Arous induce an involuntary flinch in the experienced Bad Movie watcher, brandishing at the viewer a Howco International credit that promises simultaneously a very low budget and much aimless wandering in the desert: it was last seen in these parts flashing a warning re: Mesa Of Lost Women. A glowing light in the sky turns out to be a meteorite, which slams into ground at the base of a lofty desert formation, and explodes into an impressive firework display.
A pile of rocks! Just ONE of the thrills awaiting the viewer in The Brain From Planet Arous!
(The other thing we might note in these opening credits is the presence of Jack Pierce, who was let go by an ungrateful Universal in 1946, and incredibly enough struggled to find film work before settling for television.)
The next morning we find
physicist Steve March puzzling over some extremely strange radioactive
readings. Steve is just about unique in the pantheon of fifties movie
scientists – heck, movie scientists, full stop – in that his sources of
research funding are clearly indentified. However, this bit of startling
realism is offset that his work for the Atomic Energy Commission is
carried out in a laboratory that doubles as his lounge-room – and that
Dan: “The base of Mystery Mountain!”
Yes, you heard him right. I’m going to go out on a limb here are predict that the intermittent radioactivity has something to do with a cranky old janitor who likes to disguise himself as a ghost.
Steve immediately starts making plans for a trip to [*snicker*] Mystery Mountain, but is overruled by Sally, who like all proper wimminfolk has her man’s stomach on her mind and has come to haul the scientists off to lunch. A cutesy little bit of business with a pith helmet follows, an unwise artistic choice as it turns out, since it serves chiefly to draw attention to the fact that not only does Steve own two pith helmets for no reason we are able to grasp, but that they have the ability to teleport:
.....Pith helmet on book.......................................Pith helmet in front of book.
One pith helmet.................................................Two pith helmets.
Apparently Steve and Dan only get fed by dropping in at Sally’s place, where she lives with her father. As she is doing all the work (oh, sorry, Dan does open a door for her), Steve explains to Mr Fallon about the “hot blast of gamma” coming from [*snicker*] Mystery Mountain, adding with nonchalantness either admirable or foolhardy, “Lucky it’s intermittent. If it was constant, we’d be fried.”
So our intrepid explorers set out for “three or four days” in a desert region repeatedly described as “120 in the shade”. Steve, driving the jeep, goes on until the vehicle literally runs into an enormous pile of rocks---clunk. “I guess we can’t make it any further in this jeep,” he observes sapiently. Dan comments gloomily that they’ll have to pick up their gear and walk...said “gear” consisting of a Geiger counter, a scintillator*, a rifle, a handgun, a pair of binoculars, a torch, one pith helmet and one very small flask of water...the latter of which Dan abandons after taking a swig and discovering that the water is hot! No worries: they can always shoot more water if they need it, right? We note, too, the complete absence of any protective equipment, even though they’re getting ever closer to a “hot blast of gamma” that was almost “frying” them from thirty miles away. Steve’s faith in the shielding abilities of his pith helmet is touching, but possibly somewhat misplaced. Also, his head might not be the part of his body most in need of shielding just now.
(*A scintillator is a material that scintillates, or luminesces, when exposed to ionising radiation; a scintillation detector is a device that detects scintillation.)
Steve gets excited by the sight
of a pile of rocks that “wasn’t there last winter” (what he was doing
there himself is left to our imaginations; evidently, inventorying
rubble) and the two set out on foot into
I’ll just stop her a moment and let that mental image sink in, shall I? Or better yet---
If I have to look at lactating John Agar, so do you.
Don’t get too grossed out, though: Steve thoughtfully changes his shirt between shots:
---and then changes it back again: he such a tease!
(You’d think if people went to the trouble of making someone a fake-sweaty shirt, he’d remember to wear it.)
Steve and Dan nervously explore the cave, with the intermittent radioactivity flickering in and out and light emanating from one of the passages. “Hello, in there! We’re friends – come on out!” calls Steve, as he and Dan point their guns in the direction of the light. There is no verbal response, but the light flicks out. The scientists press forward, but find the passage bewilderingly unoccupied. Suddenly, the Geiger counter, which has been “as cold as a well-digger’s foot”, for want of a more colourful piece of vernacular, bursts into life. Steve and Dan swing around, and see---and see---
This would be one of those pictures that’s worth a thousand words:
"I am a giant brain!"
Steve empties his gun into the, uh, apparition, but it has no effect. A light engulfs him, and he collapses. Dan, the kind of scientist who scrupulously tests any hypothesis more than once, then empties his gun into the giant brain, but it has no effect. He, too, collapses as the light beam engulfs him. Dan, as it turns out, is dead; Steve has been preserved for another purpose, the first hint of which comes when the giant brain lowers itself onto his prostrate body and merges with it...
A week later, we find Sally just beginning to worry, and planning to travel out to Mystery Mountain herself, to surprise the truants. She is immediately startled by Steve looming up outside the window. Sally rushes out to him and is startled again when, in place of the absent-minded peck she got the last time she and Steve greeted each other, he really plants one on her...
And it is here that another interesting aspect of the subtext of The Brain From Planet Arous begins to surface. Perhaps unintentionally, the film has some fairly unappealing things to say about the relations between the sexes. Prior to Gor’s intervention, the engagement of Steve and Sally seems like a fairly dreary affair. Indeed, it is only after being possessed by Gor that Steve appears genuinely interested in the question of marriage. (An alien with honourable intentions!?). Up to that point, he seems perfectly content to leave his relationship with Sally exactly as it is: the two of them living apart, and him dropping in at her place for meals when he feels inclined. Her existence doesn’t appear to mean much to him beyond the promise of a free lunch, and he can work himself up to nothing better than a passionless peck on the cheek.
Now, I’m not for a moment advocating Gor’s Neanderthal approach to matters, but you can certainly understand why, at first, Sally is as delighted as she is surprised by the new, improved Steve March. (One wonders whether the photograph of Sally that graces Steve’s mantelpiece was her fruitless attempt to stir things up a little: in it, she strikes the classic hands-behind-the-head, stomach-in, chest-out, cheesecake pose!) Ironically, it is Steve’s increased physical interest in her that first tips Sally off to the fact that something is badly wrong with him; and we are left to contemplate the film’s rather depressing inference that the correct response to a passionate kiss is for the kissee to suggest that the kisser see a doctor!
I was going to say, "the body merge isn't as obscene as it sounds", but actually...
The love-fest is broken up when
Sally notices Dan’s absence. Turning away from her, Steve replies
unconvincingly, “You know Dan – a playboy at heart – one week in the
mountains and he has to go to Las Vegas to recuperate.” Oh, Steve, tell
the truth: Dan’s---gone to Comic-Con, hasn’t he?
Sally’s focus soon switches back to Steve, however, as he insists even
more unconvincingly that, “I’m the same old lovable character I always
was.” She tries to get him to tell her what’s wrong, but he’s only
interested in a bit more lip-locking: a session that turns into a
wrestling match on the banana-lounge and ends with a ripped blouse. The
day is saved when Sally’s dog, George, uttering some most unconvincing
dubbed growling noises that do nothing to negate the impression of his
wagging tail, throws himself at Steve. A violent struggle ensues---most
of it offscreen, including the final kick which Steve delivers to his
(dubbed) whimpering assailant. George’s assault achieves its goal,
however, and Steve angrily storms away from Sally and drives off .
At Steve’s house, the giant brain disembodies itself from Steve and introductions follow. Gor goes on to explain that Steve is a “recognised nuclear scientist”, and as such has entrée to places Gor wants to go. But enough about that! Almost immediately, Gor changes the subject:
Gor: “I chose your body very carefully – even before I knew about Sally – a very exciting female!”
Steve: “If you so much as touch Sally---”
Gor: “It is you who are touching her!”
Steve tries to rebel here but the objects he throws pass through Gor as did his bullets earlier. Gor then teaches Steve a lesson with his pain-ray, and reoccupies his body.
"That photo! Could Sally have been trying to tell me something!?"
When her father gets home, Sally (who has changed her clothes) tries to tell him what happened but is so entirely unable to articulate it that her father barely takes her contention that “Steve was like a stranger” seriously. He does agree to see Steve himself---clearly with the intention of proving Sally wrong, mind you---but gets more than he bargained for when a violently enraged Steve abuses him and orders him out of his house.
Say what you like about The Brain From Planet Arous, it’s impossible not to admire the enthusiasm with which John Agar threw himself into his role: a stark contrast to his often lifeless offerings in his other science fiction films. His delineation of moments when Gor is exerting greater or lesser degrees of control over Steve is particularly well done, while the distance he puts between Steve’s tepid physical response to Sally and Gor’s, uh, enthusiasm is good enough to be alarming.
Of course, Agar’s performance was also physically brave: from this point in the film onwards, Gor’s ascendency is indicated via the use of silvery contact lenses that must have hurt like a bitch. Their first appearance is a genuine shock, and follows on from another of the film’s most memorable visual touches, a distorted image of Steve seen through a water-cooler. We can’t credit Agar with that, however: it was one of Nathan Juran’s signature moves.
Despite his close encounter with the Gor-ified Steve, Mr Fallon tells Sally that Steve’s problems are his own business and they should just butt out. Sally isn’t prepared to, though, and by harping on Steve’s lame explanation for Dan’s absence she gets her father to accompany her to [*snicker*] Mystery Mountain. These two may not be scientists, but they remember to bring along water and food, and manage not to run their jeep into the side of a mountain, which puts them two up on the film’s brainiacs. On the other hand, as far as head-coverings go where it’s “120 in the shade”, they sport between them – sigh – one pith helmet. (Sally is sensibly wearing jeans and boots, though; I’ll give her that.) Sally finds Dan’s discarded canteen, so they know they’re on the right track, and they make their way down to the cave.
Along with the child murder and bondage of Robot Monster, one of 50s SF's great WTF!? moments.
As they explore, Sally treats us to a series of disproportionate reactions: she screams over a flash of light, screams again when her father – stupidly, granted – grabs her from behind, barely bats an eyelid when she and her father almost stumble over Dan’s gamma-fried body (which, we recall, has been lying around at 120F for over a week: “He’s dead, isn’t he?” says Sally), and utters no more than a gasp when a giant transparent floating space brain glides up and addresses her:
Vol: “Do not be afraid! I am a friend!”
Vol explains that Gor is an escaped criminal (guilty of thought-crimes, presumably) and that he has come to take him back to Arous. He also diagnoses Steve’s strange behaviour, and warns the other two not to say a word to anyone. So poor old Dan gets to cook a little longer, I guess. Vol sends them away with a promise to see them at their home the following evening, although we’re left to guess how he knows where that is, or what he might be doing in between times. Certainly not stopping Gor.
Certainly not stopping Gor. Steve uses his connections to arrange to attend a series of atomic tests. Gor then disembodies himself and does some classic maniacal ranting and mwoo-ha-ha-ing: “Through me, you shall have power such as no man has seen before in the history of your planet! The power of pure intellect!”
Vol shows up as promised at the Fallons’ house (behold! – the power of GoogleMaps!) and recruits them for his mission to save the world from Gor. This raises a rather interesting point. Gor told Steve that, “I chose your body very carefully!”, which implies that the intermittent bursts of radioactivity were a deliberate ploy to lure the “recognised nuclear scientist” out to [*snicker*] Mystery Mountain. While this might not seem like much of a plan, it's a stroke of genius compared to the proceedings of Vol, who evidently was prepared to sit twiddling his, uh, thumbs in a cave until someone who knew Steve March just happened to wander into “the most Godforsaken spot in the desert”.
"I know you're trying to hide something from me, Steve, but I can see right through you!"
Anyhoo, Vol assures Sally and her father that they will try to force Gor out of Steve but warns that if worst comes to worst, Steve will have to be sacrificed. Vol then announces that he needs a host, an Earth body.
Sally: “”Take mine!”
And yes, that would seem to be the logical choice...but apparently the potential complications of the ensuing situation were too much for the film-makers. It’s worth remembering, I think, that the year before this the American distributors of Warning From Space re-dubbed a male alien into a female alien prior to that alien inhabiting the body of a human woman, and in that case there wasn’t even canoodling involved. Gor and Vol going mano-a-mano via Steve and Sally going mono-en-mono must have been just too close to the bone...unfortunately. It would have made this film a lot more interesting...
So anyway--- Vol inhabits George the dog.
I believe the inventors of the expression “from one extreme to the other” had this sort of thing in mind.
(We note that Vol’s occupation of George causes the dog no physical distress, unlike the extreme pain suffered by Steve during Gor’s entrances and exits. Perhaps this is because Steve resists, or because Gor is a bastard who likes hurting Steve. Or maybe it’s because the film-makers rightly felt that while we would have no problem watching John Agar writhe in agony, they’d better not hurt the dog.)
Meanwhile, with time to fill before the atomic tests, Gor forces Steve to take Sally out for a drive – although we suspect that the parking part of driving is what he actually has in, uh, mind – first donning a hound’s-tooth jacket to go with his new hound-dog personality. On his way to pick up Sally, Steve / Gor has a sudden rush of megalomania and stops to blow up a plane that happens to be passing overhead. One might reasonably infer that this represents an externalisation of Gor’s “very strange, very new elation”.
Since duty demanded it, Vol allowed Gor, the evil criminal genius, to scratch him behind the ears.
This, our first good look at Gor’s powers in action, is gloriously botched. Steve / Gor glowers with his silvery eyes at the plane passing overhead – which just happens to be transparent. It explodes, and for a moment or two afterwards, one wing continues to dangle in mid-air. As it turns out, however, this scene is merely a dry-run for the film’s real show-stopper...
Steve / Gor then continues on to the Fallons’, where Vol is sternly emphasising the need for Sally to treat Steve as she always has. The two (three?) depart, with George (four? five?) in tow. Though we don’t get the Gor / Vol interaction that we would have preferred, the scenes in which Sally has to pretend that she doesn’t know about Gor and to behave as normally as possible around Steve are effective and (intentionally) rather upsetting. In between warding off Steve / Gor’s rough advances, Sally tries to milk him for information about his intentions, and is told that he has made a discovery which – say it with me, folks! – “Will make the atomic bomb look like a firecracker”, and which will make him “the most feared man on Earth”. Ruminating on his own power gets Steve / Gor in the mood to start mauling Sally again (ew!), and George / Vol intervenes.
Once things have simmered down, Steve / Gor switches on the Plot Point Specific© car radio, which announces the inexplicable explosion of a plane. The lovebirds head out to “see if they can help”. Steve / Gor finds some air force acquaintances in charge, and is shown the mysterious radiation burns that mark the victims of the explosion. The plane’s wreckage, however, is equally mysteriously radioactivity-free. Though Sally is ordered away from the scene, she manages to get a glimpse of one of the victims and recognises the burns as the same as those on Dan’s body. A smug and smirking Steve / Gor starts voicing “theories” about a force from outer space and how the whole world is at its mercy.
John Agar might be the star of The Brain From Planet Arous, but this scene formally introduces its hardest-working contributor: Dale Tate as “Professor Dale Tate” (catchy!). In addition to this in-person bit-part, Tate also provided both the maniacal, gloating tones of Gor and the soothing, unctuous tones of Vol. And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it was him dubbing George the dog. (He scored an associate producer’s credit for his pains.) Tate gets two brief dialogue scenes in person, and then just sort of tags along for the rest of the film: his constant silent presence in the background of the scenes in which Steve / Gor makes his threats and demands becomes an amusing distraction.
"Well, I've given my expert opinion on the unearthly nature of the deadly radioactive power, and now I have to get back to the dubbing studio."
When Sally is safely home, Vol explains that Gor can only be captured or killed when he is not just outside Steve’s body, but in solid form; the Arousians must assume this form once every twenty-four hours, in order to assimilate oxygen. At that time, Gor is vulnerable to a blow on “the fissure of Rolando” (now called the central sulcus, a fold in the cerebral cortex that separates the frontal and parietal lobes).
While it’s tempting to stop and ponder the miracle of convergent evolution that made the human and Arousian brains so similar in structure (not to mention terminology), I confess to being more interested in Vol’s efforts to palm [sic.] his official duties off onto the Earthlings. He was, after all, supposed to be here to arrest Vol – and I for one was very much looking forward to watching exactly how he proposed to go about it. Medulla-oblongata-cuffs? But perhaps Vol himself realised that he had bitten off [sic.] a bit more than he could chew [sic.], hence the crash course in Arousian anatomy. Sally wonders how to get this information to Steve, but Vol warns her that if Gor detects that Steve has this knowledge, he will kill him...
Speaking of killing, the sheriff turns up at Steve’s to ask questions about Dan---whose body has just been found. This rather suggests that in spite of Vol’s warnings to say nothing, the Fallons reported Dan’s death, since why on earth otherwise would anyone be out at [*snicker*] Mystery Mountain? While we might lift eyebrows over the coroner’s assertion that he knows what exact day Dan died, he has recognised the burns on his body, which presents the sheriff with a puzzle. Not to worry: Steve / Gor confesses to killing Dan – and to blowing up the plane – and then of course he flash-fries the sheriff...
The blowing up of the plane has The Brass stirred up, and everyone’s favourite expert, Professor Dale Tate, is summoned to Washington to give his opinion, which is that the power that caused the explosion is like nothing known on Earth. This statement is received with an admirable display of open-mindedness: “We have been invaded! – not the United States, but the world!”
Wait, you mean that’s NOT the same thing!?
"Last night I watched all my science fiction films back-to-back! It didn't affect me at all!"
The proximity of the plane crash to the atomic testing grounds at Indian Springs is noted, but it is decided to go ahead with the planned tests. Because, after all, what could possibly go wrong? The meeting also receives the coroner’s report linking the burns on Dan’s body to the plane victims, and believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a colonel in the United States military say “Mystery Mountain” with a straight face.
Steve / Gor shows up at Indian Springs, and gains admittance to a top-secret meeting by insisting that he can explain the explosion and Dan’s death. He does a little more than that, though: he hijacks the atomic testing ground, with its model town built for destruction, and flattens it with the power of his mind, laughing manically as his eyes glow silver...
(And yes, it’s that same stock footage of an atomic test we’ve all seen countless times...and I still find it disturbing...)
The gathered military men are, to say the least, startled. Steve / Gor warns them that he can do the same thing to “a city, a nation, a continent”, and that any attempt to stop him will be met with reprisals. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this prompts Colonel Frogley to start shooting at him, allowing Steve / Gor to give another practical demonstration. He then orders a gathering of representatives of “the United States, England, France, Russia, China and India”. Fine; we didn’t want to come anyway [*sniff*].
Somewhat improbably, in the absence of any worldwide demonstration of power, such as occurred in another alien invasion film (and given that some of them live more than ten hours’ flying time away), the representatives all make it to Indian Springs within the specified period. General Brown, who was present at the first meeting, gives his colleagues an impassioned warning about the reality of the danger, but Steve / Gor, seeing the others still sceptical, invites them to the window.
The world representatives stare in horrified disbelief at the crappiest special effects they've ever seen.
A plane happens to be passing overhead (man, they have got to do something about those flight paths!). This one isn’t transparent, like its predecessor, though: it’s solid plastic, wobbling on its wires as it enters the shot. Steve / Gor glowers, the plane blows up...and a whole chunk of the fuselage swings lazily from one side of the shot to the other and back again...
Well. The delegates are more impressed by this than the average viewer, and immediately start bowing their necks to Steve / Gor’s yoke. His demands are comprehensive: all their atomic resources, all their industrial facilities, all their militaries, and enough workers to build “the greatest invasion force in the universe”. He also wants the UN building for himself, for reasons unspecified; I’m guessing his own Playboy Mansion. He then wraps up the meeting with another outburst of maniacal laughter.
The combined military forces of the entire world might be helpless, but not to worry, Sally’s been busy. As a weary Steve / Gor dozed in her yard earlier that day, she held a hurried conference with Vol, who told her that after such an extended period in Steve’s body, Gor will be very vulnerable. Sally then read up on the fissure of Rolando, and pondered how to get the information to Steve without Gor finding out.
The resolution of The Brain From Planet Arous is utterly exasperating, with Sally hiding an annotated diagram of the brain where Steve can find it---under his pipe-rack. (Never mind that Gor’s been the one sucking on the old briar lately.) Clearly there’s about a thousand different ways this can go wrong, but the film shuts its eyes and sticks its fingers in its ears and stubbornly refuses even to consider the obvious, and logical, alternative: that Sally should hide in Steve’s house and deliver the crucial blow. Oh, no! – God forbid the heroine should take decisive action! Instead, she gets to distract Gor by – sigh – screaming, while Steve picks up an axe. And then---and then---
"Sally's been looking things up in the encyclopaedia: I'll put a stop to THAT when we're married!"
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
(If nothing else, this resolution gifts us a continuity error that make the dancing pith helmets fade into insignificance: Sally has torn the relevant page about the brain out of her encyclopaedia, but when we get a close shot of Steve reading it, it’s the same intact book.)
Sally sneaks into Steve’s house and plants her information about the fissure of Rolando (which she has rather gloriously dubbed “Gor’s Achilles heel”). With about five hours in which to get the job done, naturally she’s left it to the last minute. Steve / Gor arrives home from his triumphant takeover of the world, forcing Sally to hide. She ducks out into the next room, wherein lies the sheriff’s crispy body, though she doesn’t immediately see it...
By this time Steve / Gor is completely exhausted, and Gor quickly exits his host. As the brain gloats over succeeding where “Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler all failed”, Steve painfully sits up---and instantly sees Sally’s notes, even though she hid them beneath a pipe and some books. The benefits of having a combined laboratory-lounge-study-shed-bedroom immediately make themselves felt, as Steve’s eyes travel to the axe sitting propped up on a pile of firewood near his bed...
The camera pulls back here to give us Steve, Gor and the axe in one shot. It also gives us our first look at Gor in his solid state, and oh my God.
Humanity was saved because this man decided to keep an axe in his bedroom. Ponder that, folks...
Gor is cute enough in superimposition, but in person he is absolutely adorable: a balloon on visible wires, with two googly eyes in the underside of his frontal lobes and a dangling spinal cord. And don’t try to tell me that the makers of Fiend Without A Face didn’t see this!
As Gor is making plans for an unspeakably creepy permanent threesome (“You and Sally and I will live in a splendour such as the world has never known!”), Sally risks a peep into the lab-lounge-study-shed-bedroom, then backs away again...straight into the sheriff’s body...
As Sally shrieks in horror, Gor comes swooping across the room at her. Sadly, we never do find out what he intended to do to her now that he is sans hands, as this interlude gives Steve a chance to grab the axe.
Much as I bitch about the ending of this film---I wouldn’t give up the sight of John Agar chasing a bobbing, brain-shaped balloon around with an axe for anything.
Well! – it’s a monumental tussle, of course, but Steve finally gets the better of it, swinging the axe with great vigour and leaving us to wonder what the point of that whole “fissure of Rolando” rigmarole was about when apparently “hack him to death with an axe” would have done just as well. George / Vol looks on approvingly at the carnage from a window. As soon as he is sure the job has been done, Vol slips out of George and vanishes into the night. This causes a certain awkwardness when Sally tries to introduce Steve to Vol, and gets only slobbery incomprehension in return for her requests that Vol show himself.
And if we freeze the image at exactly the right split-second...
[How much would you like to bet that's Dale Tate's hand?]
And how does Steve react to
this? – the same Steve who has just spent a fortnight possessed by a
giant floating space brain, who murdered his best friend and molested
his own girlfriend, who blew up two planes and fried a colonel and a
sheriff, and who come the morning will be trying to explain himself to
the representatives of the world’s nuclear nations, not to mention the
former tenants of the UN building?
Steve: “You and your imagination!”
Yes, that’s right, Steve: those piles of gooey grey stuff under your feet are just Sally’s imagination...
|Click here for some Immortal Dialogue!|
|Footnote: Well, there's no disguising the vintage of this one: it was the subject of the first ever B-Masters' Roundtable, held 7th November 1999, according to Dr Freex's review - ulp! Click the banner below for a trip down memory lane...or, since El Santo hadn't then graced us with his presence, hop on over to 1000 Misspent Hours And Counting. Or both! It’s giant transparent floating space brains, people! - who can get enough?|
|There's a reason this poster got banished to the bottom of my review - see if you can spot it.|