Monday, October 04, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4 - Movie 2

Creature With The Atom Brain (1955) is a revenge story. A gangster exiled to Europe returns with a German scientist and a plan to kill off all of the men responsible for his exile. The plan involves using dead men, resurrected with atomic rays and controlled by fancy electronic devices surgically implanted into their brains. These slow moving men are the murder weapon. Made super strong from the atomic energy fueling them, and impervious to bullets by their being dead, they are indestructible. What these evil men didn't count on was a cop smart enough to figure out what was going one almost at once, but will this clever cop stop them before it's too late, or will he, himself become a victim of the atomic zombies?

What works both for and against this movie is that it tries to be smart. Writer Curt Siodmak has certainly written smart screenplays before (The Wolf Man and I Walked With a Zombie being two) but the decision to tell this story as a police procedural intercut with the villains' side of things makes it pretty dull and dry, and the preposterous premise is only made remotely plausible by the convictions of the characters which is more of a testimony to the actors than the screenplay.

The simplistic plot is made needlessly complicated to pad out the running time. The villains, Buchanan (Michael Granger) the gangster who funded the research of Dr. Steigg (Gregory Gaye) who goes along with him with no resistence except to complain about it mildly, once, are a pair of real bland fellows. Their dignity and those of the reanimated dead are reduced by their having to crawl in and out of the room housing the radioactive zombies using a doggy door and tube of plastic sheeting on their ands and knees. The fact that they are having such a hard time picking of Buchanan's enemies one by one makes less sense when in two hours time they manage a seige of destruction involving trains, planes, power plants, resevoirs, and so on, using, presumedly, the same slow moving remote control men.

Richard Denning as police inspector, Dr. Chet Walker is able to sell the fact that he figures out this plot after the first murder using Denning's deadpan acting ability which also proved convincing when  fighting monsters in a multitude of other movies such as Black Scorpion and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The story tries to also include a running subplot about Dr. Walker's domestic life and how hard it is to have a family and be a police officer. It was nice to see Dr. Walker and his wife as a sexually active middle-aged couple in a movie from this era, but this subplot doesn't really have any bearing on the movie overall, and easily could have introduced a nice bit of tension and excitement the way that the story unfolds in the third act.

The zombies themselves aren't very impressive. They are just a bunch of blank eyed, slow moving, unattractive men in street clothes with a scar band around the forehead. Their indestructibility seems to stem more from a lack of persistence and invention (as well as the world's most inefficient hand grenade tossing soldier ever presented on screen who fails to hit them from four feet away while they are walking together as a group at about half a foot per second).

As much as I like Richard Denning I would skip this movie rather than watch it again.

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