Review of “Creature with the Atom Brain” (1955)

from IMDB

Saturday night pizza and bad movie night with Svengoolie, a bit delayed. Guess I need some of those atom rays to help me on my way. Not interesed in dying first to get them though.

Plot:

The opening credits roll over shots of an expressionless man (an uncredited Karl “Killer” Davis) walking down a wooded lane. He has prominent surgical stitches across his forehead and walks with a lumbering gait. He drives up to a large building and watches silently.

The expressionless man breaks through a window and attacks a casino owner who is putting the night’s take into a wall safe. The expressionless man asks, ambiguously, “Do you remember Buchanan?

“But you’re not Buchanan,” the gangster says, gun trained on the intruder.

“I don’t look like him, but I am him.”

The words don’t belong to the expressionless man, but to a third man, Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger), speaking through a microphone. He, along with (mad?) scientist Dr. Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye), has devised a way to reanimate corpses and control them through electrodes implanted in the brains. Steigg decries that his work, intended for the good of mankind (really?), has been been hijacked to serve evil. Buchanan wants revenge on those who sent him to prison and had him deported.

Later, the police find quite the puzzle of a crime scene inside the large building. There is an open safe with six thousand dollars inside and a dead casino boss, whose spine and neck bones look like they were broken by twisting. The window has been smashed in. The rods on the iron fence outside have been bent as well. Crime scene investigator Dr. Chet Walker (Richard Denning) finds bloody fingerprints and shoeprints. Oddly, they glow in the dark. He takes a carpet sample and sends the fingerprints for identification.

The next day, District Attorney MacGraw (Tristram Coffin) is found dead in his garage. The attacks look similar. What could the two—a crime boss and a district attorney—have in common?

Thoughts:

The opening scenes with the zombie are genuinely creepy and imbued with unspoken menace. Later, the viewer learns this monster, and others like him, are charged with atomic energy, giving them superhuman strength. They can both kill a full-grown man and bend metal with their bare hands. Bullets can’t stop them. Their blood is radioactive, as Dr. Walker’s busy Geiger counter reveals. They have no volition or even awareness—they are dead, after all—but are controlled by a vengeful Buchanan, making the atmosphere all the creepier.

The district attorney and the cops ponder whether robbery could be a motive in the death of the gangster in light of the six thousand dollars left in an open safe.

“Maybe [the thief] didn’t want to get into a higher [tax] bracket,” says Capt. Dave Harris (S. John Launer).

Later, when the reporters ask about the iron fence, bent into odd and pleasant concentric rosettes, Dr. Walker tells them the intruder must have been taking his vitamins.

The same Dr. Walker arrives home to find his wife (Angela Stevens), the mother of his child, bent over cleaning something. He makes sure to stop a moment to ogle her rear end. Yeah, this is how one shows appreciation of a life partner.

On the one hand, this movie has it all: creepy atmosphere, goofy science (when it wasn’t just wrong, e.g., confusing Galvani with Faraday for starters), a police procedural, zombies, a mad scientist (albeit a whiny one), mobsters, smartass lines, sexist attitudes that would make the Stepford wives pack up and go home to mother, and a big zombie-cop shootout toward the end.  On the other hand, it gets… dull, the one unforgivable sin. This should be non-stop fun. The snoozer sections weren’t so long that they spoiled the movie for me, but it did decrease my enjoyment of it.



Title: Creature with the Atom Brain (1955)

Directed by
Edward L. Cahn 

Writing Credits
Curt Siodmak…(story)
Curt Siodmak…(screenplay)

Cast (in credits order)
Richard Denning…Dr. Chet Walker
Angela Stevens…Joyce Walker
S. John Launer…Capt. Dave Harris
Michael Granger…Frank Buchanan
Gregory Gaye…Dr. Wilhelm Steigg (as Gregory Gay)

Released: July 1955
Length: 1 hour, 9 mins

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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