Movie Review: The Brain from Planet Arous

(1957)
Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller, Thomas Browne Henry

During my time working at a movie theater, It Came from Hollywood (1982) played there, which was sort of like a pre-MST3K concept, with comedians like Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, and a few others, making jokes over scenes of different cheesy movies. There were a ton of titles that I saw little bits of for the first time there, The Brain from Planet Arous being one of them.

As a fan of these kind of titles from of the ‘50s, the more outrageous or crazy they were, I loved them even more. There is something about that era, with usually low budget and made quickly, but were just so much fun, so I never was critical of them for any of that, so finding the one with that giant floating brain with the glowing eyes was on my list for many years until I was able to track down a copy. Now coming on Blu-ray from The Film Detective, you can experience The Brain from Planet Arous in the best possible way.

While investigating some strange radiation readings over at Mystery Mountain (with a name like that, should you even be going over there???), scientist John Agar and his assistant Robert Fuller (later to be a big star on the TV show Emergency) are attack by Gor, a giant floating brain that takes over Agar’s body, planning to use it to take over the world. Of course, it takes about two seconds for his finance, played by Joyce Meadows, to figure out something is wrong with him. For instance, when he finally makes it home from being missing for a week, he kisses her like never before, to the point she even says that! Though, it does seem like she enjoyed it at first, but it did start her thinking.

Gor is from the planet Arous, an escape nutcase that craves power and now seems to have found a place to get just that. Being able to make airplanes explode in the sky just by looking at them, he knows there is no one here to stop him. Except, Vol, another floating brain from the same planet comes to help, inhabiting Meadows’ dog to watch and wait for Gor to leave Agar to rest, making him vulnerable. Vol is the one that gives the audience all the information we need as to what is going on, unless those details are giving up by Gor, since being a megalomaniac, they do love to talk about themselves.

The story itself is somewhat based on a sci-fi novel from 1950 called Needle, by Hal Clement. But this basic storyline has been used many, many times over the years. But given a decent script, with good direction and some more than qualified actors, the picture is better than it ever should be, especially with their extraterrestrial co-stars.

Okay folks let’s get it out right away. The floating brains that are super-imposed over the characters, shrinking and growing onscreen depending on whether they are entering or leaving the body of someone, is pretty cheesy. My answer to that is . . . So? You have to give a little bit of leeway to the films of this era, because that was the budget they had to create and develop whatever crazy ideas the screenwriters came up with. That being said, I don’t know a kid alive, especially back in the ‘50s, that would see the trailer for this and not be excited to see it on the screen!

These were meant to be fun, and believe it or not, they still are. You’re not going to get top-notch specially effects, but maybe some creative ones, something you’ve never seen before, or just a floating balloon for a brain with glowing eyes that I still find pretty damn entertaining. Surround that crazy concept with a cast that is are acting as if they are performing Shakespeare. There is a lot of dialogue that is pretty dated and sure wouldn’t fly today, and rightly so. But it is a good window to the past to show how things were to make sure we don’t make those same mistakes.

There is a humorous interview with Joyce Meadows, about her career and specifically her role in this film. There is also a commentary track that features Tom Weaver, David Schecter, Larry Blamire, as well as Meadows as well. You’ll find a lot of information about the making of the film, and the people behind it. I’ve always said that the more you know about the making of a picture, the more you will appreciate it. This is a perfect example of that.

There are also two featurettes on director Nathan Juran from Ballyhoo Pictures: The Man Before the Brain: Director Nathan Juran, and The Man Behind the Brain: The World of Nathan Juran. I really enjoyed these two featurettes because it really shows a lot of information behind this director who started directing in the early ‘50s, with his debut feature being The Black Castle (1952) starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. He would make several entertaining titles in the sci-fi/horror genre, like 20 Million Miles to Earth and The Deadly Mantis (both 1957) before moving into a few, let’s say lower budgeted fair, such as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in 1958. But no matter what the budget, or who was starring it them, I always felt he turned out some entertaining, and more importantly, fun movies. Nathan Juran is a name more film fans should know about. And thanks to this new Blu-Ray from The Film Detective, fans now have that chance. You can order your copy directly from The Film Detective, by just clicking HERE.

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