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October 11, 2005

The Brain Eaters

Bruno VeSota - 1958
Direct Video Pal Region 0 DVD

Back in the mid-Seventies, there was a New York City television station that use to broadcast vintage Roger Corman productions on Saturday mornings. When you really think about it, the best way of seeing a cheap little black and white horror movie is on your basic black and white television, which comprised my home entertainment system thirty years ago.

I had forgotten that I had seen The Brain Eaters those many years ago until I saw it again on DVD. The film is less lurid than its title. The creatures are parasites that look like furry snails. Attaching themselves to the back of the neck, the creatures cause humans to turn into enslaved zombies. More effort was probably expended in making the creatures, fur covered wind-up toys with pipe cleaner antennas, than in the actual story. While there was an out of court settlement with Robert Heinlein regarding the story, one could also see bits of Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well.

Overlooking the lack of originality, The Brain Eaters still has its moments of slapdash charm. One scene has a parasite point of view shot in the bedroom of Alice, the hero's girlfriend. After the parasite hops on the bed and onto the neck of the sleeping victim, we next see Alice walking out of her house in a translucent robe. We can tell Alice is in a zombie state because she gets into a car and slams the door with her robe sticking partially out. The actress who played Alice, Joanna Lee must have seen the writing on the wall when her following film was released and she concentrated her talents behind the screen.

Bruno VeSota, if he's remembered at all, is for many supporting roles, usually in various Corman films. While he only directed three films, his first, Female Jungle, was one of the earliest releases by American Releasing Corporation, the company that soon was renamed American International Pictures.
VeSota must have really loved The Third Man because there is one scene, in an office, with several shots at odd angles, such as Carol Reed used in the beginning of his classic. Either that, or VeSota and company were stuck shooting with a broken tripod. The version of The Brain Eaters I saw was from the British "Arkoff Collection", which includes an interview A.I.P. chief Sam Arkoff conducted in England about fifteen years ago. For those who really love A.I.P. movies may want to also check here.

If Bruno VeSota and Roger Corman weren't worried about the sources for their story, they certainly weren't worried about music credits either. This film has the only IMDB credit for someone named Tom Jonson. My NYU buddy, Ric Menello is certain that Arthur Honneger's Pacific 231 was used for part of the score. Maybe the filmmakers used Tom Jonson's record collection for the music.

Though he's disguised in make-up, Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance. Even in the world of Star Trek, there is one degree of separation with Roger Corman as only four years later Corman would direct a little film titled The Intruder, starring William Shatner.

Posted by peter at October 11, 2005 06:37 PM


Speaking of Mr. Ric Menello he was a NYU buddy of mine, as well.

Unless you are using a nom de plume, I do not recall yourself from that distant time.

If you have his email address, please forward this quick note. It would be grand to be in contact with him. I have lost contact with everyone from those years, except for Vernon Tonges, who he may not have known.

Alan G'd Damn It Diede

Posted by: Alan Diede at December 1, 2005 01:57 PM

Please be assured that I am using my given name. I was at NYU between September 1969 and January 1977. I have not seen Ric since July 1985 when I visited NYC and he was still manning the desk at Weinstein Hall. He might be found through Image, the company that issued the "Cry of the Owl" DVD that includes his commentary.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at December 1, 2005 04:59 PM