« Solo con Tu Pareja | Main | Moon over Miami »

May 23, 2007

The Atomic Brain

atomic brain 1.jpg

Joseph Mascelli - 1964
Genius Entertainment Region 1 DVD

With the release of Grindhouse has appeared what might be called grindhouse nostalgia. Most of this is devoted to theatrical revivals of some of the films that played in grindhouse and drive-in circuits over thirty years ago. There are also articles and postings discussing some of the films now available on DVD. All well and good, but when it comes to trash movies, what I really miss is that publicly available archive known as late night network television. What I miss is the ability, at least on weekend nights, to be able to count on watching a magnificently schlocky horror movie or two beginning around eleven p.m., airing on a local television station. A film starring Lon Chaney, Jr. would usually fit the bill, but a film made with people you never heard of, with poverty row budgets, were even better.

There are several DVD versions of The Atomic Brain. I'm not sure how much more complete they are then the version I have. In addition to being a smeary transfer, my copy appears to have be run a few too many times, with missing frames that chop off parts of the dialogue. This may not say much for film preservation, but the sloppy qualities make for a great duplication of watching a cheap, thowaway horror movie on late might televison, back in the pre-cable days when you could count the number of channels on one hand.

atomic brain 2.jpg

The original title of the film was Monstrosity. Just like the Frankenstein monster, this film is a nutty hybrid of parts of other, better films, such as Metropolis, Island of Dr. Moreau and The Bride of Frankenstein. The unfortunately named Dr. Otto Frank works in a basement laboratory in the mansion of the wealthy Mrs. March. Three young cuties are lured to the March mansion on the premise that they will be working as household help. The three soon encounter Dr. Frank's failed experiments, including one bulky guy with the teeth of a wild boar. The elderly Mrs. March's plan is to have her brain transplanted into the body of one of the three young women, a plan that does not sit well with Mrs. March's slightly younger gigolo, Victor.

I have no way of knowing how much was intentional, but The Atomic Brain is the kind of film that is perfect for a smart alec audience, as well as the Mystery Science Theater drubbing it also received. This is a film where cats and women have their brains exchanged, and in the process manage to anticipate a famously gross scene involving Tom Cruise and a rat in Interview with the Vampire as well as the title of a film by Lucio Fulci. Based on the version of the film available, there is the suggestion that there might have been a version with slightly more nudity, primarily for the European market. What little is seen here is quite brief, using flashing lights to offer quick glimpses of female flesh and graphic horror.

The biggest name to be involved in The Atomic Brain is that of uncredited narrator, Bradford Dillman. The film was co-written and co-produced by brother Dean Dillman, Jr. With the exception of the actors who played the villainous Mrs. March and Dr. Frank, Marjorie Eaton and Frank Gerstle, the film seems to have been a career killer for most of the cast and crew. The Atomic Brain was the final credit for the three featured starlets. If there is a reason to wish for a perfect print of The Atomic Brain, and more serious scholarship regarding this film, it would be related to the career of Joseph Mascelli. Although his career in theatrical films was brief, and extemely off-beat, Mascelli did literally write the book on cinematography.

atomic brain 3.jpg

Posted by peter at May 23, 2007 11:50 AM