Last updated: July 10. 2014 12:25PM - 254 Views
Tom Doty Times Columnist

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An evil brain from outer space (like there’s any other kind) takes over the body of a scientist and plans to conquer the world in this effective chiller that demands a remake.

The film opens with two dedicated scientists, Steve March and his aide, Murphy, getting all excited about radioactivity at a nearby site called Mysterious Mountain. The spot is only 30 miles away but boasts a record 120 degree temperature. They are all set to go when Steve’s girlfriend, Sally, offers them barbecued burgers. Turns out it is their weakness, so the trip gets put off for an hour.

They arrive at the area and whip out their Geiger counters. Murphy turns out to be a doofus and leaves his canteen on a rock. They find a cave that has been dug into the mountain recently. They opt to explore it and stumble across a giant floating brain. Being scientists they are, of course, packing heat and proceed to shoot at the creature until they are out of bullets.

Cut to one week later and March walks in on Sally just as she is starting to get worried (she has a long fuse). He explains that they found nothing and that Murphy went straight to Vegas. He then proceeds to pitch some woo at Sally in an ungentlemanly way that results in some bruised feelings and a ripped blouse. The wrestling match is broken up by Sally’s dog. It attacks Steve and he manhandles the poor pooch too.

Sally has a shorter fuse now and decides to investigate the Mysterious Mountain with her dad. They stumble across the radioactive remains of Murphy as well as a second giant floating brain. This time it appears friendly but the bad news is that they are all going to die. The brain explains (did I just write that sentence?) that its name is Vol and it’s here from Arous to stop a criminal brain named Gor. Nothing worse than a brain gone bad. It informs them that Gor has control of March and they must figure out what he is up to.

They come up with a cunning plan that involves having Vol possess Sally’s dog in order to spy on Gor/March. This may sound like a bizarre British comedy, but it’s all played straight. Steve’s plan is to threaten the world’s leaders with annihilation if they don’t kneel before Gor via a demonstration of his awesome mind powers. His visual aids sell the plan, thanks to 747 flying overhead that he blows up just by glaring at it.

All may seem lost, but Vol has a trick up his doggie collar and helps Sally put together a plan to have Steve axe Gor to death when the two are separated for a respite. It is a courageous ploy and leads to an icky showdown.

This is obviously a ridiculous premise, but it works. Give all the thanks to veteran director Nathan Juran. This guy knows how to do sci-fi on a budget. He toiled in TV for years, cranking out episode of “Lost in Space,” “Land of the Giants,” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” He makes sure there are some long looks at the good visuals (like March rocking black eyeballs when he blows stuff up good) and he only offers quick glimpses of the lame ones (like the exploding planes which are obviously toys).

He also heaps on layers of creepiness by having Gor develop the hots for Sally. He also coaxes a full on William Shatner-esque performance from his lead actor, John Agar. The former husband of Shirley Temple was a bit stiff in front of the camera, but Juran gets him to emote like a third-grader in the latter scenes when he must punctuate his lines with maniacal laughter as the evil Gor takes over. Fun, dumb and over in less than 75 minutes. It sure beats a root canal.

1957, unrated.

Best Lines

“He’s another brain from Planet Arous.”

“She gives me a very strange, very new elation.”

“I, Gor in your stupid mind.”

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