The Brain Eaters (1958)



Wikipedia: A team of local scientists discover alien parasites when they investigate a mysterious, three-story-tall, cone-like object that has appeared outside of town. It becomes obvious that the parasites' first victims, whose minds have been taken over, are the town's leading citizens.

[...] The Brain Eaters is a 1958 American science fiction-horror film about alien parasites who invade the small Illinois town of Riverdale and are able to take over any living thing, mind and body, by attaching themselves to their host's back and inserting two mandibles into the base of their spines. The film was directed by Bruno VeSota and stars Ed Nelson, Alan Jay Factor, Joanna Lee, with a brief appearance by Leonard Nimoy (name misspelled in 10th place in the credits as "Leonard Nemoy").[2] The film was released by American International Pictures as a double feature with Earth vs. the Spider


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3. THE BRAIN EATERS (1958) American International – Director: Bruno Ve Sota

Just outside a small Illinois town, a strange metallic cone appears and begins disgorging small furry parasites who quickly attach themselves to many of the local townspeople. Once attached, the parasites begin to control their victims. Researcher Dr. Paul Kettering becomes concerned and alerts the national authorities. Before long, it’s determined that the strange cone is not the only problem facing the government. There is a much larger cone somewhere nearby and Dr. Kettering and his team have to find it before the nation is taken over by the mind control parasites. Eventually the larger cone is found and Dr. Kettering goes in. He finds an old man (Leonard Nimoy) who informs him that the parasites are the next rulers of the planet. They are the next logical higher life form. The man also inform Kettering that the parasites come from the center of the earth! Kettering quickly devises a plan to electrocute the bugs, but just as he’s ready to fry them his girlfriend (Joanna Lee) is transformed into one of the possessed and she’s taken shelter inside the cone. Now Kettering must choose between annihilating the subterranean parasites and killing the woman he loves.

In the world of sc-fi trash, “The Brain Eaters” is legendary. The movie barely runs an hour and it’s completely lifeless and excruciatingly tedious. The parasites are represented by simple wind-up toys that producer Ed Nelson purchased and added  pipe cleaners and fur to. Most of the actors are bad and even Leonard Nimoy (here billed as Leonard Nemoy) can’t bring any life to the proceedings. Legend has it that Nimoy was good friends with Nelson and appeared in the film as a favor to him. But what’s even worse about the “The Brain Eaters” is that it’s a shameless rip-off of Robert Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel “The Puppet Masters” (1951). The author sued Roger Corman (the executive producer) as well as American International over this film and won. However, it’s a great shame that after his victory, Heinlein didn’t force Corman to destroy all of the prints of “The Brain Eaters.” That would have prevented millions of sci-fi fans from watching this unmitigated disaster.




Another problem that's kept The Brain Eaters from attracting a cult reputation is the lack of a decent monster. AIP had learned back in its early days3 that if you promised the audience (and the distributors) a monster, you had damned well better give them one... even if its execution left something to be desired. So there are monsters in The Brain Eaters — but they're some of the worst alien invaders AIP ever came up with (and no; I haven't forgotten Larry Buchanan). They're little wind-up toys, covered with fur swatches and topped by little pipe-cleaner antennae. Apparently they looked much better in development, when the actual wind-up mechanisms worked. In the finished film, they look like... well... broken wind-up toys covered with fur swatches and topped by little pipe-cleaner antennae.

And then there's one other thing: in spite of some effective moments, the film really doesn't make a lot of sense... even by the standards of 1950's monster movies.

[...] Taking over the bodies of Helsingmann and his expedition, the parasites, umm, developed metallurgy, and mechanics, and physics, and electronics, and all sorts of industrial & technological skills you don't normally associate with invertebrates... all so they could build a super-advanced, indestructible burrowing machine that the humans alone could never have thought of. In five years. Why, yes; that makes perfect sense.

Unfortunately this information comes a little too late to be useful. By this point, the parasites have taken control of most of the key people in Riverdale. They control the telephones, the telegraph, the radio; they control the vertical; they control the horizontal... There's nothing left but for Kettering and the others to fight their way back to the cone, and see what else is inside it.

And you'll never guess what's inside it.

Remember how the inside of the cone was just an empty series of tubes at the beginning of the picture? Well, now the series of tubes leads to a room large enough for several people to stand in comfortably. And in the room... is God. God is played by Leonard Nimoy, and he's having a sauna.

OK; so "God" is actually Helsingmann's colleague Dr. Cole, but he looks like God. And by God, he sounds like God... not only because he has a deep, resonant voice, but because he has grand plans for the human race. These parasites haven't come to merely conquer us: they've come to evangelize. They intend to establish a paradise free from human conflict. "Our social order is pure, innocent," he proclaims. "We shall force upon man a life free from strife and turmoil. Ironic, that man should obtain his long-sought Utopia as a gift, rather than as something earned."

[...] One of the strong points of The Brain Eaters is its refusal to allow a straightforward happy ending. The square-jawed hero and his girlfriend are in for a particularly nasty fate; and even though the invading menace is thwarted, the movie does acknowledge that the cleanup is going to be difficult. I have to admit, though: it's strange to see these concessions to reality at the end of a movie that's held common sense at arm's length for the previous 55 minutes. 



Source: A Year of Fear



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