Creature with the Atom Brain

Movie Information

Pure cheese sci-fi horror from good ol' Sam Katzman. In fact, it may be the lowest budget of all his 1950s thrillers, but Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) is so very 1950s — right down Richard Denning as the pipe-smoking egghead scientist who puts together the solution — that it's a delight. Possibly, its delights are all for the wrong reasons, but they're there all the same. It's all about some deported gangster who has teamed up with a German scientist and snuck back into the States so he can use his scientist pal's radioactively-powered, walking dead men to get his revenge on the folks who sent him to prison. That there must have been an easier, more effective and less attention-getting approach seems to occur to no one, but then there'd also be no movie. The film barges ahead with all the assurance of being the product of people without even the slightest notion of radioactivity or radiation poisoning. There's some talk early on of how the radiation from these creatures' blood could be lethal if you were exposed to it too long — yet they keep right on handling it. The creatures (the title ought to be plural) lurch around like super strong zombies but with telltale scars (obviously painted on) where their heads have been popped open to zombify them. It all baffles science.
Score:

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Director: Edward L. Cahn (Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake)
Starring: Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye
Rated: NR

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The somewhat…hopeful poster for the film, of course, suggests a much elaborate, effects-heavy, frightening film than then-novice horror director Edward L. Cahn could manage — especially with Curt Siodmak’s script and Katzman’s budget. That it also claims to be based on “scientific fact,” on the other hand, is less wishful thinking than outright lying. But after all, it was early days for Katzman’s Clover Productions (later, he imaginatively would change the name to Four Leaf, fooling no one). It also marked Sam’s return to rock-bottom horror since the memorable Bela Lugosi “Monogram Nine” in the first half of the 1940s. While this batch would never reach the loopy heights of those glory days, it at least offered a similarly audience-contemptuous ethic that created a slapdash charm. Defensible as art? Good heavens, these aren’t even defensible as competent junk.

 

creature2

 

Creature with the Atom Brain — perhaps the most threadbare of the lot in production values — could almost be accused of verging on coherence. By that I mean that the story moves ahead in a straightforward manner as concerns its telling. It should, however, be obvious from the earlier description of the story elements that this concession to the basics of construction hasn’t the slightest impact on pesky things like logic, believability, common sense, or rational behavior. (Let’s leave science out of this altogether.) The strange thing is that it’s only because of the lack of logic, believability, etc. that we’re still watching the silly thing.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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8 thoughts on “Creature with the Atom Brain

  1. DrSerizawa

    I love the title. I guess no involved one knew that all brains are composed of atoms.

    • Ken Hanke

      I can’t begin to catalogue the things I suspect everyone involved didn’t know.

  2. Dionysis

    Looks like Dick Cheney peering out of the window in the poster.

    • Ken Hanke

      The implication in the film is that that’s some kind of Nazi war criminal…

        • Ken Hanke

          Well, the character is actually being controlled by a vengeance-crazed gangster, also muddying the waters.

          • Dionysis

            Funny, but I have a boxed DVD set called ‘Icons of Horror’ with four Sam Katzman films, including The Giant Claw, Zombies of Mora Tau, The Werewolf and this title. I’m sure I watched them all when I bought it (maybe 4 years ago), but while I recall pretty well the other films, I recall nothing about this. Guess I’d better watch it again.

          • Ken Hanke

            Well, it’s no Voodoo Man, but I always find a little bit of ol’ Sam (at least in horror mode) brightens up the day.

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