When looking back to my youth in regard to film, among the first thoughts rushing through me cluttered noggin' is a seemingly endless supply of vintage cover art. Not the crudely generic renderings via photoshop of today, but the once well designed and strikingly illustrated works of yesteryear. Intent on sucking in potential viewers through the captivation of catchy slogans and vividly if not entirely over embellished, imagery.
Today’s feature “The Brain Eaters” is of no exception. With the phrase “Crawling, slimy Things Terror Bent On Destroying The World!” boldly scrawled across a purple face woman; eyes a glowing yellow, with fangs barred and top cranium of her skull removed exposing her brain which exudes a shimmering light. If that isn’t guaranteed to send a 12 year old boy clamoring to the nearest player film in hand, well then my friend, that 12 year old boy must surely suck.
A mysterious cone shape anomaly is discovered jutting out of the earth just outside the town of Riverdale Illinois. The cone is upwards to 50 ft in height, with a circumference of 50 ft at its base. Local scientists are baffled as to its origins or purpose, as a result fear of a wide spreading panic draws in an senator to investiage from Washington (Everyone knows that senators are the best investigators!), with the immediate intent of dispelling any inclination of extraterrestrial activity.
The senator arrives at the scene of the cone to find that several towns people have been murdered, as many others, the mayor included, have gone missing all together. Seemingly the exterior of the cone appears indestructible, while a small tunnel opening towards the top of the structure proves to lead through a vast and winding series of narrow corridors. The Scientist, now with the senator in tow remain even more baffled.
Unable to properly navigate the cones corridors, the senator along side a small group of locals invesitaging the matter, head towards the mayors office heeding reports of his abrupt return. They in turn find the Mayor under the influence of some sort of parasite, one of which capable of completely taking control of its human host after the attachment of two mandibles through the hosts back, into the base of their spine.
The team soon finds themselves increasingly under threat as the number of infected towns people increase, leading them once again to the mysterious cone shaped anomaly in hopes of rooting out the mystery of the alien parasites.
Shortly after The Brain Eaters initial release in 1958, the films producer Roger Corman was forced to settle out of court the sum of $5,000 in response to a plagiarism lawsuit brought on by noted science fiction author Robert A, Heinlein. Heinlein, author of such works as: Starship Troopers, Red Planet, and Stranger in a Strange Land; in accession to the settlement asked that his name remain unattached to the films screen credits, as he found the film “wanting”.
I can’t say I blame Heinlein for his assertion. Yes the film does have its charms, but it offers nothing new to the viewer and was clearly produced in an attempt to cash in on the recent popularity of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and other popular titles of the era.
A quick summarization of the film may appear intriguing, however ultimately we're left wanting with yet another easily forgettable B level Sci-Fi snooze fest. It’s understandable why director Bruno VeSota’s directorial efforts only amount to that of three features under a span less than a decade.
Where to start? Well… The effects are poorly done, too few and far between, the performances wooden, and unmemorable. Obviously we're dealing with low production values here, and it shows. The whole film reeks of dialing it in. The films creature's appearance is akin to Star Treks troublesome “Tribbles”, furry and cute, harboring no menacing appeal what so ever, and ultimately offering little to no screen time. You simply won't find anything innovative here, behind the camera or elsewhere.
The story may be an interesting enough premises for the genre, but once again simply offers nothing we haven't already seen before; and with a lacking presentation just doesn’t justify the repetition. You’ll find yourself yawning endlessly through out the course of film, while your eyes continuously return to the clock, under a magnetic power not entirely your own, only to find that barely a minute has passed since the last time your eyes searched for a fruitless salvation. Some how I managed to struggle through to the end, the person to my left however fell asleep 28 minutes in. 6 hours later and they're still fast asleep, ambien eat your heart out.
At this point I’d like to be able to say, at least The Brain Eaters is good for a laugh in spite of itself, but sadly while it does amittedly have its humerous moments, they're just not enough of them to carry the film. Two words best describes this production, blandly mediocre. While only timing in at a mere 60 minutes, I could easily think of worse ways to kill an hour. But with a recycled storyline degraded ten fold, why bother?
On second thought, a big Fuck You goes out to the misleading (yet undeniably awesome) cover art!