Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Deadly Mantis (1957)

An entertaining low budget sci-film with lots of action

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by William Alland
Written by William Alland, Martin Berkeley
Music by Irving Gerts, William Lava
Cinematography: Ellis W. Carter
Edited by Chester Schaeffer
Distributed by Universal-International
Running time: 79 min


Craig Stevens: Col. Joe Parkman
William Hopper: Dr. Nedrick Jackson
Alix Talton: Marge Blaine
Donald Randolph: Maj. Gen. Mark Ford
Pat Conway: Sgt. Pete Allen
Florenz Ames: Prof. Anton Gunther
Paul Smith: Corporal
Phil Harvey: Lou
Floyd Simmons: Army Sergeant
Paul Campbell: Lt. Fred Pizar
Helen Jay: Mrs. Farley

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” 

The Deadly Mantis opens with a camera zoom-in on a map showing the North Atlantic Ocean followed by a small island in the Weddell Sea close to the Antarctic Circle. A huge volcanic eruption then occurs after which the camera tracks across the map to Greenland and then on to a point close to the North Pole.

For those of us today who are accustomed to experiencing the increasing effects of global warning, we witness with somewhat less surprise than what might be expected huge areas of ice breaking up.

What is surprising is that the breakup and melting of the ice reveals the body of a giant praying mantis!


What If?......... 

Spoilers follow below

(Lines within inverted commas taken directly from the film)


Special Feature: Dew Line Draws the Line!

America is guarded day and night by a fence – an electronic fence made of RADAR “designed to protect us against attack.”

Our way of life, our values and freedoms are continually being protected by successive impenetrable electronic radar barriers: The Pine tree radar fence, The mid-Canada radar fence and The Dew Line or Distant Early Warning line.

Rest assured that “the work continues day and night around the clock….”



(Special Report) 



Weather Station Found Destroyed 

On _____, at an advance warning radar station outpost in northern Canada called “Weather Four,” two technicians reported having detected something unusual on their radar. It appears that before they could work out what was going on, the entire outpost was destroyed.

Pilots of the aircraft that were dispatched to investigate reported to radar station “Red Eagle One” (part of the DEW line early warning system) evidence of heavy damage to the building.

Col Joe Parkman of Red Eagle One station flew out to the destroyed outpost to inspect the damage. Col Parkman found that the outpost building was totally destroyed and all the electronic equipment had been smashed. He was at a loss to explain the disappearance of the two men who were stationed there but was convinced that the shack had not been destroyed by a gale.

Upon checking the perimeter of the outpost, Col Parkman discovered a series of strange marks resembling furrows scratched into the snow. Each long furrow ended in what appeared to be three prongs.

While the mystery of the furrows was being puzzled over, Red Eagle reported a strange intermittent radar contact. A red alert was sounded and jet fighters were scrambled to intercept the contact. 

With the bogey at 90 miles’ distance, it suddenly disappeared and the jets were subsequently ordered to “return to home plate.”

It was later reported that a C47 transport plane flying in the same vicinity was attacked and destroyed. The plane’s wreckage was located on a glacier.

When Col Parkman went to investigate the C47 wreckage, he discovered similar furrow-like markings as those at the weather station. As was the case at the weather station, no human remains were found at the crash site.

What was discovered, however, was a strange 5-foot-long appendage embedded in the plane’s fuselage. By all accounts it looked “like it had been broken off something.”

The situation involving the destroyed outpost, the detection and attempted “bogey” interception, the C47 crash and the finding of the mysterious object was soon referred to CONAD in Colorado Springs.

CONAD or the “Continental Ait Defence Command” is the “focal point of the sonic shield that guards the North American continent.” In essence, its existence could mean the difference between “life and death for millions of Americans.”

At a conference of scientists called by General Mark Ford, it was determined that the appendage-like object did in fact come from some living creature and was therefore organic, but that the identity of the creature it belonged to was unknown. It was then proposed that Prof Nedrick Jackson, a palaeontologist at the Museum of Natural History be contacted to help determine the object’s origin.


From Prof Nedrick Jackson’s diary

After examining the 5-foot-long mottled green object, I am convinced that it is like cartilage but definitely not bone. I know that it “can’t be from an animal.” Now that we “know what it can’t be” we can with more confidence determine “what it can be.” I am certain that the object is a torn-off hook or spur from an insect's leg. It is also a creature that can eat human flesh. What flesh eating insect of normal size would have such a hook? Grasshoppers or crickets are not meat eaters. Or course! “There is no more deadly or voracious creature than the praying mantis.” The appendage we have is a spur or hook section of that creature’s forelimbs. Yes, that’s it! A gigantic praying mantis!

In prehistoric times insects grew to much larger sizes as evidenced by fossils of 2 foot dragonflies. I believe that if a creature was frozen quickly enough, like say, the frozen mammoths that were found in Siberia, there might be a chance that if the creature thawed out, it may be able to reanimate.

“I'm convinced that we're dealing with a Mantis in whose geological world the smallest insects were as large as man, and now failing to find those insects as food, well... it's doing the best that it can.”

At the institute, Marge has been pressing me for information. Can’t say I blame her as she only wants the chance to run a scoop in her museum magazine. She certainly has not lost her nose for news.



Greenland Eskimos Terrorized

In Greenland, Eskimo or Inuit villagers have reported seeing a gigantic beast which has attacked them causing death and injuries to an unknown number of locals.

Whole communities are reported to have scrambled to evacuate to safety in their canoes……


Shortwave Broadcast from Moscow 

This is Radio Moscow. Reports have reached us here in the Soviet Union that the Imperialist American war-mongering Government is now afraid of being attacked not by the peace-loving peoples of the USSR and like-minded defenders of Socialism, but instead by giant insects! In the last few years we have had reports of giant ants, spiders, locusts and even scorpions! What is next? Mosquitos? So what is going on in the paranoid minds of the capitalist military and Industrial bourgeois establishment?

Oh come Imperialist swill in Washington! Your so-called free media and the public is hungry for information. And so what is the response? Authority in the form of your administration’s lackey, Gen Ford trots out the same tired worn out excuse for withholding information from your public and I quote;

‘…cooperate with us to avoid panic and hysteria…. I know I can count on you.”

Is this the kind of America you want where your media, your military and your government collude against you, the American public and your so-called democratic ideals and values under the guise of acting to protect you and that somehow you’re all in this together in some concocted crisis?


You may as well take the time to Go to The Lobby and get some treats while Jackson and Marge visit Parkman at Red Eagle One. There’s no need to stick around and cringe at a bunch of adolescent military praying mantises as they gather around and ogle Marge. They’re almost robbed of the power of speech but not enough to prevent them from babbling such inane lines as;

“He’s with a woman. A FEMALE woman!”
“I thought they stopped making them.”
Dr. Ned Jackson: It looks like you don't have too many women up here, Colonel.
Col. Joe Parkman: Well, we have a little joke up here. The boys say there's a girl behind every tree. Only try and find a tree.

Oh of course, there’s the odd wolf whistle too.

If the Soviets decided to invade the US, all they had to do was send in an advance force of pretty Russian women causing the American GI’s to stop in their tracks and wonder if they’re women – FEMALE women! By the time they had worked out whether or not they had stopped making them, it would be all over. 


Excerpt from Report of Col Parkman to Dept. of Defense

Prof Nedrick Jackson reported from crash site the presence of strange marks measuring over 8 and a half feet in length.

Red Eagle One attacked by giant Mantis. Base personnel ordered to combat stations, ‘Condition Red.’ Aircraft scrambled. Threat driven off by use of flame throwers and machine guns.

After a nine-hour period “Hunter 4” from the air patrols that were sent out in response to threat posed by giant Mantis reported failure to locate the creature after its attack on the base. Pilots ordered to continue search.

Reports received of a fishing boat out at sea in heavy fog attacked, most likely by the hostile mantis creature. Two deck hands reported missing, presumed killed by the creature.

Group Capt. Hawkins of Mid Canada Line radar station reported an intermittent unidentified radar contact at 0400.

By plotting the previous attacks, it has been confirmed that the creature appears to be heading south to the tropics and specifically to South America where the conditions will be similar to what it is used to.

Creature last sighted heading south from Newfoundland.





Special Broadcast

“This program is being presented by the Continental Air Defense Command”

Gen Ford: “I want to say at the outset that contrary to speculation and rumour and certain newspaper headlines, the so-called ‘Deadly Mantis’ is no imaginary scare…. It’s a very real and present danger.”

Col Parker: “I saw this creature attack our base…. It will be one of you, the devoted men and women of Civilian Observer Corps that will spot it the next time it appears.”


Radio News Broadcast 

We interrupt this transmission to bring you the latest news from an aircraft carrier patrolling along the Atlantic coast. The “Deadly Mantis” has been spotted and aircraft were immediately dispatched to intercept the creature. It appears that the attack was successful but one of the pilots was not able to confirm the kill due to low overcast conditions.

If the creature has managed to survive, it is thought by experts that it would have flown low into the clouds and close to sea level under cover of the fog.

TV News Broadcast 

Reporter: I’m here in Maryland at the scene of a freak train accident in which an engine and five cars were overturned.

(Walks slowly further on with the scene of destruction in the background)

I am about to speak with one of the local police officers to see if any further light can be shed on this horrific incident. Officer, what seems to have been the cause of this train crash?

Police Officer: (As a man wearing a military uniform and a woman he had been speaking to move off) All we know so far is that the accident seems to have been caused by the fog ……

(Unnoticed on the sodden soil is an impression made by something huge….) 

TV News Broadcast

Reporter: As you will remember, I had earlier reported from Maryland on the train crash incident. It turns out that it may not have been an accident after all. Another incident, possibly related has occurred in which an Interurban bus has been demolished.

(Shot of mangled metal carcass of bus lying on its side like a mortally wounded disembowelled beast)

According to an eye-witness who was on the bus, not long after she disembarked, a giant Mantis using the fog as cover ambushed and attacked the bus. Rescue workers who arrived to attend to the injured witness found the bus empty.

So far this makes a total of 7 “accidents” in the last 24 hours!


Emergency Broadcast System

This is a general alert!

“The mantis has been sighted over Washington”
All defense personnel are to be on high alert!

Military Chiefs Briefing the US President

General Blunthammer: Mr President, the creature has penetrated the airspace over Washington. Reports have come in of its flying low over the city causing widespread panic. It even proceeded to climb the Washington monument!

The President: I heard of worse behaviour from some tourists! So, what do you propose we should about this entomological intruder?

(A functionary scuttles into the room and hands the general a message)

General Blunthammer: Mr President, the bug has left Washington and has swung north east towards Baltimore. Sir, I recommend ordering all AA guns along its flight path to open fire on anything unidentified, unusual, untoward and unexplained!

The President: Very well general, make it so. Things were so much easier when all we had to worry about were just the Russians!


As the creature drops below radar coverage range and heads North East towards New York City, aircraft are scrambled in an attempt to engage and destroy the creature. On board one of the jets is our erstwhile Col Parkman:

Parkman: (Singing) Here we go into the wide blue yonder, heading straight into the sun!

(Suddenly the giant mantis looms up right in front of him and rams his plane)

Parkman: (bailing out) Here we go……. wo, wo, wo, wo……

Pilot of Beagle 17: “We’ve splashed mantis.” One jet hit. Pilot bailed out.

Television Interview:

Interviewer: So after you bailed out of your crippled jet and were picked up by military personnel, what happened next?

Col Parkman: I learnt that the creature had been badly hurt by the accident involving my jet and had landed in New York where it managed to crawl into the Manhattan Tunnel.

The Tunnel was filled with smoke and sealed by using water saturated tarpaulins. Even though it was felt that the creature had been mortally wounded by the aerial attack and accident, Gen Ford was of the opinion that it might try to break out.

Interviewer: What measures were taken to prevent this from occurring?

Col Parkman: I was given permission to lead an assault on the creature. Donning protective suits and armed with guns and special chemical mines, my team pushed into the tunnel under cover of the smoke.

The smoke formed a heavy eerie mist-like atmosphere in the tunnel and the only sounds that could be heard were strange echoing footfalls, a peculiar roaring coming from the injured creature, and the heavy thumping of our hearts beating. Strangely missing was the sound of my own breathing within the protected little environment of my suit.

Suddenly, the sound of metal being hurled about shattered the tense stillness of the tunnel as the creature began moving around and attacking abandoned cars as if it held them responsible for its predicament.

Upon spotting my team the creature emerged out of the cloud of thick smoke like some impossible monstrous gargantuan behemoth entering our world from another dimension.

Interviewer: How did you respond to this threatening situation?

Col Parkman: As the giant Mantis advanced towards us, we opened fire with our guns and special mines. Our initial response only managed to slow the creature down, not kill it. It took one final assault until the creature finally succumbed.

Interviewer: Colonel, I along with our viewers feel proud of our brave military personnel who will go to any lengths to protect our country from all threats to our way of life and all we hold dear. Don’t you agree, Professor Jackson?

Jackson: Well, yes, but I can’t help but feel sorry for that giant Mantis that found itself out of place and out of time through no fault of its own. It only acted on its instinct to survive but how could it possibly survive in our world?

Interviewer: Thank you Col Parkman and Professor Jackson. We’ll be back after this word from our sponsor, Garden Grub and Pest Power Pellets……...

Points of Interest

  • Of particular note in The Deadly Mantis, are the night scenes involving the Mantis, as well as the final tunnel sequence. The black and white photography combined with the use of a fog and smoke-shrouded atmosphere as well as a forceful and suspenseful musical score are all combined quite effectively. 

  • As it moves through the smoke-filled Manhattan Tunnel, the giant Mantis seems almost like a forerunner to the impossible monsters in more recent films as The Mist (2007) and Cloverfield (2008). 

  • The Deadly Mantis is definitely a film that reflects the Cold War period. It is almost as if it sets out to let the Soviets know about the strength of the US air defense system and that a sneak attack on their part would not succeed. There’s also a measure of reassurance for the domestic audience who are expected to believe that they are all in it together when it comes to national defence and security. 
  • In the movie, the Ground Observer Corps are asked to help in spotting the Mantis. This was an actual group that existed during and after World War Two. 
  • The first Ground Observer Corps was a World War Two Civil Defense program of the United States Army Air Forces to protect against air attack. The 1.5 million civilian observers at 14,000 coastal observation posts used the naked eye and binoculars to search for enemy German and Japanese aircraft. This program ended in 1944. 
  • The second Ground Observer Corps operated during the Cold War as an arm of the United States Air Force Civil Defense network which provided aircraft tracking and had more than 200,000 civilian volunteers. This program ended in 1958 with the introduction of the automated 1959 USAF radar network (SAGE) and the automated Army networks (Missile Master). 
  • The Dew Line or The Distant Early Warning Line, referred to in the film was an actual system of radar stations set up in the far northern Arctic region of Canada, with additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska, including also the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. It was set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, and provide early warning for a land based invasion. DEW Main and Auxiliary site operations ended in the 1990s becoming part of the North Warning System (NWS). It seems that whoever was behind this part of the film depicting The Dew Line had some detailed inside knowledge of the early warning system. 
  • CONAD or Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) was the Cold War military organization of Army, Navy, and USAF air defense commands for the Continental United States. The primary purpose of continental air defense was to provide sufficient attack warning of a Soviet bomber air raid to ensure Strategic Air Command could launch a counterattack without being destroyed. 
Praying Mantis Fact File

Mantises are an order (Mantodea) of insects that contains over 2,400 species and about 430 genera in 15 families.

The praying mantis is named for the way its prominent front legs often seem to suggest that the insect is at prayer.

Mantises are;
  • Formidable predators. 
  • Green or brown and well camouflaged on the plants among which they live. 
  • Distributed worldwide in both temperate and (mostly) tropical habitats. 
  • Preyed on by vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, and birds, and by invertebrates such as spiders and ants. 

Mantises have;
  • Two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them. 
  • Triangular heads poised on a long elongated thorax. 
  • Stereo vision. 

  • Turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings. 
  • Locate their prey by sight. 
  • Lie in ambush or patiently stalk their prey. 
  • Use their front legs to snare their prey. 
  • Prey on moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects 
  • Sometimes eat others of their own kind such as during mating when the adult female may sometimes eat her mate just after and even during mating! 
  • Live for about a year 
The earliest mantis fossils are about 135 million years old! Yes, they were here long before us!

We will take back our world!

©Chris Christopoulos 2016

Friday, 16 September 2016

A Tribute to Willis O'Brien

Pioneering motion picture special effects artist who pioneered the technique of stop motion animation and created "the most startling and intriguing monsters who have ever invaded screenland."

King Kong vs T-Rex

Early Life

Willis O'brien was born on 2 March 1886 in Oakland, California. His father, William O'Brien was self-educated and was a noted etymologist. He also spent 15 years as assistant district attorney for Oakland. Poor investments coupled with some bad luck forced the O’Brien family into poverty when Willis was just 11 years old.

Before he began working in film, Willis O’Brien worked short stints as a cowboy, professional boxer. farmhand, factory worker, fur trapper, bartender, draftsman in an architect's office, railroad brakeman and surveyor. He then went on to become a cartoonist for the San Francisco Daily News, and worked as a professional marble sculptor.


O'Brien was eventually hired by the Edison Company to produce several short films with a prehistoric theme, most notably The Dinosaur and the Missing Link: A Prehistoric Tragedy (1915) and The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918). For his earlier short films, O'Brien created his own characters out of clay,

For later feature-length films, O’Brien would employ Richard and Marcel Delgado to create detailed stop-motion models that were based on O'Brien's designs. These consisted of rubber skin built up over articulated metal armatures.

O'Brien's first Hollywood feature was the film version of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1925). O'Brien's dinosaurs could not only move and fight but they also seemed to be able to "breathe" due to the use of a bladder inside the model that could be inflated and deflated.

His most famous work involved animating the dinosaurs and the iconic giant ape in King Kong (1933), the first "monster movie," and its sequel Son of Kong (1933). O’Brien visited zoos in order to study the behaviour and movements of gorillas. He also attended wrestling matches to get a feel for how Kong would do battle with the dinosaurs of Skull Island. O'Brien’s models were 18-inches high and were constructed on metal skeletons with joints consisting of balls and sockets. The skeletons were padded with foam rubber and cotton and covered with rabbit skin.

When O’Brien viewed the first printed footage of his character, King Kong in motion, he noticed that its fur moved because it was disturbed by his fingers during filming. When showing the footage to the film's producer, O’Brien was worried that this would be noticed and that as a consequence he would be fired. Instead, he was praised for his ability and attention to detail in succeeding to actually make Kong's fur seem to blow about in the wind!

Personal Tragedy 

Married to Hazel Ruth Collette in 1925 Obrien and his wife had a troubled relationship and were divorced by 1930. The couple had two sons. Hazel suffered from tuberculosis and was often heavily sedated. The disease spread to one of their sons, William and blinded him. Tragically, during the production of The Son of Kong (1933), Hazel shot and killed her two sons and then turned the gun on herself. She survived the incident but died from cancer and tuberculosis soon afterward.

Later Film Career

O'Brien was credited as Technical Creator in the film Mighty Joe Young (1949), for which he won the first-ever Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1950. O'Brien's eventual successor, Ray Harryhausen also worked alongside O'Brien on this film.

In 1956, O'Brien wrote the script but did none of the animation for the first colour film to combine animation and live action photography, The Beast of Hollow Mountain.

In 1957, O'Brien worked on the film, The Black Scorpion, in which he and collaborator Peter Peterson did the special effects. They also both worked together on the film, The Giant Behemoth (1959) about a radioactive sea monster in which O'Brien helped build the sets and the models.

O'Brien did not enjoy great success during his life. In fact, in his later years he struggled to find work. There were numerous false starts and even though O’Brien had plenty of ideas, he could not work out how to get them produced in Hollywood. Promotion was not one of his strong points.

Later Years 

Shortly before his death, O’Brian animated a brief scene in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), which had some characters dangling from a fire escape. He was also one of the writers for Ishiro Honda's King Kong vs. Godzilla.

At the age of 76, O'Brien died in Los Angeles on 8 November 1962, survived by his second wife, Darlyne.

In 1997, he was posthumously awarded the Winsor McCay Award by ASIFA-Hollywood, the United States chapter of the International Animated Film Society ASIFA (Association internationale du film d'animation). The award is in recognition of lifetime or career contributions to the art of animation.


Despite working largely in obscurity, Willis O’Brien has left an amazing legacy in terms of cinematic special effects. Consider the pioneering process he employed of shooting one frame at a time to give his models a sense of realism, movement and personality which audiences were able to identify with.

O’Brien’s ground-breaking method of live action combined with stop motion animation has until recent times been a standard special effects process. It was Willis O'Brien who used for rear projection, a flexible cellulose-acetate screen stretched over a frame.

O’Brien also began using the by now familiar blue screen behind live action actors thereby permitting them to be incorporated into existing footage.

O’Brien’s creations can be best summed up by one reviewer who saw them as being “marvels of ingenuity both in design and in the method of animation” and that their “movements are so supple and natural that it would be easy to believe them to be huge living creatures."

©Chris Christopoulos 2016

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Brain from Planet Arous (1957)

A rather ludicrous but strangely ridiculously entertaining sci-fi film

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Jacques R. Marquette
Written by Ray Buffum
Music by Walter Greene
Cinematography Jacques R. Marquette
Distributed by Howco International
Running time: 70 min.
Budget: $58,000 approx.


John Agar: Steve March
Joyce Meadows: Sally Fallon
Robert Fuller: Dan Murphy
Thomas Browne Henry: John Fallon
Ken Terrell: Colonel in Conference Room
Henry Travis: Colonel Frogley
E. Leslie Thomas: General Brown
Tim Graham: Sheriff Wiley Pane
Bill Giorgio: Russian

A powerful alien disembodied brain from the planet Arous, by the name of Gor invades and takes control of the body of scientist, Steve March. Gor uses March as part of his nefarious plan to control the world by threatening to destroy any nation that challenges his total domination.


How can this new threat to Humanity be thwarted? 

Spoiler Alert!

What If?..........

It’s late 1957, and we now find ourselves in a wood-panelled study or home office. Sitting somewhat incongruously in an ox-blood red chesterfield-style arm chair is a bald and rather heavy set man in his sixties. He is wearing reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. He is also wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of shorts and sandals. With a snifter of brandy cradled in his left hand and the finest of Cuban cigars delicately poised between thumb, index and middle fingers of his right hand, one would expect this gentleman to be sporting a crimson smoking jacket, a silk cravat and a pair of slippers.

Sitting opposite this odd-looking fellow, one can make out through the almost dream-like haze of smoke a rather harried-looking younger man fidgeting nervously in a wing-backed leather armchair.

Sound of a clock chiming 

Professor Karl Von Linden puffs on his cigar and regards the room in which he and the other fellow are ensconced with a somewhat smug and self-satisfied expression on his face, as if he were surveying the fruits of a lifetime of glorious academic endeavour.

As Von Linden shifts his gaze from the framed certificates on his wall proclaiming his expertise in all matters cerebral and psychological, he begins to address his…. “patient.”

Von Linden: Zo young man, another one of your dreams? Tell me please, vot vas it zis time?

March: Well, Professor, it is the same dream except this time it wasn’t in disjointed bits and pieces. This time it had a beginning, a middle and an ending.

Von Linden: Zo, a complete narrative! Interesting…. go on, my boy.

March: I bet Freud would have plenty to say about this one…

Von Linden: Bah! Freud smoid! I’m not interested with vot Herr Freud would have to say. I’m interested in vot you have to say. Proceed.

March: Well, once again it starts off in the evening with a light slowly descending from the sky and exploding into a mountain in the middle of the desert. At that point I’m in my lab with my colleague, Dan when I notice something odd happening with the Geiger counter. I can’t figure it out so I try to draw Dan’s attention to this but he’s absorbed in one of those pulp science fiction novels.

After a moment of silence, the Geiger counter goes nuts. Well, that finally gets Dan’s attention. I’m then able to determine that the source of the radioactivity is thirty miles away at Mystery Mountain.

My fiancé, Sally soon turns up and harangues me about not stopping to have lunch. After detecting yet another burst of radioactivity, Dan and I decide to go over to Mystery Mountain, but not before Sally twists our arms to have lunch first.

Von Linden: Interesting you mention on zis occasion the popular science fiction magazine. Vy not Playboy magazine like vot I have got in zee third drawer of mine desk here? (Von Linden pulls the drawer open to reveal a substantial stash of Playboys). Purely for research purposes, you understand.

Could it be zat you have doubts about the validity of your vork and research? Are you concerned that it could be viewed by some as being little more than zee science fiction? Add to zis the fact that your colleague, Dan was ignoring you at that point! Could it be zat you fear having your vork ignored or not taken seriously?

As for your fiancé, Sally. Zis young lady could represent zee emotions und responsibilities of normal life you fear are being ignored by you due to your commitment to your vork. Some guilt on your part perhaps?

We shall consider zees matters later. Please go on. Very fascinating it is! Such detail. Most unusual!

March: Well, we go on to have lunch at Sally’s father’s place. Sally’s father, John Fallon soon arrives home. I tell him about Dan and I intending to go to Mystery Mountain, but he warns me that at this time of year temperatures can reach 120 degrees in the desert.

I then tell John about evidence of “a hot blast of gamma…coming from Mystery Mountain,” and that it is reason “enough for any scientist to go out into the desert." Dan doesn’t seem anxious to go, but he agrees to.

Dan and I soon set off for Mystery Mountain in the jeep when suddenly a rock fall blocks our path. I figure that the rock debris is evidence of recent activity. We then proceed to walk the rest of the way.

We finally make our way to a cave and it seems to me that it had been blasted out recently. I don’t notice any footprints, however. We then decide to enter the cave to check for the presence of any radioactivity. Suddenly the counter goes berserk as it registers a high level of radioactivity, and then just as suddenly it goes silent.

Dan and I draw our guns and announce our presence to whoever might be in the cave. That’s when our eye balls are hammered by a blinding bright light. This is then followed by a ghostly apparition of a huge floating brain with glowing eyes filled with menace! The very same one I told you about during our last couple of sessions.

Von Linden: Ya! Ya! I know. Please go on, my boy. Vot happened next?

March: I empty my gun into the apparition and then my point of view shifts from my body and I continue to observe outside of my now unconscious form lying on the cave floor. I suddenly see Dan firing a couple of rounds from his rifle but he is hit by what seems to be an intense burst of radiation. I somehow know that Dan is dead. Hardly having time to register this awful fact, I watch in horror as the brain shrinks in size and enters my own body.

Von Linden: (making smoke rings) Vell, Shteve, it seems zat you may have quite a bit of internal conflict whirling around in your head. (whirls his index finger around centre of smoke rings) Take zee cave for instance. Could the presence of such an underground place in your dream be a sign zat you are focusing on vot is going on inside you? All zis worry of yours about vot you are doing, vy you are doing it und whether or not you should be doing it. Through your dream, you are trying to understand vy you do vot you do, und vot lies behind the vay you are feeling.

Also zere is fear, my boy! Zat great and terrible motivating force zat pervades the entire history of human civilisation. In your dream zere is the death of your friend and colleague, Dan – the one you depend on und the one who occasionally pulls on the reins of caution whenever you decide to gallop off in pursuit of scientific truth!

Vee now come to another kind of fear: one zat is at this moment eating away at zee very fabric of our own society und one zat will surely rear its head in other guises in zee future. Today vee fear zee Reds under our beds und zee mushroom clouds of death. Und tomorrow? Vot vill vee fear?

Think about that disembodied brain taking over your body. You are afraid of losing control over your thoughts und actions und that some other force from somewhere out zere vill come und invade your being, your world, your vay of life for its own nefarious purposes. How much are our perceptions nothing more zan zee product of the time und place in vich vee live. Much of it like zat “brain” in your dream – an apparition, an illusion.

March: You think so, Professor Von Linden? After the cave incident I sense that I’m somewhere back in my body but not in control of my thoughts and actions. It’s like I’m somehow pushed deep into the background of my being and can only look on helplessly. It is really the alien entity that returns to the house and embraces my Sally. It tells her that nothing was found at the Mystery Mountain site and that Dan went to Las Vegas. I suddenly sense overpowering pain and aggression pervading my mind and body.

Sally knows something is wrong when the entity kisses her aggressively and tears her blouse. Suddenly, good old George the dog comes to her rescue and attacks the alien me. The intruder fends George off, gets in the car and drives away.

I later find myself back in my lab where the brain exits my body. The brain tells me, "I am Gor. I need your body as a dwelling place while I’m here on your Earth." It tells me that I was chosen as a vessel because of my special knowledge of nuclear energy and my access to government resources.

Von Linden: Mein Gott! Zis is fascinating! Interesting it is zat you mention dreaming of your dog intervening in a violent act of possession. I think that your canine friend, George represents you (stabbing cigar at Steve) with your basic instincts of friendship, loyalty, und protection.

Protection against vot, you ask? Ah! Apart from fear, vot else seems to be behind much of human conduct? In your dream you have the possession und control of your mind und body by the alien brain. Using your body, the alien brain attempts to “possess” (making inverted comma sign with his fingers) your young fraulein, Sally.

Our relationships, our front gardens, Nature, zee material world, situations, events, other people, vorkplaces, media, religion, politics, etc, etc., Our ambition whether stated or unstated is to possess und control! We seek to impose our own straight lines, symmetry and sense of proportion und order where none ought to exist. And those lines start out und lead back to us! We’re all of us potential tyrants und fascists in our own little individual vays.

Vot do we have to counterbalance this? Vy, my boy – our own versions of your George: friendship, loyalty, und willingness to protect!

Anyway, vot of this Gor und the rest of your dream?

March: Before I get on to that part, in my dream I do have the sense that Sally suspects that something is definitely wrong with me. She eventually convinces her father to go with her to Mystery Mountain.

I see them entering the cave system where Dan and I had been. Sally notices a flash of light and screams. She and her father walk further into the cave and they come across Dan's body. John walks over to the body and notices burn marks on it.

Suddenly, another brain from the planet Arous appears. This one is called Vol and it communicates with Sally and her father telepathically. Vol informs them that he has come to Earth to capture or kill the criminal, Gor. He then promises to meet with them at their home at 8:00 p.m. the next evening.

Von Linden: Ya, I zee from our previous meeting’s transcripts zat zee “alien you” contacts zee Atomic Energy Facility at Indian Springs. As zee Gor, you manage to invite yourself to zee next scheduled test as an observer.

March: That’s right. The new part to the dream is that Gor is planning a test of his power and has promised me great power and wealth. 

Von Linden: Goot! It also says here that zee Vol alien brain enlists zee help of Sally und her father to save zee Earth. Also, in order to get close to Gor while he inhabits your body, it is agreed to make use of zee pooch, George as a host for Vol. By zee vay, did any one ask zee pooch?

March: Professor, I find this next part hard to talk about and have deliberately refrained from recalling and mentioning to you till now.

Von Linden: Bah! Denial, repression of uncomfortable memories und such tings are very common, my boy. Go on. Vat do you remember from your dream zat is zo terrible to mention till now?

March: As I (the Gor I) drive to John’s house, I spot an aeroplane in the sky. By some unearthly power within me I destroy the plane and kill all on board. What is worse is that I laugh in response to my criminal act!

Later in the car with Sally and George / Vol, I find myself promising Sally the world and let her know that I have a new power that, "will make me the most feared man on Earth."

A radio broadcast suddenly informs us about the plane crash and so we drive out to the scene. The evidence of burns on one of the bodies and the radiation damage on a piece of the plane’s wreckage is testament enough of the “new power” I was telling Sally about.

Von Linden: Ach du lieber! Do not knock yourself about, Shteve. It is zee dream und in zis stage of zee dream, your subconscious is revealing to you your inner knowledge of zee destructive nature of power, control und ambition, its consequences und its inherent veakness. You are aware of the potential within you to commit acts of evil but you can distinguish “right” from zee “wrong.” Some may call zis framework “conscience” or “morality.” Whatever you may vish to call it, it is vot makes us human beings und what can defeat zee “Gors” that continually lurk within und shadow us though our lives.

March: This new part to the dream almost suggests a way of fighting back and overcoming whatever this alien entity Gor represents. Vol tells John and Sally that Gor can only be destroyed when he assumes his true form: "In Earth's atmosphere, we must return to our true state once every twenty-four hours in order to assimilate enough oxygen for life." As long as it occupies my body, Gor is invulnerable. Vol goes on to inform them that a heavy blow on a region of the brain known as the “Fissure of Rolando” can kill him.

Von Linden: Ya, Ya, Zee “Fissure of Rolando” named after Luigi Rolando. It is a groove or deep fissure if you vill that separates zee brain’s frontal und parietal lobes and……

(As Von Linden goes on and on about the Fissure of Rolando, Steve’s eyes begin to glaze over which is eventually noticed by Von Linden)

Sorry, Shteve. Please go on.

March: Sheriff Wiley Pane stops by to see me at the lab. He wants to ask me some questions about Dan Murphy. He tells me that Dan is dead but I persist with the Dan-having-gone-to-Las Vegas story. Well, that Gor within me now feels it has nothing to lose by confessing to the murder of Dan and the destruction of the plane. The “Gor” me then tells the sheriff, "and now I'm going to kill you." Just as the Sheriff goes for his gun, he is zapped by a flash of light. No guesses needed to know where that came from. Under Gor’s influence, I hide the sheriff’s body in a corner of the lab.

Von Linden: Ah! Zee killing of zee sheriff reflects your inner moral turmoil. You fear zat your goot, moral und ethical part of you is somehow being subverted by your capacity to do evil or cause harm to those around you. Your mind is vorking through zis dilemma, no?

March: Another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of my dream involves a military committee meeting at the Pentagon. After careful examination of the wreckage it is concluded that the Earth has been invaded. A colonel by the name of Frogley who is chairing the committee, reports that Dan and the passengers of the destroyed plane were killed by intense radiation. The committee then plans to meet again at Indian Springs. 

Von Linden: Zis reference to zee military shows your preparedness to fight or combat zis evil “Gor” force or impulses within you. Zee true nature of zeez forces will reveal themselves by bubbling to zee surface, if you vill, at zis place called Indian Springs!

March: The battle you’re talking about didn’t eventuate when George stays with me one evening. Vol isn’t able to confront Gor, as he doesn’t leave my body. Gor’s confidence increases as he ponders the upcoming meeting at Indian Springs. He even promises Sally as much fame and fortune as she could wish for when they move to Washington, D.C.

The dream now shifts to Indian Springs for the Friday nuclear test. Gor, through me, explains that he has an explanation for the deaths of Dan and the destruction of the plane. The “Gor” me walks over to the window and tells the others present to watch the closed circuit television. Using his power, Gor then destroys all the targets that have been set up for the planned nuclear test. Through me he informs the group, "What you've just seen me do to that one small area, I can do to a city, a nation, or a continent."

Colonel Frogley suddenly leaves the room and quickly returns with a gun and fires several bullets into my body without any effect. The colonel is killed by the flash of light unleashed by Gor. The force of evil is now in a position to dictate terms as Gor orders that representatives of the superpower nations are to return to attend a meeting to “discuss” such terms. Any nation that does not comply will have their capital city destroyed.

The meeting does take place later on. The superpower representatives witness more death and destruction as the “Gor” me destroys another aeroplane. He then lays out his ultimate plan:

“I want all of your uranium, plutonium, all your atomic resources. I want your factories, railroad shipping, all your industrial facilities. Your workers will labour around the clock day and night, following my blueprints to build a most powerful invasion force ever gathered in the universe.”

When the Russian representative protests that “Russia would never agree to it!” Gor simply retorts that “There's a simple answer to that: There'll be no Russia.” He then goes on to inform them that “your United Nations building will be turned over to me. I will teach your engineers to build a fleet of interplanetary rockets, to be armed and manned by your joint military forces. All under my command.”

When General Brown asks Gor what he would do with all this power, the “Gor” me tells him that “I will return to my planet Arous, and through its vast intellect, I will become master of the universe. After I'm gone, your Earth will be free to live out its miserable span of existence, as one of my satellites, and that's how it's going to be.”

Von Linden: As has been seen time und time again: zee insatiable nature of zee need to acquire power und control und zee vay in vich power can corrupt absolutely. Zis is a law zat applies to zee smallest organisation right through to zee entire galaxy und beyond! You subconscious (or perhaps your heart, if you like) knows zees tings. It also knows zat something must be done. In a conflict, even an internal one zere must be a victor.

March: Perhaps that’s what my dream has been trying to show me when Sally enters my lab. She draws a diagram on a piece of paper depicting a human brain labelled with Gor's vulnerable “Fissure of Rolando” spot.

As Sally leaves the paper on a table before she leaves the lab, the “Gor” me arrives. Sally conceals herself next to where the Sheriff’s body is lying while my body collapses onto a chair and Gor exits my body.

While Gor boasts about what he has done, the real me sees Sally's diagram Just then Sally spots the Sheriff's burned body and screams. While Gor’s attention is directed towards her, I manage to grab a nearby axe and wield it to good effect, managing to eventually strike Gor’s vulnerable “Fissure of Rolando” region, thereby killing him.

The dream ends with Sally telling me all about Vol and how he is using George as a host. I don’t really believe her story and laughingly tell her, "You and your imagination."

So what do you think, professor? Have you learned enough useful information from my dream to help me out?

Von Linden: Oh, yes Shteve. I believe I have learned enough to decide on a course of action. I think zee mind und zee brain are zee last true frontiers of knowledge to be explored und understood. Consider how powerful und mysterious zee “imagination” can be. Through zee imagination anything is possible. Take zis for example,
my boy…

(Suddenly a suffocating silence envelopes the room, broken only by the steady ticking and slow slicing of the tall grandfather clock’s pendulum. As Steve’s attention is drawn towards Von Linden’s face, panic grips his entire being as he realises that he has no recollection of what he had been doing or what had been taking place in his life prior to being in the professor’s room.

Sound of a clock chiming 

As Steve looks at the professor’s face, he wonders if his imagination is indeed playing tricks on him. He thinks he hears these familiar words being spoken to him ‘“…it tolls for thee” my boy’ Next, it is as if a vapour is emanating from Von Linden’s ears, nostrils and mouth. Suddenly an incoherent wail erupts from the depths of Steve’s soul as he witnesses the vapour beginning to coalesce into the form of a brain…. a brain that is slowly advancing toward him!)

Points of Interest

The scientist Steve March in The Brain from Planet Arous is played by actor John Agar who we have seen a quite a few classic sci-fi movies such as The Mole People, Tarantula and Attack of the Puppet People.
John Agar is required to give two performances or portrayals in the film. One being the rather ordinary mild-mannered human scientist and the other being a maniacal power-hungry alien version of himself. His portrayal of the letter comes across as being rather more comical than evil or menacing.

The other significant character in the film is the disembodied alien brain. Unfortunately, the effect is rather disappointing and unconvincing.

Unlike many of the sci-fi films of the period, The Brain from the Planet Arous depicts alien forms of life as being more than just evil invaders. After all, it is the alien Vol who in cooperation with Sally tries to prevent Gor from carrying out his plan. As with human beings, our alien friends may have just as many sides to their characters and personalities.

©Chris Christopoulos 2016