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

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