Creature with the Atom Brain (1955)

Edward L. Cahn was a director who got work done. There’s his work on American-International Pictures, his Our Gang comedies and a movie that inspired Alien — which inspired a lot of movies in its wake — called It! The Terror from Beyond Space. He also made Invisible Invaders which has pretty much the same plot as this film.

A killer with the fingerprints of a dead man that leaves radiation behind? Yeah, that’s the kind of mystery that we can get into. Mob boss Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger, who was the original Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof) was kicked out of our country by his own gang, but found a German scientist and Operation:Paperclip’d him into his service. Now, when he needs revenge or someone killed, he uses his atomic powered brained zombies to do his wetwork.

Luckily, perennial scientist hero Richard Denning is here to save the day. He’s Dr. Chet Walker here, but he also played Dr. Mark Williams in Creature from the Black Lagoon, geologist Dr. Hank Scott in The Black Scorpion and another geologist named Dr. Rick in Day the World Ended. He was also the radio husband to Lucille Ball before I Love Lucy made it to TV. He was also married to Evelyn Ankers, who was menaced by Universal Monsters in The Wolf Man, Ghost of Frankenstein and Son of Dracula.

The love interest in this one — Joyce Walker — is played by Angela Stevens, who appeared in several Three Stooges shorts and nearly had her career ended by the attack of an ocelot at a dress shop. This really happened.

Creature with the Atom Brain inspired a song by Roxy Erickson, which is pretty great as well. It even has voiceover samples from this movie. It comes from his album The Evil One, which has the songs “If You Have Ghosts,” “I Think of Demons,” “I Walked with a Zombie” and “Night of the Vampire.”

You have to love any movie with the tagline “

While this may have been the first movie to use squibs for bullet wounds, it was also an incredibly low budget film. How low? So low that Can shot it with as few breaks and edits as possible, which means that characters are constantly sitting, standing, pacing and doing anything to keep the long shots from seeming like lengthy shots, even going to other rooms with no cuts whatsoever.

Creature with the Atom Brain is one of four movies on Arrow Video’s new Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman set along with The WerewolfThe Zombies of Mora Tau and The Giant Claw. Each film has a 1080p blu ray presentation, along with a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, as well as 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, the former artist of Swamp Thing. Plus, you get two double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin and reversible sleeves for each movie with original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.

Creature with the Atom Brain has extras like an introduction by historian and critic Kim Newman, audio commentary by critic Russell Dyball; Sam Katzman: Before and Beyond the Cold War Creatures, a brand-new feature-length illustrated presentation on the life, career and films of Sam Katzman by Bissette; a condensed Super 8mm version of Creature with the Atom Brain, a trailer and an image gallery.

You can get this set from MVD.

Day the World Ended (1955)

Produced and directed by Roger Corman, this movie somehow had newsman Chet Huntley as its narrator and tells the story of the end of the world and the mutant monster that comes afterward.

U.S. Navy Commander Jim Maddison and his daughter Louise have somehow survived all the atomic bombs, a uranium miner named Rick, a gangster named Tony and his girl Ruby (Adele Jergens, who was an understudy of Gypsy Rose Lee).

Between the creature on the loose, Tony being a jerk and radioactive fallout, how will anyone make it to the end of this movie alive? Well, you will learn a new science fact in this movie: rain can wash away radiation.

Larry Buchanan remade this movie, using almost all the same dialogue, as In the Year 2889 in 1967.

A nine day wonder with a foam rubber monster, this got its name from future American-International Pictures boss James H. Nicholson before it was even filmed. It was Corman’s fourth film and played on a double bill with The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues.

You can watch this on Tubi.

SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

A few weeks after the release of Godzilla, a welcome home party was thrown for executive producer Iwao Mori. During the party, he told producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to produce a sequel due to the box office results. With Ishirō Honda directing Love Makeup at the time, Motoyoshi Oda was brought in to direct the film. The goal was to keep the momentum of the first film.

With improved suits and hand puppets for some of the scenes, the actual monsters — yes, monsters, this was the first appearance of Anguirus — look better than ever. Sadly, while this was the fourth highest grossing film of the year in Japan, it made less than what the first film did. Tanaka would later admit that the crew had little time to prepare and didn’t consider the film successful.

The same team that turned Gojira into Godzilla King of the Monsters! decided that instead of dubbing the film, they would use the footage to make an entirely new film called The Volcano Monsters.

Ib Melchior — who would later rescue Reptilicus — and Edwin Watson watched the Japanese footage and turned around a 129-page script complete with editing instructions on when to use the Japanese footage and when to use new footage that would be shot. At this point, Toho cared so little about Godzilla — and Anguirus — that they shipped the suit to Hollywood for new scenes.

Stranger still, Godzilla and Anguirus were to become just basic dinosaurs, with Godzilla become a woman and losing his atomic breath.

The American version was released in May of 1959 as Gigantis the Fire Monster on a double-bill with Teenagers From Outer Space. The producers changed Godzilla’s name* because everyone saw the creature die at the end of the last movie. In fact, they knew so little about the source material that they switched the creatures’ roars and claimed that the movie was called Angirus in Japan.

If you notice that some of the voices are familiar in the American dub, that’s because all of the voices were Keye Luke, Paul Frees and George Takei.

Of all the Godzilla movies, this one had rights that were held by Pacific Theaters president Bill Foreman and his attorney Harry B. Swerdlow, who were embarrassed to own it. That’s why it never aired along with the other Godzilla films and until Toho got the rights back at some point in the 80’s.

The Japanese explanation of it all is much simpler than making a whole new movie. A scientist just says, “It’s a new Godzilla from the same species.” Let’s move on and knock some buildings down. The new creature known as Anguirus? His race and Godzilla’s have been at war since the beginning of time.

That’s pretty much all we need to know. Just sit back, enjoy and realize that Godzilla movies would only get weirder from here.

*That’s one story. The other is that Warner Brothers couldn’t get permission to use the name Godzilla from Joseph E. Levine and had to change the name. That’s obviously untrue because pretty much everyone who brought this to America worked on the first one. Oh yeah — Toho also released a Japanese langauge version of this to play in theaters with a population that spoke the langauge in the United States.

Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955)

I have many movie loves, but seriously, juvenile delinquency movies are where it’s at.

A Columbia stock actor and dialogue director, Fred F. Sears made a ton of movies, starting with the Charlie Starrett Westerns and Blondie series. He also made the Blackhawk serial and worked as a steady contract director for notorious cheap producer Sam Katzman, who knew how to make money for the movie companies. Sears directed Rock Around the ClockDon’t Knock the Rock and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers — and many more — before he died in the washroom of his office at the young age of 45.

Jane was an accessory at a robbery and just needs to serve out her juvenile sentence. But her cellmate Terry’s man Mike (Tommy Cook, who wrote Rollercoaster) violently gets them out of young people jail. So they do what any teenage criminal would do on Thanksgiving. They hold a family hostage and everybody pays the price.

The youngest teenager in this movie was twenty-five at the time of filming. So there’s that. Look, if you’re a gangster and you bust your lady out of the joint, I think you should legally be able to kill anyone she flirts with. Them’s the law.

REPOST: Uçan Daireler Istanbulda (1955)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally posted during our Turkish movie blowout — this one was originally on the site on September 13, 2020 — Uçan Daireler Istanbulda is a great example of alien women descending on our planet and fits in so well this week. Enjoy!

It’s 7,296 miles from Ankara to Mexico City, but you’d never guess it by this film, known in our tongue as Flying Saucers Over Istanbul.

In the same way that Mexican films like La Nave de los Monstruos and Conquistador de la Luna see the worlds beyond ours, this movie feels like it very well be a primo de Turquía of that psychotronic film familia.

Perhaps we can lay the blame or the thanks at the feet of Kenneth Arnold, who made the first publicized — well, you know, unless you count the Bible — sighting of what he called flying saucers on June 24, 1947. Before you could say B movie, they were the de facto villains of nearly every black and white science fiction movie coming out of Hollywood, which meant that other nations would not be far behind.

Much like so many of my favorite movies — Cat-Women of the Moon, Fire Maidens from Outer SpaceAbbott and Costello Go to Mars, Missile to the Moon, Amazon Women on the MoonQueen of Outer Space and El Planeta De Las Mujeres Invasoras — a planet full of women have decided that human men would be the best way to repopulate their dead mudball.

There’s also a secret club of old women that two of the men want to sell the Fountain of Youth that the aliens just so happen to possess, as well as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator played by Mirella Monro, a robot that makes the el Roboto Humano look like a James Cameron-directed piece of gleaming tech and more belly dancing than I’ve ever seen in one movie before. In short, this movie is everything you never knew you wanted and then even more of that.

You can watch this on YouTube.

The Racers (1955)

Henry Hathaway is usually known for directing westerns, but here he is making a film all about car racing in Europe, based on the book The Racer, which was the story of Rudolf Caracciola, who is called Gino Borgesa here and played by Kirk Douglas.

He meets his girl in the way so many have before, as her poodle runs on the track and nearly gets him killed. But hey, when a woman is Bella Darvi, well, you forgive these kinds of things. Darvi spent some of her teen years in a concentration camp before meeting Virginia and Darryl Zanuck, who invited her to move to Hollywood with them. Despite the fact that she slept in the same room as their daughter Susan, and getting a stage name that combined the two Zanuck’s names, she of course became his mistress. I have this theory that perhaps that the affair involved all three, particularly when after Mr. Zanuck left his wife for Darvi, but he would later leave the actresses when he found out that she was bisexual. After 1961, Darvi was mainly back in Monte Carlo, gambling around 30,000 pounds a night (which when we adjust for pounds to dollars and inflation is more than $250,000!) and continually overdosing on barbiturates, which never quite killed her, until she used gas to finally exit this world in 1971.

Anyways, back to the racing. Gino gets out of control after all his injuries get him on painkillers, even clouding him enough that he costs one of his mentors, Carlos Chavez (Ceasar Romero), his last race. He chases away his woman to a younger racer and pretty much ruins his life.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Uçan Daireler Istanbulda (1955)

It’s 7,296 miles from Ankara to Mexico City, but you’d never guess it by this film, known in our tongue as Flying Saucers Over Istanbul.

In the same way that Mexican films like La Nave de los Monstruos and Conquistador de la Luna see the worlds beyond ours, this movie feels like it very well be a primo de Turquía of that psychotronic film familia.

Perhaps we can lay the blame or the thanks at the feet of Kenneth Arnold, who made the first publicized — well, you know, unless you count the Bible — sighting of what he called flying saucers on June 24, 1947. Before you could say B movie, they were the de facto villains of nearly every black and white science fiction movie coming out of Hollywood, which meant that other nations would not be far behind.

Much like so many of my favorite movies — Catwomen of the Moon, Fire Maidens from Outer SpaceAbbott and Costello Go to Mars, Missile to the Moon, Amazon Women on the MoonQueen of Outer Space and El Planeta De Las Mujeres Invasoras — a planet full of women have decided that human men would be the best way to repopulate their dead mudball.

There’s also a secret club of old women that two of the men want to sell the Fountain of Youth that the aliens just so happen to possess, as well as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator played by Mirella Monro, a robot that makes the el Roboto Humano look like a James Cameron-directed piece of gleaming tech and more belly dancing than I’ve ever seen in one movie before. In short, this movie is everything you never knew you wanted and then even more of that.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Female Jungle (1955)

Lawrence Tierney plays Detective Sergeant Jack Stevens, a lawman so drunk that he doesn’t even remember killing a famous film star. Or maybe he didn’t. Life is imitating art here, as Tierney was a maniac on the order of a Kinski.

Quentin Tarantino referred to him as “a complete lunatic” and an opportunity to play Elaine’s father on Seinfeld ended with him stealing a knife from the set and threatening the life of the show’s creator and star. These are minor anecdotes in a life filled with brawls, battles with the law and brilliant acting.

For example, in June of 1975, Tierney was questioned by the NYPD in connection with the apparent suicide of a 24-year-old woman who had jumped from her high-rise window. He told the police, “I had just gotten there, and she just went out the window.” This would be strange enough, but Tierney also played a character in the movie The Hoodlum who is suspected of driving a woman into jumping to her death.

Jayne Mansfield shows up as Candy Price, an artist’s mistress, and John Carradine plays a tabloid reporter. Kathleen Crowley was the lead; she showed up late one day and claimed that she had been raped, which meant that many of her shots are a double and Mansfield — who was paid $150 for the role and went back to selling popcorn at a movie theater after this — had her part increased.

This noir was directed by character actor Bruno VeSota, who also made The Brain Eaters and Invasion of the Star Creatures.

You can watch this on YouTube.

King Dinosaur (1955)

This shot-in-one-week effort was Bert I. Gordon’s first solo movie as a writer-director (he co-directed the previous year’s Serpent Island, which he wrote), made with borrowed equipment and the cast of four all working on deferred salaries. The rest of the footage is all stock, including a mammoth taken from One Million B.C. And it takes 10 minutes — of educational space exploration stock footage and narration — before the first actor steps foot on the newly discovered planet.

It takes place five years in the future, which would be sixty years in our past.

Zoologist Dr. Richard Gordon, geologist Dr. Nora Pierce, medical specialist Dr. Ralph Martin, and chemist Dr. Patrica Bennett (while the men wear baggy flight suits and military-issue boots, the gals wear sensible gauchos and knee-high boots) are on a space voyage to the planet Nova in the hopes of starting a new Earth colony. It’s filled with animals (bears, elk) that are way bigger than they should be — remember that Burt I. Gordon directed this one — including King Dinosaur, which is really an iguana. So the scientists do what any good researcher should: they nuke the processed-shot and floating-matte planet, and leave.

Is there a deeper message about Manifest Destiny and American Imperialism in the frames? Is this a plight of the American Indian allegory? Nope. Burt just likes big creatures on film and blowing up stuff: for this is a world where, regardless of the intelligence of smartly-dressed women (clad in ballet flats and wedged mules with their tailored flight wears) conquering space — just like in The Angry Red Planet and Gog — they’re still screaming and imploring the men to “do something” and to shoot everything they survey.

Death in Space King Dinosaur

The funny thing about this movie is that Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury wanted to provide the dinosaur effects, so they brought in some footage. Gordon watched it, didn’t acknowledge them and just walked out. Harryhausen and Bradbury were obviously upset, but a few years later, at the premiere, Bradbury allegedly approached Gordon and said, “Remember me? Ray Bradbury. It won’t make a dime!”

If you wonder, “Have I heard this music before?” then you’ve probably seen Ed Wood’s The Violent Years. Actually, you should just watch that movie. It’s way better than this. Even at its short running time at a measly 63 minutes — 43 if you cut out the opening stock-narration salvo. And if you recognized the narrator, that’s Marvin Miller, who was the voice of Robby The Robot in Forbidden Planet and was Mr. Proteus on Commander Buzz Corey and the Space Patrol. And if you recognize the rocketing landing from King Dinosaur, that’s because it ended up in Fire Maidens from Outer Space.

You can watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of this movie on Amazon Prime and Tubi. It’s also available without the commentary on Daily Motion.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Harry Powers was born in the Netherlands but made his way to America in 1910 before settling in West Virginia in 1926. A year later, he met and married farm and feed store owner Luella Strother through a lonely hearts ad. But he didn’t stop running those ads, as he got ten to twenty replies to his lovelorn classified ads a day.

Police would later discover the bodies of several people who replied to his ads, like Asta Eicher, her three children and Dorothy Lemke.  A mob tried to kill him and had to be dispensed with fire hoses and tear gas. After a trial so large that it needed to be held in an opera house to contain all the spectators, he was hung. His story inspired both the book and the movie The Night of the Hunter.

In 1930’s West Virginia. Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum, who is the only person who really could have played this role) is fleeing the scene of his latest murder. He’s a self-anointed man of the cloth who preaches along the dirt roads and small towns, a man who is both attracted to and hateful toward women. On his right hand is the word LOVE and HATE on the left, symbols for his ready-made sermons.

“Ah, little lad, you’re staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of right-hand/left-hand? The story of good and evil? H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E! You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends, the hand of love. Now watch, and I’ll show you the story of life. Those fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warring and a-tugging, one agin t’other. Now watch ’em! Old brother left hand, left hand he’s a fighting, and it looks like love’s a goner. But wait a minute! Hot dog, love’s a winning! Yessirree! It’s love that’s won, and old left hand hate is down for the count!”

Finally, in one small town, Powell for driving a stolen car while he watches a burlesque dancer, muttering to himself, “There’s too many of them. I can’t kill the world.”

Meanwhile, Ben Harper kills two men in a bank robbery and races home to hide the money inside his daughter’s doll. He promises his two children, John and Pearl, to keep it a secret. His son is shocked by how the police treat his father, beating him into the ground.

Ben and Reverend Harry share a jail cell, where the evil preacher tries to discover the location of the money. He gets just enough info on Ben’s family before he is free. Ben isn’t that lucky as he’s executed for his crimes.

Powell then appears in town to both woo and marry Harper’s widow, Willa (Shelley Winters). He charms all the other townsfolk except for John, who promised his father he’d never reveal where the money is.

Instead of consummating his marriage to Willa, Powell tries to get her to be part of his preaching. However, she learns that he’s looking for the money and he stabs and kills her, dumping her body in the river while telling everyone that she left him for a life of sin with a drummer.

Willa’s drowned body is discovered by Birdie Steptoe, an elderly drunk who is sort of an uncle to John. He fears the town will blame him for her death, so he tells no one. Powell starts to hunt the children and they flee in a raft down the river, only stopped for a moment to sleep in a barn. The shadow of the preacher and his singing reaches them and John exclaims, “Doesn’t he ever sleep?”

By this point, the film has become a German expressionist stage play looking fairy tale. The children escape to the home of kindly Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish, the First Lady of American Cinema), a hard as nails old woman who is one of the few purely good people in this entire film. She protects and raises orphans, keeping the kids safe from Powell even when he tries to seduce the oldest, Ruby.

After an all-night standoff, the old woman shoots and wounds the preacher, who hides in the barn until the police arrest him. As they take him to jail, it reminds John of the night his father was arrested. He beats the man with his sister’s doll, screaming that he can keep the money.

At the trial, even the preacher’s staunchest defenders, like Icey Spoon (Evelyn Varden, The Bad Seed) become screaming drunks seeking his doom. A lynch mob has gathered while the executioner smiles at him, saying that he’ll see him soon.

Meanwhile, our children have gathered for Christmas, finally safe. It echoes the dreamlike beginning of the film, which again seems to be part of a fairy tale.

This was the only film directed by actor Charles Laughton and at the time of its original release, it was considered a critical and box-office failure. Laughton never directed another film.

Robert Mitchum was very eager for the part of the preacher. When he auditioned, he impressed Laughton when he said that he was looking for the character to be “a diabolical shit.” Mitchum promptly answered, “Present!” Mitchum later remarked that Laughton was his favorite director and that this was his favorite of the films he acted in.

While Laughton proclaimed Mitchum to be different from his public image — “All this tough talk is a blind, you know. He’s a literate, gracious, kind man, with wonderful manners, and he speaks beautifully–when he wants to. He’s a tender man and a very great gentleman. You know, he’s really terribly shy.” — on set, once producer Paul Gregory told the star that he was too drunk to be acting, he opened the door to Gregory’s Cadillac and pissed all over the front seat.

To Gregory, Mitchum pretty much was the character he was portraying: “He was a charmer. An evil son of a bitch with a lot of charm. Mitch sort of scared me, to tell you the truth. I was always on guard. He was often in a state, and you never knew what he would do next.”