CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (1955) Reviews and overview

  

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‘Chock-full of thrills!’

Creature with the Atom Brain is a 1955 science fiction crime horror film about a mad scientist who uses ‘zombies’ to aid a gangster.

Directed by Edward L. Cahn (The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake; Curse of the Faceless Man; It! The Terror from Beyond Space; Invasion of the Saucer Men; Zombies of Mora Tau; Voodoo Woman; The She-Creature) from a story and screenplay by Curt Siodmak (Donovan’s Brain; I Walked with a Zombie; The Wolf Man).

Executive produced by Sam Katzman [uncredited] (The Giant Claw; The Man Who Turned to Stone; The Werewolf and many others).

Invisible Invaders (1959) uses the same basic concept although, in the latter film, invading aliens inhabit reanimated bodies.

The Clover Productions movie stars Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye and Linda Bennett.

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Reviews:
“Oh, but it’s all in good fun and at 69 minutes the film’s flaws are far from fatal. And when the dead are sent out against the forces of the law in the final reel one can’t help but flash on Night of the Living Dead and appreciate the cinematic lineage… Arbogast on Film

“The sixty-nine minute running time flies by in Cahn’s tightly paced narrative which dispenses with static talking headshots in favor of scenes where the characters are filmed in real-time, either standing, pacing or sitting – with no edits. The futuristic concept of using nuclear energy to create synthetic brains is also an unexpected concept for a 1950s B-movie.” Cinema Sojourns

“Edward L. Cahn wasn’t really a great director, but he could do all right if he was given the right story, and I think this one was right for him; the movie manages to deliver some thrills despite the general cheapness of the production and a sense that it was made mostly by people primarily interested in pulling in a paycheck.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

Creature with the Atom Brain is efficiently made, although the low-budget gets in the way of making a terribly interesting film […] Edward L. Cahn at least keeps the talkiness moving with a snappy pace, while Curt Siodmak writes the scientific doublespeak in a way that almost sounds halfway convincing.” Moria

“The final battle of cops vs. zombies is fairly risible, especially when the zombies don’t even react when hit by grenades that act more like smoke bombs. Still, I must admit that the key idea of invulnerable dead men shambling their way through troops has been a fantasy strongly nurtured by the zombie-film genre, so Creature deserves a few points for being among the first cinematic articulations of the idea.” Naturalistic! Uncanny! Marvelous!

“It really isn’t horror.  Instead, it is one of the minor SF films of the era – although it also flirts with being a bit of crime drama as well (which, after all, was one of the other genres Cahn often contributed to).  Nor does it aspire to the heights of absurdity of some of Cahn’s other films – like Invasion of the Saucer Men, whose aliens are dissolved by hot rod headlights.” Rivets on the Poster

“The mix of poverty row noir and mad scientist in Creature gives it a kind of movie plausibility at the most basic level…” Rough Cut

“It is very competently, if unimaginatively filmed, and with the exception of Richard Denning, the cast is as bland as a tuna sandwich. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. It moves along at a good pace, and is short enough for one to forgive its inadequacies. It’s a fun, middle-of-the-road fifties exploitation flick.” Scifist

” …it’s solidly directed by veteran Edward L. Cahn, and likewise solidly scripted by Curt Siodmak, another genre veteran, while the ensemble cast ably carry the thing. That said, sure, the science part of science fiction is very far-fetched, and in terms of spectacle the film might be a bit underwhelming, but as a genre thriller with shades of paranoia, this works as a very entertaining time capsule nevertheless.” Search My Trash

“Good ’50s fun abounds, with all the twisted gender ideology and antiseptic social ideals that that implies, packed in a tightly-wrought action film with strong (if entertainingly dated) conceptual support”. Peter Dendle, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia

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Choice dialogue:

“The only time my wife talks is when I’m ready to go to sleep.”

“Smash up that car. Smash it up.”

Cast and characters:
Richard Denning … Doctor Chet Walker
Angela Stevens … Joyce Walker
S. John Launer … Police Captain Dave Harris
Michael Granger … Frank Buchanan
Gregory Gaye … Doctor Wilhelm Steigg
Linda Bennett … Penny Walker
Tristram Coffin … District Attorney MacGraw
Harry Lauter … First Reporter
Larry J. Blake … Second Reporter
Charles Evans … Police Chief Camden
Pierre Watkin … Mayor Bremer

Filming locations:
Warner Brothers Ranch, Verdugo Ave. and Pass Avenue, Burbank, California

Technical details:
1 hour 9 minutes

Theatrical release:
Creature with the Atom Brain was released in the USA by Columbia Pictures as the supporting feature for It Came from Beneath the Sea.

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Film facts:
Creature with the Atom Brain was reportedly one of the first films to use squibs to simulate gunshot wounds. It was also banned in Sweden and Finland when it was first released.

Pop culture influence:
Creature with the Atom Brain is a Belgian alternative rock band formed in Antwerp in 2004. The band’s name is taken from a Roky Erickson & The Aliens song (which in turn was taken from the 1955 film).

Trailer:

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