Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Creature With the Atom Brain (1955)

Poster for Creature With the Atom Brain (1955)Creature With the Atom Brain (1955) by #EdwardLCahn
w/#RichardDenning #AngelaStevens

An ex-Nazi mad scientist uses radio-controlled atomic-powered zombies in his quest to help an exiled American gangster return to power.

“Terror true to science, based on laboratory experiments described in national magazines!”

“You Won’t Believe Your Eyes!”

#Horror #SciFi

Creature With the Atom Brain (1955) was produced by Sam Katzman. The last movie I wrote about that he produced was The Giant Claw (1957), which is a masterpiece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema – “the best of the worst” as some people have said – I’ll simply say that I loved it. Creature With the Atom Brain, on the other hand, is actually pretty good. Surprisingly serious and effective, in a way. This could be because it was written by Curt Siodmak, who is perhaps most famous for writing The Wolf Man (1941).

Don’t get me wrong. Creature With the Atom Brain is not as good as The Wolf Man. But it has some good ideas in it, and is directed well by Edward L. Cahn – who made The She-Creature (1956), It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), and The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959) – all of which I’ve written about previously (and enjoyed).

Creature With the Atom Brain is a classic story of revenge. An exiled gangster named Frank Buchanan uses a mad scientist’s brilliant and experimental work (did I mention he was also an ex Nazi?!) to control dead bodies and make them kill the people who wronged him. Oddly enough, the ex-Nazi seems to have more of a conscience, and more qualms about what they are doing, as evidenced by this exchange:

Mad Doctor: “My theory was to use these creatures to help people live, by doing everything that was difficult and dangerous. You just want to see people die.”

Frank Buchanan: “Not just people, Steigg. Particular people. And I’ll get ’em. Every single one of them.”

Buchanan is able to speak through these walking corpses as well, so he always tells his victims that he is the one responsible for their impending doom:

Walking Dead Guy: “I’m from Buchanan. If you know that, you know why I’m here…  I said I would live to see you die. I am watching you now…”

Cult singer/songwriter Roky Erickson, whose lifelong battle with mental illness was chronicled in the excellent documentary You’re Gonna Miss Me (2005), wrote a song called Creature With the Atom Brain:

“I told you I’d come back! Remember Buchanan?
But you’re not Buchanan!
I don’t look like him, but I am him
Don’t you recognize the voice of him?
I promised to see you die, and I will!”

It’s a great song, and an accurate representation of the movie. Seek it out and give it a listen.

Creature With the Atom Brain (1955) is a surprisingly good example of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that works both as a fun, silly B-movie and as a slightly more serious B-horror/crime film. While not quite among the very best horror films of the 1950s, it’s a fair bit better than many of the schlockier B-movies that were pumped out over the course of that decade. If you’re feeling adventurous, try adding it to the playlist at your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn