The Atomic Brain,
a.k.a. Monstrosity
directed by Joseph V. Mascelli
(Sinister, 1964)

Let's not beat around the bush here: The Atomic Brain just isn't any good. From the title, you might expect to see some sort of interesting, even intense, science-fiction thriller; what you get in reality is a snooze fest that you're only too happy to forget once it's over. As far as the atomic stuff goes, all we learn is that some type of atomic rigamarole goes into the unsanctioned scientific experiments of Dr. Frank. (A body-stealing doctor named Dr. Frank -- brilliant!) Forget about the brains, as well, because we don't get to see a single brain anywhere (nor can I detect any brains whatsoever among the entire cast and crew).

This film is all about a grouchy old lady who wants to recapture her youth -- actually, she wants to capture a second youth in the body of a stacked young woman. We all would like to avoid getting old and dying, but Ms. March (Marjorie Eaton) has something most of us don't have -- a mad scientist in the basement perfecting the science of brain transplantation. Naturally, you don't just start out transplanting human brains, though; Dr. Frank's little menagerie of walking weirdos counts among them a man with a dog's brain, a woman with a cat's brain and a woman who walks around with no brain at all. Oddly enough, the woman without a brain is actually smarter than everyone else in this movie -- she, unlike our trio of poor dumb victims, actually tries to leave the house and grounds at some point. The three foreign housekeepers Ms. March hires never even try to escape, despite the fact that they are pretty much on their own most of the time, know they are in danger and have only a decrepit old woman and an aging lackey of a fellow standing between them and freedom. Don't give me any excuses about the "animal man" lurking out in the yard, either, because these gals watch the creature get chained up and still don't have the gumption to make a run for it.

Yes, it's the weirdest beauty contest of them all, as Ms. March ogles and feels up her nubile young charges looking for the perfect new body for her sick little brain. Miss England wows the audience and judge with a completely ridiculous accent (which seems to come and go quite a bit) and a hip-swaying walking style that only young, healthy hips can hope to survive. Should she, however, be unable to fulfill her duties for any reason (such as having her eye raked out by a fellow contestant who now thinks she is a cat, for example), the plainer yet passably attractive runner-up will be expected to take her place.

There's a bit of a twist at the end, but honestly, who really cares? Never before has the act of playing God been such a complete waste of time. Watching Ms. March shuffle down the stairs is pretty much the highlight of this boring film that promises little and delivers even less.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 13 August 2005

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