Sunday, June 19, 2022

THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957) (The Film Detective Blu-ray Review)

Special-Edition Blu-ray 

Label: The Film Detective 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 71 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) and Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Director: Nathan Juran
Cast: John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller, Thomas Browne Henry, Dale Tate

Late-50's sci-fi entry The Brain from Planet Arous (1957) was directed by Nathan Juran (The Deadly Mantis), and  while it's not his best work it is a very entertaining bit of sci-fi about a surprisingly horny floating alien brain who attempts to take over Earth. In it the giant brain alien arrives on Earth in the hot Southern California desert where it takes refuge in a cave inside the aptly named Mystery Mountain. Nearby nuclear scientist pals Steve March (John Agar, The Mole Men) and Dan (Robert Fuller, What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?) take notice a weird amount of gamma radiation emanating from the area and set off to explore the source. Arriving at Mystery Mountain they encounter a terrifying giant brain with glowing eyeballs, an alien life-form named Gor from planet Arous who is all about taking over the Earth, with pans to use telepathic mind-control to enslave the human race and build a nuclear powered armada to take over his home planet. The big bad brain flash-fries Dan in a display of brain-powered atomic light and then inhabits Steve's body where it can remain undetected until it chooses to reveal itself to the world and showcase it's extortionary destructive ability. It all would have probably worked too but Steve's girlfriend Sally (Joyce Meadows, I Saw What You Did) notices a change in her beau's behavior, the alien is super-horny, power-hungry, and apparently a better kisser than normal Steve, and she teams-up with her father John (Thomas B, Henry, 20 Million Miles To Earth) and another floating brain-alien named, the benevolent Vol who has been sent to Earth to capture the fugitive Gor, to stop it before he  can enact his diabolical plan to take over the Earth. 

The flick is admittedly a bit clumsy in it's execution and both unintentionally and perhaps intentionally comical, but I have always thought that it was a fun slice of silly 50's sci-fi. My favorite stuff, other than the so-bad-it's-good big giant floating alien brain with glowing eyeballs, is b-movie icon John Agar as the seething power-hungry host tot he alien villain, cackling like a comic book baddie with strange silvery eyes and the power to explode planes passing overhead with just the power of his mind. As Gor inhabits his human host he makes some rather randy passes towards Steve's girlfriend, kissing her deeply and pawing at her like a horn dog as much as a late-50's film could anyway - there's a reason the alien planet is named after the Greek god of love!  

A totally fun example of the sort of cut-rate budget 50's sci-fi that was popular at this time, director Nathan Juran helmed better flicks like The Deadly Mantis (1957) - a personal favorite of mine, the Ray Harryhausen team-up The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) - arguably his best work, and the cheese-tastic cult-classic Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958). This diabolical brain from outer space endeavor might not be ion par with The War of the Worlds (1953) or Invaders From Mars but it's still quite entertaining with a terrific over-the-top turn from Agar as the host of the intergalactic criminal, and I love that the bounty hunter alien Vor ends up inhabiting Sally's dog! 

Audio/Video: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from The Film Detective in 1080p HD in both the 1.85 cropped theatrical aspect ratio and the 1.33:1 open matte format, and is advertised as a 4K restoration, apparently sourced from the Wade Williams collection. The cropped widescreen looks comfortable and doesn't feel too tightly framed. The black and white image is sharper and more consistent than the previously reviewed DVD but not without issue, looking a tad soft in spots with weak contrast and outdoor scenes bathed in the sun looking a bit overblown, but it does maintain an organic filmic quality with course grain. There are some noticeable instances of minor print damage and faint vertical lines but overall it's a nice upgrade with some modest fine detail in the close-ups of facial features and clothing textures.  Audio comes by way of uncompressed English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono or lossy Dolby Digital mono with optional English subtitles. A clean presentation that isn't overly dynamic but does the job, dialogue is rendered well and the Walter Green (The Pink Panther Show) sounds good. 

The Film Detective offer some solid extras, beginning with a brand new video Introduction by star Joyce Meadows that runs about 12-min. She is clearly is having a blast talking about her first starring role with plenty of humor and wit, doing so while touring the a couple of the filming locations and promoting the Blu-ray release. Then onto a brand new Audio Commentary with historians Tom Weaver, David Schecter, Larry Blamire and The Brain From Planet Arous stars Joyce Meadows. A solid track with Weaver offering hi usual warm, witty and thoroughly researched examination of the film, including pre recorded and printed interview excerpts with the stars, as well as Schecter offering insight into the budget Walter Green score. Ballyhoo Motion Pictures offer up two new featurettes, the 12-min The Man Before the Brain: Director Nathan Juran narrated by Author/Film Historian Justin Humphreys by and then the 14-min The Man Behind the Brain: The World of Nathan Juran featuring C Courtney Joyner. Both offering appreciations of director Nathan Juran, subjects examined include his early life, military career where he was exposed to filmmaking, forays into architecture, which lead to working for 20th Century Fox as an art director, winning the Oscar for How Green Was My Valley (1941), before moving to Universal where he created the mansion for the film Harvey (1950), which later became the iconic Munster mansion in the beloved TV series. They also  explore Juran's first-time directing with the Gothic thriller The Black Castle (1952) starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. after the original director quit, which kickstarted his career, then going onto direct several westerns before getting into science fiction and fantasy in the 50's. There's also discussion of how he was quite serious about filmmaking and put a lot of effort into the cheapies, which put him at odds with budget-conscious producers like Jacques R. Marquette. These are the usual handsomely produced featurettes from Ballyhoo with movie posters and still, footage from the films and associated films. 

The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the terrific original illustrated movie poster. Inside there's a 10-page illustrated booklet with writing from Tom Weaver exploring the career of producer Jacques Marquette who write a treatment for the screenplay which was based on author Hal Clement's short story "The Needle" about an alien bounty hunter in pursuit of a criminal on Earth, which was then scripted into this film by writer Ray Buffman (Teenage Monster). 

Special Features: 
- Full-color booklet with original essay 'The Brains Behind "The Brain" - The Sci-Fi Career of Producer Jacques Masrquette' by author/historian Tom Weaver
- Audio Commentary track by historians Tom Weaver, David Schecter, Larry Blamire and The Brain From Planet Arous star Joyce Meadows
- The Man Before the Brain: Director Nathan Juran (12 min)
- The Man Behind the Brain: The World of Nathan Juran with author/film Historian Justin Humphreys (14 min)
- Restored film presented in its original 1.85 theatrically released format and in 1.33:1 full-frame format
- New Introduction by star Joyce Meadows (12 min) 

Screenshots from The Film Detective Blu-ray: