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Edward L. Cahn
Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer
Writing Credits:
Curt Siodmak

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

Rated NA.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 69 min.
Price: $99.95
Release Date: 9/14/21
Available as Part of “Cold War Creatures” Four-Film Collection

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Russell Dyball
• Introduction by Film Historian Kim Newman
• “Before & Beyond the Cold War Creatures” Documentary
• Super 8 Version
• Trailer
• Image Gallery


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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Creature With the Atom Brain [Blu-Ray] (1955)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 9, 2021)

After the detonation of the “A-bomb” at the end of World War II, nuclear topics became prominent in American culture. That led to sci-fi/horror flicks along the lines of 1955’s Creature With the Atom Brain.

A native of Italy, gangster Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger) gets deported back to his home country as punishment for his crimes. There he meets Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye), a German scientist.

Steigg developed a way to reanimate dead tissue and create zombies whose “minds” he can control. Buchanan attempts to use these methods to exact revenge on his enemies and return to power.

Despite the overtones of that synopsis, Buchanan and Steigg don’t really get a ton of screen time. Instead, Brain devotes most of its length to police procedural elements, as it concentrates on cops Dr. Chet Walker (Richard Denning) and Captain Dave Harris (S. John Launer).

Though we occasionally spend time with the villains, much of the movie follows the investigation, a choice that makes Brain less of a horror flick than anticipated. Because it devotes so much time to the police, it becomes more of a detective story than anything else.

Still, Brain tosses in enough creepy material to span the two genres, and it does so in a moderately effective manner. While I don’t many will view this as a horror classic, it manages some clever elements.

Though Brain struggles to fill its brief 69-minute running time, as it devotes far too much space to “shoe leather”. We see Steigg and Buchanan put on their radiation suits and crawl through a tunnel. We see characters get out of cars and walk to buildings. We see characters leave buildings and step into cars.

All of this footage would feel superfluous no matter what, but when the film in question comes with such a short running time, the extraneous shots become more problematic. Brain can’t quite generate enough story material to take up the full 69 minutes.

Still, when Brain engages in narrative issues, it becomes reasonably engaging. It comes with an intriguing twist on the zombie genre, and though potentially trite, the emphasis on the police investigation adds life to the proceedings.

A version of the story solely from the villains’ point of view would become tedious. Since Brain allows us to dig into plot points as the cops learn them, we get a more engaging take on the story.

Toss in some surprisingly brutal scenes of violence and a generally dark tone and Brain works better than the usual campy 50s horror. It keeps us with it across its 69 minutes and offers some good twists on the genre.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Creature With the Atom Brain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an erratic but mostly satisfactory presentation.

For the most part, sharpness worked fine. Occasional soft spots occurred, some caused by optical shots or artificial zooms, but the movie generally offered appealing delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. The movie looked pretty grainy, but print flaws remained minor, as small scratches popped up infrequently.

Blacks felt deep and dense, while shadows felt well-rendered. Aspects of the image betrayed the movie’s age and low-budget origins, but it still seemed good most of the time.

Given the aforementioned age and monetary restrictions of Brain, I didn’t expect much from the film’s LPCM monaural audio, but the mix proved surprisingly robust. Not that the mix would compare with modern efforts, of course, but the track seemed pretty peppy.

Speech came across as reasonably natural, and the lines lacked edginess or other issues. Music displayed fairly nice range and clarity.

Effects also showed good breadth and displayed only minor instances of distortion. This was a solid soundtrack for an older flick.

As we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from film historian Russell Dyball. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story/characters and genre topics, cast and crew, various production notes and Dyball’s opinions about the film itself.

This means a mix of interpretation/criticism with movie facts. I’d like more of the latter and less of the former, but Dyball still makes this a pretty engaging track.

We can watch the movie with or without an introduction by film historian Kim Newman. It goes for eight minutes, 33 seconds as Newman delivers some notes about the flick, its genre and its creators. Newman gives us a decent lead-in to the film.

Before & Beyond the Cold War Creatures delivers a one-hour, 13-minute, 57-second documentary with film critic/historian Stephen R. Bissette. As we view archival materials related to the subject matter, we get notes about the life and career of producer Sam Katzman.

This doesn’t become an especially dynamic presentation, as various old ads and articles fill the screen for long stretches. Still, Bissette tells a lot about Katzman and makes this an informative piece, even if it lacks much panache.

Next comes a Super 8 Version of Brain. It spans 19 minutes, 27 seconds and indeed provides an abbreviated cut of the film.

Obviously it loses a whole lot of movie, as it runs 50 minutes shorter than the finished product. To compensate, the Super 8 edition adds narration, but it still seems fairly incoherent.

Unsurprisingly, the print looks pretty terrible, too. Nonetheless, it becomes a cool historical curiosity.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with an Image Gallery. It shows 27 shots that mix publicity stills and shots from the movie. It becomes a decent but kind of blah collection.

Nothing about Creature With the Atom Brain redefines the horror genre, but it creates a reasonably lively thriller. Despite some iffy moments, it usually seems creative and involving. The Blu-ray comes with generally good picture, better than average audio and an array of bonus materials. This turns into a stronger movie than I expected.

Note that Atom Brain comes only as part of a four-film package called “Cold War Creatures”. In addition to Atom Brain, it brings three other movies from producer Sam Katzman: The Werewolf, Zombies of Mora Tau and The Giant Claw.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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