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DVD Review: Evil Brain From Outer Space

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In all my years watching Gamera and Godzilla films, I thought I had seen all the possible Japanese monster movie variants, but, somehow, this little film slid by my attention. First, while this is technically a review of a DVD, the fact is that I watched this 1956 black and white film on one of those cheapo 50-movie packs from Mill Creek Entertainment, so there was absolutely nothing in terms of extra features. Yet, so what? If one were to expect features for a film that was clearly made for a 1950 television Captain Video And His Video Rangers knockoff for Japan, well, one would be silly.

In fact, even saying this was a 1950s Captain Video knockoff is wrong. It is closer to the old Buster Crabbe serials from America, in the 1930s; as this film was compiled from three episodes (seven, eight, and nine) of a film serial called Super Giant. At a mere 78 minutes (less than half the length of the three-episode arc), it’s rather brisk, and the editing obviously knocks a great deal out, as characters appears and disappear as if never even there. The only constant is the hero- a superhero named Starman, played by a not so buff Ken Utsui, who wears a helmet with a bent antenna (yes, just one), and undies that reveal his nipples and a big lump in his pants that I never saw in the George Reeves version of Superman. Oh yes, the film’s title, Evil Brain From Outer Space, had me thinking this film would be akin to the American sci fi camp classic from that same decade, The Brain From Planet Arous, which was made a year later. No such luck, and, of course, no John Agar, either!

Basically, Starman battles the mutants sent by a race of creatures who seek to take over the Earth. They are called Zimarians, as they come from Planet Zimar. Their leader is the brain of a creature called Balazar. Why? Why not? The video is awful, the editing choppy, and in a full screen 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The dubbing is sub-Godzilla films level. It was directed Koreyoshi Akasaka, for what it’s worth. That stated, the film is clearly aimed at kids, and as such, succeeds as well as Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. The effects are cheap, yet oddly effective — as when Starman and a clawed mutant just jump up, there is a quick jump cut, and then they jump down in a different place. Not high tech, but much more effective than the scenes of Starman in flight, which make the Superman flights of George Reeves seem CGI-induced, by comparison. 

The character of Starman’s greatest gift, however, is his wardrobe change — from suit to costume by simply ducking under the camera in suit, and leaping up in costume. Must have saved time searching for phone booths, although, since Starman makes no pretense of a double identity, one wonders why he’s ever in civilian duds. After all, at every opportunity he mentions he’s from the Emerald Planet. Other notable things about this film include a scene where the Zimarians threaten a convoy of ‘Arabs’ arriving by airplane. Seeing Japanese actors play Arabs was quite chuckle-inducing — especially seeing the elaborate makeup used to ‘un-slant’ their eyes. The two most vile mutants are one lizard-like creature with ‘cobalt nails’, who twice battles Starman, and a Japanese babe with a pointed nose, but no real apparent powers. Both succumb to Starman, as do the Zimarians and Balazar’s Brain, which fizzles once a killing liquid is dumped on it. Why this shriveled little brain needs to inhale and exhale is another mystery, but, when the liquid fries the brain, one would think the folk in the room would cover their mouths and noses as to not inhale the smile. No? 

Then there is the great gift to bad films that lack resources and need to quicken action — the intonations of a solemn narrator. Here’s how the film opens:

On the planet Zimar, far within the Moveen Galaxy, a de-controlled robot assassinated the omnipotent Balazar, who is known to possess the most brilliant mind in the universe. So powerful was Balazar’s genius that as he lay dying, his brain ordered built a mechanism which would keep it alive even though his body was destroyed. And now Balazar’s Brain seeks universal conquest!

But here on the Emerald Planet, the Highest Council in the Marpet Galaxy considers the terrible, immediate menace to the solar system of Earth, and to the planet Earth itself. Balazar’s Brain leads the infiltration of Earth, preparing it for the attack forces which will follow. And that attack will be with nuclear weapons. The flood of radioactivity which inevitably will spill out into space, is what primarily concerns these Emerald Planet creatures. High radioactivity, the Emerald creatures realize, will poison even the distant reaches of outer space. As a result, it is possible that in time, others planets such as this will become uninhabitable. The Council now is deciding what must be done.

Not exactly The Day The Earth Stood Still, but, what the hell? After all, the film joyfully reuses the same shots of fight scenes from early in the picture later, as if one is not supposed to recall them. Regardless, I still wonder about some of the characters who appear within the film, then disappear after they have served whatever purpose they were created to serve. There are several evil doctors, a lab assistant who steals the brain in the film’s opening shots, a few local detectives from the Tokyo Police Department, but, most of all, an exceptionally nerdy pair of siblings — a four-eyed nerd girl about ten years of age, and her eight-year or so old snotty little brother-forerunner to the baseball cap wearing little punks of the Godzilla series. After the boy, naturally, penetrates the impenetrable defenses of the bumbling Zimarians, and is finally seen, we see him run away, get a cut, because the denuoement has obviously been left on the cutting room floor, and then never see his, nor his nerdy sister’s, sorry little ass again.

Still, watching Starman battle the same idiotic henchmen — who never swarm en masse, but wait to go one on one with the clearly stronger superhero — is a hoot; no matter how many times the exact same shots are recycled. But, are you telling me that, fifty years ago, they couldn’t have forced Utsui to wear an undershirt beneath his costume? After all, areolae are not that… well, you get the point. I guess that’s all one could expect for a film that clocks in at less than twenty cents to see. Still, the lone disappointment with the film had to be the fact that Starman never got a chance to make ‘nice’ with any of the handful of attractive young Japanese babes on hand. It’s simply not fair to leave such allure in the air, and then not consummate it. I’d have to give this film a slight recommendation, if only for its silly camp value, and inoffensive mind-numbing. That’s still better than the majority of superhero films today. Areola power!

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