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  Creature with the Atom Brain Remote Rampage
Year: 1955
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Stars: Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye, Linda Bennett, Tristram Coffin, Harry Lauter, Larry J. Blake, Charles Evans, Pierre Watkin
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: This nightclub is closing up for the evening, and the takings are brought to the manager to be placed in the safe in his office. What he and his assistant don't know is that there's someone skulking outside, although they find out soon enough when he smashes through the window after bending the security bars with his bare hands. Now he is inside and the two men draw their pistols and begin firing, but to no effect as he advances on them, babbling that he is Buchanan, an old adversary of the manager's, and he will now have his revenge. The manager protests this intruder looks nothing like Buchanan - but that doesn't stop him getting his neck and back broken.

Although Night of the Living Dead is generally regarded as year zero for the zombie genre as we know it today, featuring the horde of unstoppable undead on the rampage, there were precedents. First, there was George A. Romero's main influence, Richard Matheson's classic horror novel I Am Legend, but also there were a small amount of mostly B-movies which instructed their extras to lurch around and attack the stars in a zombie-like fashion, and prolific director Edward L. Cahn directed a couple of those. One was Invisible Invaders, and another was this, Creature with the Atom Brain, which was really indebted to a different genre entirely.

That was the gangster thriller, this was a sci-fi flick which really wanted to be a movie in the vein of the classic mob movies of the nineteen-thirties, so it was populated with criminals and cops who in this instance had something in common: there was some mystery person out to get them. Actually, it's not so much of a mystery to us, because the screenplay by Curt Siodmak, creator of a horror or sci-fi icon or two himself, gives the game away from the beginning in that we can see the atomic man who killed the nightclub manager was remote controlled. By whom? Why, the culprit is a gangster with a grudge against his old associates, that Buchanan guy (Michael Granger).

He has teamed up with an ex-Nazi scientist, Dr Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye), who placed a complicated-looking device into the brains of the recently dead and thus creates an automaton of sorts which will do his bidding, all he needs to do is speak his intructions into a microphone wired up to his machine and hey presto, your own invincible killer bloke is all yours carry out your wishes. Now, you can't have villains without a hero, so step forward who else but our old friend Richard Denning in the role of a police doctor, Chet Walker, who applies his keen mind to the pressing issues of a bunch of assassins on the loose. That we know all about it before he does tends to take a lot of the suspense out of the plot, however, so you may grow a little impatient waiting for the cops to catch up.

Still, they only had sixty-nine minutes to work with, so it's not as if they'll keep you waiting for too long. Aside from the zombie movie predictions, Creature with the Atom Brain was standard stuff, although there was no time for romance: Walker already has a stable home life with a wife Joyce (Angela Stevens) and a daughter, though that gives him more to lose when the baddies threaten them. Not that they're ever in any real danger (not sure about the doll, mind you), but when Walker's collleague Captain Dave Harris (S. John Launer) is captured and robotised by Buchanan and Steigg there is a tense moment when he shows up at the house asking Joyce where he is in a monotone. Meanwhile, those rogues have started to lash out, blowing up planes, derailing toy locomotives, and exploding a pylon, all to make the point they will not be trifled with and want to bump off everyone who slighted them. There was enough lively action involved to keep things interesting, but not quite enough to distinguish it as anything but zombie prehistory.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Edward L. Cahn  (1899 - 1963)

Hugely prolific, underrrated American director specialising in crime and sci-fi, who turned in some 120 B-movies over 30 years. Cahn began directing for Universal in 1930, and over the next two decades worked at most of the major studios, turning in films like Emergency Call, Main Street After Dark and I Cheated the Law.

In 1956, his efficient, economic style led him to Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures where he turned in his best films, such as The She Creature, Invasion of the Saucer Men, Invisible Invaders and It! The Terror from Beyond Space (the latter two big influences on Night of the Living Dead and Alien).

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