Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

31 Days of Halloween: The Brainiac

Germany has its expressionist films, France has its New Wave cinema, Italy has its giallo, and Mexico has its horror films. Didn't know that, did you? Well, it's true, apparently. I didn't know until recently that Mexico was known for its horror films, but they keep showing up on the various podcasts that I listen to.

1962's The Brainiac is one that gets frequent mention. It's one of many Mexican films brought to the States by K. Gordon Murray, a film distributor who is more well-known for peddling children's fare than he is for horror movies--though 1959's Santa Claus straddles the line by pitting St. Nick the Jolly Old Elf against Old Nick the Honest-to-Goodness Christian Devil. I've been interested in seeing The Brainiac for some time, but I felt burned by They Saved Hitler's Brain (which is not a Mexican movie, but for some reason I thought it was), so I avoided it until tonight when I noticed that it had recently come to Netflix. I'm glad I've finally seen it.

The Brainiac begins in 1661, where the Inquisition has determined Baron Vitelius of Estara to be a heretic. After listing a litany of crimes that would make Abdul Alhazred and the Marquis de Sade jealous, they sentence him to burn at the stake. A comet passes overhead as the flames are lit, and the Baron (who has been blissfully reminiscing on his transgressions) threatens to return with it in three hundred years to wreak vengeance on the descendants of his executioners.

Cut to 1961. The comet is back and the Baron with it. He disguises himself, and sets about to locating his targets, all of whom, conveniently, are still in the same geographical area. The Baron has hypnotic powers which he uses to enlist the help of two astronomers, one of whom is descended from the lawyer who defended him unsuccessfully at his trial.

If none of this sounds very weird, it's because you haven't seen the baron attack anyone yet. He transforms into a pointy-nosed, brain-eating monster with a forked tongue and hands that look like a cross between lobster claws and a the nozzle on a fuel pump. He uses the weird claws to suck out his victims' brains, and stores them in a chafing dish in his liquor cabinet. The police are puzzled by what appear to be drilled holes in the victim's skulls.

The story is ridiculous, but it's well-paced, doesn't get boring, and it's clear what's going on (which was not the case in, say, They Saved Hitler's Brain). The special effect (singular) looks like a papier-mâché monster costume you could have made without adult assistance when you were in fourth grade. The dialogue is full of strange, little gems which probably come from having to make the English translation more or less match the actors' lips. I don't want to oversell it, but The Brainiac is exactly what I'm looking for in a B-movie because the whole package works. The Brainiac is good at being bad without being tedious. Three brains. ()

Enjoy the trailer:
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