John Agar was the second most decorated soldier of WWII (the first was Audie Murphy).
A veritable poster boy for all that made America great, the handsome hero even married America’s Sweetheart and became the first “Mr. Shirley Temple”.
Appearing alongside Hollywood greats like John Wayne in movies like Sands of Iwo Jima and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, it soon became apparent his acting mostly relied on his uncanny ability to smile out of one corner of the mouth while frowning with the opposite eyebrow.
And so began a long alcohol soaked downward spiral. Soon, a divorce court would sever his best connection in the biz; his daughter Susan would take the name of her stepfather (opting for Black instead of Agar) and a judge would later dismiss his plea for understanding over various misdemeanour charges with “Don’t blame your problems on Shirley Temple.”
But Agar kept on working, capitalizing on whatever fame he had by appearing in big studio B-movies before moving on to the drive-in fare and today’s offering, The Brain from Planet Arous.
Howco International was small cheap outfit that cranked out an occasional programmer or two for owner Joy Newton Houck Sr.’s chain of drive-ins. Their films are notoriously cheap and include such gems as Mesa of Lost Women and Ed Wood‘s “Film Noir” Jailbait. (Coincidentally, both those films share the same maddening flamenco guitar soundtrack.)
Not all directors working for Howco were lower tier, however. Case in point is Nathan Juran, a talented director who gave us The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and countless Lost in Space episodes. Reputed as having a strong work ethic, Juran wouldn’t turn down a job- he’d just remove his name from the credits and replace it with his middle name “Hertz”.
“Nathan Hertz‘s” most famous film is the astounding Attack of the 50 Foot Woman– a film that really only suffers from a goofy premise and a minuscule effects budget. As far as the directing and editing of the film is concerned, Juran has pulled it together quite nicely, earning the praise of many- chief among them being Joe Dante who qualified it as “a perfect film”.
So as you watch today’s posted feature, try not to blame the director: he’s just doing his job despite non-existent production values and , of course, the thespian skills of John Agar’s raised eyebrow.
In The Brain from Planet Arous, scientist Steve (Agar) goes up a local mountain to investigate bursts of radioactivity which have been turning his Geiger counter into a beatbox.
There he encounters Gor, a disembodied brain from space who possesses him -releasing Agar’s top shelf acting and giving him super mental powers (conveyed by tin foil lined contact lenses). He then heads over to the local military base and gives a demonstration of his full power- the ability to generate a nuclear explosion with his mind.
Well, it turns out the masterminds of Gor’s planet aren’t going to stand for this sort of intergalactic shenanigans so they send Vol, a cop brain, to Earth to stop him by possessing his dog.
I’m not making this up!
PAIN LEVEL: 7/10
QUALITY OF PAIN: Like a brain overheating.
PAINJOYMENT™: Quite high!