When selecting the best of the "Brain" films, one must
bear in mind that many of the grisly elements indigenous to low-budget
shock movies overlap. A few simple ground rules are in order:
No transplant films (that's a genre unto itself, including The
Thing With Two Heads and The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant).
Decapitation and disembodiment (Man Without a Body, Thing That
Couldn't Die) only marginally qualify (They Saved Hitler's
Brain makes the list on the strength of it having that eminently
exploitable word, "Brain," in its title). Got it?
10. Brain of Blood (1971)
That terrifying team of Sam Sherman and Al Adamson, who kept the
low-budget horror film breathing throughout much of the '70s,
cooked up this low-rent mad doc shocker featuring Kent Taylor,
Grant Williams and Reed Hadley. Taylor sets about transplanting
brains but comes up with Gor, a mindless monster played by John
9. Monstrosity (1963)
Retitled Atomic Brain for TV release, the torpid story
centers around a dying millionaire crone who suckers au pairs
into employment, sizing up their bodies as prospective homes for
her elderly brain. Character actor Frank Gerstle is the atomic
doc conscripted to perform the transplant.
8. The Brainiac (1961)
Mexican horror maestro, actor/producer Abel Salazar, served up
this disturbing south-of-the-border shocker, originally titled
El Baron del Terror. Salazar stars as a resuscitated nobleman
with bushy eyebrows, a pointy nose and a very long tongue, the
better to slurp the gray matter from the skulls of his victims.
7. The Brain Eaters (1958)
Not necessarily a "Brain" film, but worthy of the list
by virtue of its alien mind-control scenario. This time, the invasion
originates from within the earth, in a plot with striking similarities
to Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. A vivid, crudely exciting
6. They Saved Hitler's Brain (1963)
A piece of this and a piece of that movie, this fiasco was cobbled
together from new footage, stock footage and hunks of an early-'60s
thriller called Madmen of Mandoras. It's junk however you
slice it with the goofy, grinning Fuhrer's head snarling telepathic
orders from a bell jar.
5. The Brain That Wouldn't Die
A truly sleazy cult item with much to recommend it. Kooky surgeon
Herb Evers keeps the jabbering head of his decapitated fiancee
alive in his lab while stalking the strip clubs in search of a
replacement body. One or two moments of genuine gore, the work
of the whatzit in Herb's closet, highlight the action.
4. Donovan's Brain (1953)
Dedicated doc Lew Ayers keeps the titular gray matter alive in
a jar, but soon finds himself possessed by the manipulative brain
of the deceased millionaire, Donovan. From Curt Siodmak's influential
novel, this flick is moody and gripping in all the right places.
3. Creature With the Atom Brain (1955)
The formidable team of Katzman and Cahn (producer and director
respectively) turned out this sturdy shocker about a herd of zombies
with atomically-enhanced noggins. Plot holes galore, but who cares?
The great Richard Denning, as a two-fisted pathologist, is at
2. Fiend Without a Face (1958)
Producer Richard Gordon was one of the brains behind this visceral
British shocker, starring American actor Marshall Thompson. The
spectacle of dozens of human brains, leaping at victims, their
spinal cords trailing behind them like tails, scared the hell
out of many an impressionable young "Boomer."
1. The Brain From Planet Arous (1957)
It's got to top the list, what with Agar, Fuller, Joyce Meadows
and a huge, translucent brain with beady eyes and a commanding
voice. In addition, it features the three greatest supporting
players in B-movie history: Thomas Browne Henry, Morris Ankrum
and Bronson Canyon. Ya can't beat it!