Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Evil Has A Rubber Head

Seeing as the last film I reviewed here was a Mexican horror film that had some class, I figured we would venture into the opposite side of things with a different Mexican horror movie that -- well, let's just say class is not one of its virtues, though it does have a certain something. Actually, it has a lot of somethings; none of them are classy.

The Brainiac (original title El baron del terror) is a movie that has been floating around for years thanks to K. Gordon Murray's habit of buying up unusual films (mostly from Mexico, it seems) on the cheap, adding English dubbing, slapping English credits on, and then kicking them out the door to terrorize both television and theaters. Many a childhood, if you are at least over 40 or so, may have been uplifted or scarred by seeing these films at Saturday matinees.

It begins with Baron Vitelius before a religious inquisition facing charges of heresy, necromancy, violating the honor of both married and unmarried women, dogmatism (can we bring this one back to use against annoying hipsters?), and other nasty things that were apparently illegal in Mexico in 1661. Even after a fresh-faced young man attempts to speak in favor of the Baron, Vitelius is sentenced to death by fire. Oh, and the young man is given 200 lashes for his kindness. I wonder what the punishment would be for spitting on the sidewalk.

As the Baron burns (with some cheap forced perspective special effects), he calls out the inquisitors by name and promises to return in 300 years, by way of comet no less, and destroy their ancestors. Yeah, that'll show those guys!

In the year 1961, the Baron makes good on his threat. He returns, but now he is a hideously, or hilariously, ugly creature with sucker pincers for hands and a forked tongue that Gene Simmons would kill for. After sucking out some random guy's brain with that tongue (don't ask, just go with it), we find Vitelius can also morph back into his former human self and magically remove clothes from others. Oh, just think of what Russ Meyer could have done with that premise!

The Baron weasels his way into the upper-crust society to gain the confidence of the descendants of his persecutors. Once in place, he starts killing them, one family at a time. In between, he stops to taste the brains of a few random people just to keep things interesting.

If that description sounds loopy, just watch the movie. You see things that will have your jaw thumping the floor if you aren't curled into a fetal position from laughter. We have the comet/meteor, lowered by visible wires (not visible if you are watching a low-resolution copy), that bounces and threatens to break apart on impact. You'll see entire scenes play out in front of backdrops that appear to be enlarged photos, and, yes, you can see the shadows of the actors on the "objects" supposedly in the distance. You will satisfy your inner foodie as you watch Vitelius eat brains out of a goblet with a very, very long spoon. You can scratch your head in confusion at a police force that issues flamethrowers to inept plainclothes detectives.

Deserving its own bit of recognition is the Brainiac creature. The head looks appropriately ugly, but it seems that was not scary enough. What would be more frightening? Why, having the creature's head inflate and deflate to cover the fact that actor could not manipulate the features, of course! You really have to admire, or pity, the person in the costume. Oh, and let's not forget those weird pincer hands with the suckers of the end of the, umm, fingers. They seem to be fairly useless as far as grabbing victims, so the Baron usually ends up grabbing a person in a bear hug as he adds unlicensed trepanation to his ever-growing list of crimes against man, nature, God, and the poor audience.

Shockingly, I found this piece of insanity on Netflix, and the version they have seems to be taken from the restored and remastered version released by CasaNegra and Panik House Entertainment. On Netflix, they had it in the original language with English subtitles. If you buy the DVD, and why wouldn't you?, you have the option of original language as well as the English dubbed version. Note that scenes originally trimmed from the K. Gordon Murray version have been restored, but they are still in the original language, so don't freak when a scene is suddenly filled with Spanish. Just turn on the English subtitles and leave them on.

If you are looking for a film to introduce someone to the wonderful world of weird cinema, this would be a good selection, especially if paired with some alcohol or the mind-altering substance of your choice, though I wouldn't recommend LSD. Save that stuff for Old Yeller.

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