Brainiac (1961)

Let us give a merry ‘hello’ again to our dear friend, Mr. K. Gordon Murray. Those who read my review of Santa Claus may remember him. He’s the fellow who brought a berserk collection of Mexican fantasy films north of the border during the ’60s. These flicks included insane children’s pictures, goofy vampire movies and, of course, numerous sagas of crime and monster fighting wrestlers. Added bonuses in Murray’s English language versions were the hilariously stilted dialog (presumably literal translations of the Spanish script) and your typically lame dubbing.

Plus, this particular movie once pretty much saved my life. It was at the only bad B-Fest I ever attended. It was also the first one where I managed to convince fellow Bad Movie aficionado Andrew Muchoney to attend. It would be years before I could persuade him to go again. The killer came with a 1:00 a.m. showing of this one horrible film, a Navy anti-drug flick called A Trip to Where. By some grotesque, almost impossible coincidence, Andrew and I had seen it for the first time on the previous Tuesday (!). Even then we had hated it, muscling through on sheer guts and will power. To be confronted with it like this, only a few days later, seemed like some horrible cosmic joke.

On top of this, I was ill, plagued by a rancid stomach ache (Note to self: Always take Tums to B-Fest). As B-Fest is an extreme experience, a bad one is extremely bad. As it headed towards 4:00 in the morning, we were both getting rather surly. Then, a miracle occurred: the greatest movie I’ve even first seen at a B-Fest started. Better than Dr. Minx. Better than USS VD: Ship of Shame. Even better than Fearless Fighters. It was, of course, The Brainiac. Watching it, Andrew and I both entered that euphoric zen state that only a truly perfect Bad Movie can induce. And so, we lived to see another year.

The film’s opening credits play over a drawing of (I think) a winged demon preparing to cut off a victim’s toes with a large pair of scissors. Needless to say, this has pretty much nothing to do with our movie. Then we begin. It’s the year 1661. How do I know? Well, the number “1661” comes leaping onto the screen, in a spooky (well, you know…) ‘bleeding’ font style. We are witnessing the prosecution of a fellow by the Mexican arm of the Spanish Inquisition. I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that! (If you don’t get that joke, go watch some Monty Python tapes.) Then starts a hilariously verbose ‘courtroom’ scene, so inane and convoluted that it eventually comes to seem oddly realistic. The charges are read in a loud, portentous fashion:

“We, the Grand Inquisitor, Protector of the Faith against heretic Sins of Apostasy in the City of Mexico and all the states and dominions in the province of New Spain and its Vice Royalties and Governing Bodies through Royal Audiences in all the cities and states do proclaim that the other Inquisitors, and I, have attended this hearing in the Secret Chamber of the Holy Tribunal of the Inquisition in Mexico to do justice in the trial that has been initiated against the aforementioned Baron Vitelius of Estara, of unknown origin…”

Here we finally cut to an angle where we can actually see Vitelius. He’s bound with chains, sitting in a chair and surrounded by hooded members of the court. He sits stone faced throughout the rest of the lengthy monologue, except for those moments when he flashes a wide impertinent smile to rile his accusers. This presumably occurred at the behest of an offscreen assistant director, who periodically hectored the thespian by hissing, “Psst! Act! Act!!!”. I’ll indicate these smirks and smiles as they occur in the dialog, as noted below. All in all, the result tends to remind one of a medieval version of the TV show Make Me Laugh. Only here, the comics wear hooded black robes and the contestant, should he fail to remain straight-faced, gets burned at the stake.

“…who has repeatedly refused to state same. Aware of the edicts and merits of this trial, and the evidence and suspicion resulting thereof.”

The prosecutor now reaches for a scroll containing the trial transcripts. That’s right, there’s more.

“Report on the Sentence and the Trial by Torment that this Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition instituted against said Baron Vitelius for Heresy and the Instigation of Heresy, for practicing Dogmatism, for having used Witchcraft, Superstitions and Conjurations for Depraved and Dishonest Ends. For having employed the Art of Necromancy, [SMIRK] Invoking the Dead, and trying to Foretell the Future through the Use of Corpses. For having seduced Married Women [SMILE]…and Maidens!”

“Having taken note of the facts of this trial, we sentenced Count

Vitelius to be subjected to Torment, as far as is justified. And we warned him, that if during said torment, he should be maimed in any way, or should die, or his blood should be drawn in carrying out the sentence, this would serve as Proof of His Guilt, and show that he had not repented. As soon as he was informed of this sentence, the accused declared that he actually welcomed the decision, and that this Holy Tribunal could torment him [SMILE] all it wished!”

“And therefore, he was conducted to the Torture Chamber, and his arms were trussed behind his back. The rope was then tightened by being twisted thirty times in a row. But the Accused merely laughed with disdain at these Acts of Justice! [LAUGHS] Because of this Bold Defiance, he was then laid upon the rack, and with his arms and legs almost torn from his body, he continued to make jest of our Holy Authority! [SMILES] When the Inquisitors witnessed this spectacle, they ordered that the torment be ceased. But since they felt that he had not received sufficient punishment, they ordered that the torture be repeated, whenever deemed necessary.”

“When the accused was notified of this decision, he declared that he would welcome as much torment as we wished to give him! [SMILE] At that time, his bonds were cut, and he was taken to a small jail cell, close to the torture chamber. From where he has been brought to this room to receive our decision, and our sentence!”

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!Vitelius laughs at various Acts of Justice.

With this the scroll is finally read. But the bizarre, stilted dialog keeps on coming. “And now,” the Prosecutor guy sputters, “as if our Justice had not been sufficiently ridiculed, a witness has come before this Tribunal to defend the accused! This is the Epitome of all Brazen Defiance!” Watching this ‘trial’ as presented, two thoughts come to mind. The first is that O. J. Simpson probably wouldn’t have fared so well in this particular legal venue. The second is that this is apparently what Ted Kennedy thought would become of the American Justice System if Robert Bork had been appointed to the Supreme Court.

The witness, one Marcos Miranda, is escorted into the secret chamber. He’s basically appearing as a character witness, telling the Inquisitors about what a lovely chap the Baron is. However, one wonders if this is an audience that will appreciate the fact that Vitelius has worked diligently to promote “the Arts and Sciences.” Apparently not, for Miranda is quickly sentenced to receive two hundred lashes (!) for his testimony. He is then hauled off, so that this latest Act of Justice may be facilitated.

That taken care of, the Inquisitors huddle together, and come to the none too surprising verdict that Vitelius is guilty on all charges. The ball and chain laden Baron stands to hear their sentence, which is basically that he be abused in various ways and then burned at the stake. “If my body is to be burned,” Vitelius suavely replies, “it shall be without chains.” At this his chains disappear, materializing instead on his guards. I guess that this is to show what a cool customer he is. Still, you’d think that it would rather diminish his chances of getting an appeal. After this little sorcerous display, Vitelius gives a smart nod to the Inquisitors and walks off, as if he were David Copperfield wrapping up a performance at the Sands.

Next we see Vitelius bound to a stake, wearing his “clothes of shame.” This is basically a white robe with a tall dunce cap, adorned with a large X. (Insert your own ‘Malcolm X’ joke here.) A horrified Miranda looks on, apparently none the worse for wear for those two hundred lashes he received. Now we get into a little social satire (very little), as the excited but hypocritical crowd watches on with glee. One angry father tells his innocent acting daughter (presumably one of Vitelius’ willing lovers) that he’ll pay for ‘what he did to you.’

We also see a couple of old biddies, pretending to be pious but actually reveling in the occasion. For a further examination of this stereotype, see my review of Change of Habit. The first old biddy excitedly observes that, “The Viceroy’s Lady is in tears because they’re burning her boyfriend! The poor dear!” Her friend, however, looks around worriedly, then rebukes her. “Shhhh! Not so loud or they’ll burn you too! The Inquisitors’ spies will hear you! Don’t you know their ears are bigger than mountains?!” Hmm. That must make them extremely efficient at gathering information. On the other hand, it probably limits their usefulness as undercover operatives.

Torches are applied to the wood piled around the stake. The ‘burning’ is ‘achieved’ by putting a fire close to the camera, while also shooting Vitelius in the background through a deep focus lens. This movie magic creates the ‘illusion’ (sort of) that the flames and the Baron are in rough proximity to each other. Also used are a couple of extremely poor matte effects. Amazingly (sort of), although the matted flames are twenty feet high, Vitelius remains, for the moment, unscathed. Meanwhile, the Inquisitors sit around nodding at each other, as if to say, “Yep, good burning!”

Suddenly, a bright spotlight is applied to Vitelius’ face. Looking up, he (and we) espy one of the ten worst optical effects in cinema history. Apparently, this is supposed to represent a ‘comet.’ To make sure that we understand what is happening, we see Vitelius look up towards the sky, and we cut to the comet. Miranda also looks up. We cut to the comet. Miranda, amazed, looks to Vitelius. Vitelius looks back at him, then they both look up again. We cut to the comet. Vitelius looks back down to Miranda. Miranda returns his look, and Vitelius looks back up again. We cut to the comet. OK, so does everybody ‘get’ it, already? They keep looking up into the sky because that’s where the object is. That’s because it’s a ‘comet,’ which would, of course, be up in the heavens. (If you haven’t gotten it by now, there’s not much I can do for you.)

Vitelius now addresses the Inquisitors, who have failed to see the comet because they’re still nodding at one another. He calls each of the hooded men by name, and as he does so, each man’s face is rather cheesily superimposed over his hood. Because of the white wigs and little mustaches they effect, one of them looks exactly like Larry Tate from the TV series Bewitched. Anyway, Vitelius reveals that he will reappear on the Earth in three hundred years, when the comet completes its next cycle. He will then reap his revenge by killing any of their descendants that are then extant. This seems a fairly lame threat. What, you’re going to kill my progeny fifteen generations from now! You fiend!

This seems as good time as any to examine some of the film’s mixed messages. For instance, we see few justifications for the Spanish Inquisition in this day and age, and the film’s portrayal of the Tribunal hardly seems complimentary. Yet, when everything is said and done, Vitelius is revealed to be a sorcerer. For that matter, what about the Baron? When Miranda appears before the Inquisitors, he testifies that Vitelius has always ‘aided the downtrodden,’ and that he’s a patron of the Arts and Sciences. Yet, this same Vitelius lays down a curse dooming essentially innocent people. He then returns from the dead (presumably a rather labor intensive task), solely for the purpose of pursuing his vengeance. And, to be frank, the rest of the film is hardly so sophisticated as to make us believe that these ambiguities were intentional.

As the bonfire burns away, the dates 1761 and 1861 flash across the screen. This, however, is not meant to imply that Vitelius is extraordinarily flame resistant, or that the mob watching his execution doesn’t have very much to do. For as the date 1961 finally wafts into view, we change scenes to a ‘modern’ nightclub. Here we meet our clean-cut hero and heroine, Ronnie and Vicki. Significantly, Ronnie is played by the same actor who played Miranda, the Baron’s defender. The couple cut short their rug cutting, however, as it is time for a late visit to the local observatory. A little handy expository dialog reveals that our couple are astronomers by profession. “We’re looking for a real star,” he informs some friends, “and there are no clouds tonight.” So saying, he and Vicki head out.

They soon arrive at the Observatory. This is ‘realized’ by the expedient of offscreen stagehands pushing Ronnie’s car so that it comes to a halt in front of a wall sized photograph of an observatory (!). This establishes a pattern, as any ‘outside’ backgrounds for the rest of the picture will be represented by such photos. Inside, Ronnie’s boss, Professor Milan, is observing the heavens through the institute’s main telescope. This, in turn, is represented by looking at photos of stars and such through a circular cut-out. Gee, maybe later we’ll see some planets through a keyhole, or a set of binoculars.

Prof. Milan turns out to be sort of an odd duck himself. He greets Ronnie and Vicki by interrogating them with grade school astronomy questions. He asks Vicki to name two comets and the time between their cycles. After she answers, he moves on to her beau, like some kind of Wink Martindale wannabe. “It’s your turn, Ronnie,” he continues. “Haley’s Comet draws near the Sun. But how close does the comet get to the sun?” Luckily, Ronnie is able to answer this stumper and get on with his life.

Next Milan shows them some books written three hundred years ago. It seems that they all mention a strange comet. (Hey!) We are then treated to a rather large helping of pseudo-scientific gobbledygook. Finally, though, the good Professor drops his bombshell. He’s somehow not only figured out that the comet has a three hundred year cycle (and how, given that all records of the comet emanate from one single appearance, could he possibly do that?), but that it’s due to make its periodic appearance at exactly 2:36 a.m. (!).

The Comet that caused all the trouble - An awesome sight!The comet's spectacular crash to Earth!

Ronnie notes that that’s right now (!). Good thing he showed up to remind Professor Milan to actually look for the comet. Of course, back in the nightclub, Ronnie mentioned that they were due at the Observatory before midnight. So the doc’s little Q&A session apparently lasted over two and a half hours. Ronnie gazes up through the telescope, which is set so as to examine another galaxy. Then he reports that he can’t see this comet that’s supposed to be circling the Earth. Now, I’m no scientist, but wouldn’t be like trying to see your nose with a pair of binoculars? (Also, and this might be juvenile of me, but when Ronnie pulled away from the telescope’s eyepiece, I halfway expected him to be sporting a black ring around his eye, while Vicki and Milan guffawed in the background.)

Milan explains the problem. “You’re never going to find it that way,” he notes, “you’re aiming towards the Northern latitudes. Move it to the South.” Ronnie does this (apparently) by shuffling a couple of feet to his right. (I still say the problem is the depth of focus, not the ‘latitude’ to which he’s looking.) When Ronnie reports the comet’s non-appearance, Milan makes one of those typical ‘scientist’ statements. “It’s not possible!” he blusters. Ronnie and Milan move away from the telescope to check over the calculations. This leaves Vicki to look through the telescope, and, of course, she soon spots the elusive comet. Sure enough, it’s the same goofy ‘comet’ we saw earlier in the movie.

Milan runs over and commandeers the telescope. Ronnie and Vicki then pop out to the Observatory’s patio to look at the comet themselves. (The Observatory structure, shown behind the, is another wall photo.) Hilariously, they accomplish this with the use of a small backyard telescope, the kind of thing you’d pick up at Sears. Even this proves to be overkill. As Vicki looks out at the local town (another photo), we can see that the comet’s visible with the naked eye (!). Ronnie than gasps that the comet has given out a strange glow. Grabbing Vicki’s hand, he says that they should go investigate (Where? And what?).

We cut to a guy pulling to the side of a lonely country road. Looking up, he sees that the comet is drawing near (this awesome sight is represented with a sparkler [!]). The comet then crashes to earth. This is denoted by the use of a large papier-mâché ‘rock,’ lowered down onto the set on wires, accompanied by a ‘whistling’ sound. Needless to say, our expendable stranger goes forward to check things out. He begins wandering through the ‘foliage’, which is rather inadequately feigned through the use of dead branches placed around an obviously enclosed set (you can see the walls). Shades of Plan 9! Coming upon the scene, he watches in amazement as the boulder disappears and is replaced by a rather ridiculous looking ‘monster,’ The Brainiac of the title.

Facially, The Brainiac looks like a hairier, fanged David Crosby who’s suffering from a bout of elephantiasis. As a further handicap, it sports rubber pincers instead of hands. These are somewhat less than handy (‘Handy’! Ha ha ha!), as every time he goes to grab something they bend back like, well, rubber pincers. For a final spectacular effect, the Brainiac’s noggin is equipped with a bladder system that allows it to be inflated and deflated, creating a rather goofy looking ‘pulsating’ effect. We also note that the Brainiac is dressed in the remnants of the robes that Vitelius was wearing when burned at the stake. This attempt at ‘continuity’ provides a classic example of too little, too late.

The Brainiac begins chasing the guy around the set. As it’s not all that large, it soon catches up with him. A light is flashed across the fellow’s face, indicating that he’s fallen under the spell of Brainiac’s hypnotic powers. At this point, The Brainiac extrudes a gigantic tongue that would turn Gene Simmons green with envy. This is placed to the back of the guy’s neck (we should probably ignore the fact that, like his similarly rubber pincers, his tongue bends away whenever applied to a victim). This procedure somehow results in the guy’s death. Then, after the guy falls to the ground, his clothes disappear (except for his polka dotted boxers and T-shirt). They materialize on the Brainiac, who then regains the appearance of Baron Vitelius. I guess we should just be glad that the Baron isn’t partial to underwear.

Dawn breaks through the clouds (another photo) as Ronnie and Vicki approach the area, looking for the fallen comet. They ‘park’ near a big photo of a suspension bridge and get out to look around. As soon as they’ve entered the meadow, however, they run into Vitelius. Almost literally. They end up standing not more than a foot away from him. Surprised, Ronnie and Vicki look at one another in embarrassment. Finally, after a full ten seconds, Ronnie pretends to ‘notice’ the guy standing directly in front of him. “Oh, Sir!” he says, as if he’s just seen him. Ronnie explains further. “We’re astronomers,” he declares, “and we were observing a meteor.” This torrent of jargon causes Vicki to laugh ruefully. “Oh, but, Ronnie,” she reprimands, “this gentleman doesn’t understand a thing that you’re saying to him!”

Vitelius, however, reveals himself to be quite the amateur scientist, more than able to decipher Ronnie’s bizarre scientific lingo (“A meaty-what?”). (Hey, how does Vitelius know that Ronnie and Vicki are superior astronomers? Well, he can see that they’re out standing in their field! Get it?!) The couple quickly become friendly with this stranger, and Ronnie invites him to come visit them at the Observatory. After that, they take their leave.

The Baron, meanwhile, continues wandering around, stopping in a bar that’s closed for the evening. As he enters, he spots a floozy at the bar, and some of the cheeziest saxophone music you could possibly imagine starts up on the soundtrack. In a rather pointless display of power, the Baron dematerializes and then rematerializes next to the girl. In other words, he used his awesome supernatural powers to save himself from having to walk about ten feet.

The half inebriated chick (who’s apparently the tacitly slutty girl of the bar’s manager) suddenly notices him and begins flirting. The manager comes over and tells Vitelius that the joint is closed. However, the woman intercedes on his behalf. The bartender pours him a stiff one before he and the manager leave the room to tally the receipts. Bar Chick then practices her wiles on Vitelius, turning pouty when he ignores her charms.

She continues nattering at him, apparently not noticing that a spotlight is flashing on and off on his face. (Perhaps this is connected with the way that no one noticed how Dracula spoke through an echo chamber in Dracula vs. Frankenstein.) After even her kiss has no effect, she walks away a bit, expecting him to chase her. Unsurprisingly, it’s “Brainiac” time, and the Baron assumes again his goofy alter ego. In fact, it’s even worse this time, thanks to some well-lit close-ups of The Brainiac’s ‘fearsome’ visage. Bar Chick screams her head off before getting tongued. We cut to the manager in the back office, who looks up with a confused expression. End of scene. Now it’s the audiences’ turn to don a confused expression (assuming that one isn’t already stuck on by now).

We segue to what appears to be a ‘morgue’ set from a high school play. The coroner is giving the laconic Chief of Police and his lamely ‘comic’ sidekick, Benny, the rundown on Vitelius’ victims. The necks sport twin perforations, which we know were made be Brainaic’s tongue, but which the coroner posits where made with an electric drill (!). Even more oddly, the victims’ brains have apparently be sucked out of these holes. Presumably, this is similar to the process by which the audiences’ brains are sucked out while watching this movie. Accessing the evidence, the Chief proves himself a veritable Sherlock Holmes: “Yeah,” he deduces, “Identical characteristics in both cases. Doc, I’m sure that the killer made the perforations.” Thanks, Einstein.

Our title menace makes his appearance.President Clinton, please... I'm not that kind of girl!

Told that the killer has displayed an expert knowledge of anatomy, the Chief begins to philosophize. “I wish they’d find some way to control the subjects a man studies,” he asserts. “A maniac with a lot of knowledge is a threat.” The Chief and Benny step aside to compare notes. The Chief mentions how coincidental it is that the local bank should be robbed the very same night as these mysterious deaths occurred. When Benny questions the relevance of the observation, the Chief reminds him that the girl’s body was found on the same block as the looted bank. (Oh, yeah!) After affording Benny the opportunity to fire off a couple of exceedingly lame quips, the policemen take their leave.

Back at the Observatory, Professor Milan is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He’s examining a large pile of telegrams, all from other observatories from around the world. Milan is bewildered by the fact that no other institution can provide confirmation for his comet sighting. Ronnie digs out an invitation from the stack of papers. It’s from Vitelius, who’s throwing a shindig to celebrate the purchase of his new house. Meanwhile, Benny catches up with the Chief, who’s seated on a resturant balcony that affords a scenic view of a wall sized photo of a city. He waves an invitation to Vitelius’ party, but is disappointed when the Chief posits that they’re being invited more for security than social reasons.

We cut to Vitelius’ house, where the rather placid party is in full, eh, swing. People stand around in clumps, engaging in some rather obvious ‘watermelon, watermelon’ type conversations. Meanwhile, individual guests continue to filter in. These turn out to be the descendents of the Inquisitors against whom Vitelius vowed revenge. Conveniently, they all arrive in a quick succession, so that we can get a good look at each of them. Oddly, all of the male descendents look amazingly like their ancestors. They’re even roughly the same age that their forebears were when they condemned Vitelius. Still, the filmmakers want to make sure that we ‘get’ it, so the respective ancestor’s face is superimposed over their descendant’s face.

Next, Milan, Ronnie and Vicki make their entrance. Now the plot, such as it is, thickens. For not only is Ronnie the descendent of Vitelius’ defender, Marcos Miranda, but it’s revealed that Vicki is herself the descendent of one of the Inquisitors. What’re the odds, huh? Vitelius takes them over to the bar, then excuses himself. Making sure that no one is looking, he unlocks a cabinet. Hilariously, Vitelius has merely walked across the same room, and is standing in plain view of his guests. The opened cabinet reveals an ornate silver serving bowl, full of, yes, brains.

Now, this seems to raise some obvious questions. First, how did the brains get into the bowl. Didn’t Vitelius suck them out of his victims? Are we to believe that he regurgitated them back into this bowl? If so, then he did quite a job at reconstituting them, as they look like rather standard brains. Also, I can’t help noticing that the cabinet is merely that. I mean, it’s not like it’s refrigerated or anything. How long do brains ‘keep’ under these conditions? Not too long, one would think. Anyway, Vitelius spoons himself up a little gray matter. (Insert your own ‘brains are good fish food’ joke here.) Frankly, you’d have thought he’d have dined before the guests started to arrive. What’s Emily Post have to say on this? By the next shot, the party is all but over. But not before Vitelius has been invited to visit all his targeted victims at their respective homes.

First up is a visit to Professor Pantoya. For the trivia fans out there, Pantoya is played by Mexican horror star German Robles, best known for playing Nostradamus the Vampire in a series of films. Pantoya is a historian, and is showing Vitelius his collection of Inquisition documents. “You know, in this century, to talk about the Holy Inquisition and the ways they did justice,” he notes, “is not what I call easy.” They are interrupted by the arrival of Maria, the Professor’s hot young daughter. At the sight of her, that spotlight starts flashing across Vitelius’ face, indicating that he’s projecting her hypnotic powers upon her (or something).

Continuing to look over the papers of the Inquisition, the learned Professor notes that, “You can see perfectly well that religion was not extremely enlightened at that time.” Leafing through the papers, the Baron’s own trial transcripts pop up. The Professor, of course, thinks them to be about some ancestor of his guest. Vitelius begins reading aloud from the transcript, then continues, obviously from memory. Now, this is admittedly a somewhat shortened version of the events. Still, considering that we spent, oh, roughly six hours at the beginning of the movie watching the actual Tribunal, well, we could probably do without the recap.

In an odd moment, Vitelius admits that he “never had any ancestors!” He then reveals that he is the same person who was burned at the stake by the Pantoyas’ ancestor. With this, he exerts his full hypnotic powers. These should not be confused with the amazing hypnotic power of the film itself, with its awesome ability to put its audience to sleep. The Professor becomes frozen in place, except for the ability to pop his eyes out really, really far (this somewhat undercuts the ‘horror’ of the situation).

Vitelius uses his aforementioned ‘seduction’ powers on Maria, humiliating the Professor by getting her to merrily make out with him before her father’s horrified (and much protruding) eyes. Then he walks behind Maria, changes to The Brainiac, and attacks her, again as her father is forced to watch. Then it’s the Professor’s turn. When he’s finished, the Brainiac begins a rather modest rampage through the study. He tosses around bundles of newspapers and ultimately, if awkwardly, succeeds in overturning a chair, no mean task when your ‘hands’ are made of bendable rubber. Finally, he starts a fire to cover his tracks. (The fire, of course, also acts as a ‘poetic’ reflection of Vitelius’ own fate at the hands of the Inquisition.)

Next we see the Chief and Benny investigating the murder scene. “These people were burned,” the Chief notes, “but that doesn’t fool me.” Yeah, I guess the fact that their brains are also missing would indicate that there’s more to the story. Proving that he intends to leave no stone unturned, the Chief continues on to say that, “The experts in the laboratory should examine these two corpses.” Hmm, I think you’re right, Chief! Unfortunately, we are now subjected to some ‘comic relief’ from Benny, who theorizes that the holes drilled in the victims’ necks are the work of, “some maniac who thought he was cracking a safe!” Then he warns the attendants not to lose any bones, because “I might get mixed up!” Whew! Man, give me a minute to stop laughing.


We cut back to the Observatory. Vicki is showing Ronnie a newspaper article on the Pantoyas’ murders, which are credited to “a completely maniacal killer.” “That’s impossible!” blurts Professor Milan. This seems to be his favorite saying, an odd choice for a scientist. Meanwhile, even more telegrams have arrived denying confirmation on the Professor’s comet sighting. The trio evinces frustration, unable to figure out what’s going on. “I say something’s pretty strange,” Ronnie muses, “when three people don’t know what they saw!”

The Professor grabs a massive book, struggling to find the right passage (actually, you can see a piece of note paper he stuck in the top to mark his place). Finding the spot, he reads, “Comets seen…” Then he looks up, “But it’s not true! A sorcerer!” If anyone can explain what the heck is going on here, let me know and I’ll send you a buck.

'Oh, Sir!' - Ronnie and Vicki are surprised when meeting the Baron.Baron Vitelius noshes out of his stylish brain bowl.

Next, Vitelius is visiting at the home of Louis Meneses, his next target. Meneses and his wife are giving their guest the penny tour. A wealthy industrialist, Meneses has a miniature foundry attached to the home, where he conducts metallurgical experiments. Presuming that this would be of interest to the Baron, a known follower of the sciences, the threesome heads over. There, Vitelius gets Meneses salivating by referring to a powerful new alloy he’s discovered, light yet heat resistant.

After this rather pointless charade, Vitelius proceeds to put the mojo on the couple. Meneses himself, attempting to look like he’s straining against paralyses, manages to look exactly like the eye-popping Rodney Dangerfield. Well, he’s certainly not going to get any respect from being in this picture. However, I don’t want to beat up on the actors too much. After all, it must be difficult to act like you’re playing ‘freeze tag’ while a goofy monster kills your loved ones and not look a little silly. Proving himself rather unimaginative, Vitelius proceeds as he had earlier. He makes Meneses’ wife make out with him for a short bit, then turns into the Brainiac and kills her. Finally, he causes the hypnotized (but aware) Meneses to climb into the foundry furnace, conveniently at hand.

Over breakfast (oo-la-la!), Ronnie and Vicki are examining the newspaper accounts of the latest murders. Ronnie is starting to intuit that Vitelius is involved, given that both victims had attended the Baron’s recent party. Vicki, however, dismisses the idea. Meanwhile, the Chief, having made the same connection, arrives with Benny at Vitelius’ house. They are met by the Baron’s butler, who leaves to inform Vitelius of their presence. Walking around the room, the Chief starts to examine the ‘brain cabinet.’ (Which, by the way, we can now see is indeed in the same room as the Baron’s guests were during the party. Good thing that no one noticed the host noshing on brains right across the room.) I’m assuming that the Baron is employing magic to prevent the unrefrigerated brains from smelling.

The Chief’s poking around is interrupted by the appearance of the Baron, who enters wearing a Hugh Hefner-type silk smoking jacket. Vitelius, of course, feigns ignorance and sympathy for the victims, but it’s obvious that the Chief remains suspicious. Not getting anywhere, the officers split. Aware that he’s now a suspect, the Baron removes the brain bowl from the locked cabinet, walks across the room, and relocates them to a presumably more secure wooden chest.

Next we see Vitelius arriving shortly after the wedding of his next target, Anna Coraya, nee Bebar. The newlyweds greet the Baron effusively, as they stand in front of a wall photo of an interior of a church. After the lovebirds depart, Ronnie and Vicki come over for a chat. This wastes a couple more minutes, but achieves nothing other than reinforcing the idea that Ronnie remains vaguely suspicious of the Baron. Still, when you have an entire hour and ten minutes to fill, you eat up screentime any way you can.

We cut to the Corayas’ honeymoon bedroom. Anna is combing her hair, wearing one of those elaborate nighties that covered everything and were popular in that era. She is a little shocked, then, when she observes Vitelius entering the room. The Baron menaces her by basically silently trailing her around. Apparently, he’s already disposed of her husband, who never answers her entreaties for help. After witnessing Vitelius’ transformation, she faints (or perhaps falls asleep). Then we get one of those expressionistic ‘eerie shadow on the wall’ shots. We don’t actually see her get killed, presumably because actually laying hands (or pincers) on a young newlywed wearing a nightgown would have been too sexually charged for the period. (For a Mexican film, anyway. The Italian horror flicks of the same time already featured copious nudity and such.)

Next we see the Chief and Benny in some kind of a library. The Chief is reading and taking notes from some old book. Walking downstairs, they enter a catacomb (?!). The Chief takes more notes, this time from the plaques on the coffins. Then they leave. The point of this rather eccentric avenue of investigation is never explicated.

They then return to the morgue, where the examination of the Corayas’ bodies is in progress. The Chief checks his notes, making a connection between the victims’ names and the Inquisitors’ names, also in his notebook (???!!!). (This guy has to be the greatest intuitive genius of all time.) His next stop is at the Observatory. Informed by the Chief that they must find Ronnie and Vicki immediately, because “any minute now they could be dead,” Professor Milan responds, “I’m getting scared!” The Professor remembers that the couple have been invited to the Baron’s for dinner. The cops jump into their car, conveniently parked in front of the wall photo of the Observatory.

At the Baron’s place, the threesome are engaged in a little chit chat. Then the Baron excuses himself, in order to take his ‘medicine.’ He walks across the room, over to the chest, and grabs a little nourishment out of the brain bowl. Since the chest sits behind the high-backed chairs that Ronnie and Vicki are seated in, I guess he considers himself safe from discovery. (It being a well-known fact that people sitting in chairs never turn around and look at anything.) Returning, Vitelius asks if he can present Vicki with a gift, on the occasion of her and Ronnie’s upcoming nuptials. He takes her into the back room, after reassuring Ronnie that he may rely on Vitelius of Estara (after all, Ronnie is the ancestor of his defender).

Still suspicious, Ronnie begins to examine the mysterious chest. In the back room, Vitelius informs Vicki that he loves her. It doesn’t matter, though, for his hate is even stronger, “like a master no one can control.” (Uh, isn’t that pretty much the definition of a ‘master’?) Despite his tender feelings for her, she remains the last living descendant of the Inquisitors, and so must die. Ronnie, meanwhile, grabs a letter opener and jimmies open the chest, finding the Baron’s unusual foodstuffs.

A screaming Vicki runs in, trailing The Brainiac. The fiend orders Ronnie to step aside, as he has no wish to harm him. Ronnie runs interference, but Vicki’s escape is blocked by the Baron’s butler. This fellow, by the way, appears oddly unsurprised by his employer’s transformed state. Hey, as long as he can sign paychecks with his pincers, who cares, right? Anyway, the Brainiac turns immaterial and runs right through Ronnie, soon cornering Vicki.

Just then, and believe me, there’s no way I can possibly describe exactly how abrupt and bizarre this is, but in walks the Chief and Benny, each wielding a gigantic flame-thrower (!!). This, therefore, is one of the few flicks where they simply skip trying to shoot the monster, and go right into heavy ordnance. Sure enough, the flames cause the Brainiac to perish (although Vitelius survived the stake earlier in the movie). Then we get one of those post-death Monster Movie transformation scenes: first we see the charred remains of the Brainiac, then he turns back into Vitelius, strangely wearing Inquisition-era clothing, then into a skeleton. The end.

Hey, a monster! Good thing we were carrying these flame-throwers!Brainiac ends his career as a skeleton - ooh, spooky!