Blacula, Day the World Ended, Beast with a Million Eyes, and The Brain Eaters
Horror Bulletin Weekly Issue 139
This week, we’ll be watching some more classics. We’ll watch four more horror films, including “Blacula” from 1972, “Days the World Ended” and “Beast with a Million Eyes” both from 1955, and “The Brain Eaters” from 1958.
Here. We. Go!
Day the World Ended (1955)
The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)
Short Film: The Rougarou (2021)
The Brain Eaters (1958)
Day the World Ended (1955)
· Directed by Roger Corman
· Written by Lou Russof
· Stars Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 19 minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
We both thought this post-atomic survival drama was “just ok.” It’s pretty dated, and the science is all wrong. The acting is fine, but the story and character interactions are really cliche and predictable. Still, if you really want to know what scared people during the Cold War, this is worth a peek.
We start with an atomic explosion. Eerie synth music plays as credits roll.
The narrator explains that the ozone has burned off and the world no longer exists. We are told the atomic haze of death hangs over the entirety of the Earth. A few humans have been spared, but only a few.
An overdressed couple, Tony and Ruby, drive up in a convertible through the atomic haze. They make their way to a building. Another man, Rick, carries a contaminated man with radiation wounds toward the building as well.
Jim and Louise Maddison live in that house, and they have a radio and Geiger counter. Jim’s a doomsday prepper, but he only packed provisions for three, not four. Rick arrives, and he is the expected third member of the household, and a geologist. An old cowboy arrives; now there are seven. Plus a donkey.
Jim and Louise explain the situation. There’s no radio signal from anywhere in the world. “Seven of us in this room may be the beginning of a new era in civilization.” There are only two women, I should probably point out, so good luck with that.
Jim talks to Rick about mutant animals in the area. Three weeks later, Radek, the sick man, is still alive, but he hasn’t eaten in three weeks. He goes out every night and does something mysterious. Jim thinks he’s dangerous and should be destroyed. Radek is sneaking out at night and eating contaminated animal meat, but this time, he sees something bigger than he is out there.
Tony has eyes for Louise, which makes Ruby jealous. It’s been several weeks, and it’s finally going to rain, which is going to be bad.
Ruby and Louise go swimming in the river, but something is in the bushes watching them. They see huge clawed footprints in the mud. Old cowboy Paul brought his donkey which stays outside all night. He’s an old prospector, and he says he finally found gold, but now it’s not much good for anything.
Tony grabs Louise and the smooches start, but not willingly on her part. Ruby tries to change his mind, but he’s preoccupied with their situation anyway. He figures if they kill the other four people, they can live for three months on the supplies, and by then all this will be over.
Rick follows Radek, and watches him walk right through toxic fog. Jim explains about the nuclear tests he used to be involved with. Three test animals survived the experiments, and he has pictures. One monkey grew armor plating and extra arms. They find another contaminated man in the woods who dies quickly but says there are stronger people where he came from. Radek can go up there, and he says wonderful things are happening up there.
Tony tries to steal Jim’s gun, but Rick intervenes, and there’s a fight. Tony then smacks Ruby and tells her to get lost. Louise thinks something outside is trying to talk to her. The mutants are coming closer to the house each night.
Radek steals the donkey and heads up the hill to the toxic zone. Rick and Jim follow him and find a human skeleton; Radek ate him. Radek’s still got the donkey, but something big kills him from behind and takes the donkey. Rick finds Radek’s body. The next day, Paul goes up the mountain to his certain death.
Ruby’s skin is starting to get rough, just like Radek's was. Tony grabs a knife and forces Louise to go into the woods with him. Ruby follows and fights with Tony until he stabs her to death and throws her off a cliff.
Louise continues to hear the thing calling to her, and she looks at the photo of her dead fiancé. One night, it comes into her bedroom. She wakes up and goes outside, where it grabs her. Rick goes out looking for her.
Jim’s been sick, so he stays behind with Tony. Tony gets Jim’s gun, The monster has three eyes and little arms growing out of its shoulders. It’s armor-plated, of course, but Rick shoots it repeatedly. It is, however, afraid of the water. As Louise and Rick stand in the pond, it begins to rain, which drives the monster off.
Jim tests the rain water, and it’s all clear now; pure water. The mutant staggers through the woods, collapses, and dies from the rain. It can’t handle uncontaminated rainwater. As Rick approaches the house, Tony plans to shoot him. Jim shoots Tony in the back (finally!). Jim dies after telling them he heard a radio signal from other survivors. They aren’t alone. Louise doesn’t quite figure out (but we do) that the mutant was her fiancé all along— He never made it to the house before the attack, but he made it afterward.
It’s creative, but it’s clear they didn’t really understand the severity of a nuclear blast. Or how radiation poisoning works. They really thought seven people would rebuild the human race and the air would clear up in a matter of weeks. Where did this house get the electricity? After they kill the mutant, is that all? Was it the only mutant? Seems unlikely.
It’s tense, it’s suspenseful, but it’s very predictable. You know something's out there, but we don’t see it until the end.
The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955)
· Directed by David Kramarsky, Roger Corman, Lou Place
· Written by Tom Filer
· Stars Paul Birch, Lorna Thayer, Dona Cole, Dick Sargent
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It was pretty influential, but it’s not very interesting. The alien spaceship is just a fancy teapot, and the monster revealed at the end is a double-exposed puppet. It’s not worth your time unless you’re a completist like we are.
The Beast explains that he is approaching our world, and soon we will all be under his control. He will take over the birds, animals, and the simple-minded of the Earth, giving him a million eyes here on Earth. Credits roll.
Allan Kelley explains how his day ranch is going broke. The loneliness of the job has gotten to him, and he sounds a little crazy. He describes the desert, “It’s the perfect place to hatch a brood of horror or hate.” His wife Carol is jealous of the opportunities her daughter Sandra has that she missed out on.
Carol is freaked out by Carl, who is always watching from his window. When Carl’s not staring out the window, he’s inside, reading girlie magazines. Sandra goes for a swim, and creepy Carl follows to watch. She catches Carl, but he can’t speak at all. He’s pretty simple, so she’s not too mad.
They all hear a high-pitched whine, but it soon goes away. The glass coffee pot, all the windows, and everything else that’s glass in the house shatters at the sound. A bunch of birds dive-bomb Allan’s car, and Sandra’s dog, Duke, runs off.
Carol throws a tantrum and won’t let Carl inside the house any more, and she refuses to feed him too. Duke the dog finds a machine that makes the high-pitched noise.
The deputy comes by to check on the damage, but he’s more interested in checking out Sandy. Allen and Sandy go to town with the deputy, and Duke the dog attacks Carol, and she has to run to Carl for help. He won’t let her in, and Duke chases her. Carl then wanders off into the desert.
When Allan and Sandra return home, they wonder why the lights aren’t on. Carol is inside, she’s not dead, but she locked Duke in the woodshed and killed him with an ax. Sandy doesn’t believe Carol’s story, since Carol always hated the dog.
Sandy runs out, and she hears the noise coming from the desert. She also wanders off after the sound. She catches up with Carl and leads him back home. Sandy tells Allan about hearing the noise. He thinks that being together made them both stronger.
An older neighbor, Ben, goes out to milk his cows, but his cow tramples him to death. The chickens attack Carol the next morning. Allen writes to the VA Psychiatric Division. Does he think Carol is insane, or does it have something to do with Carl? Allen never talks about the war.
Carl wanders back into the desert when he hears the sound again. Meanwhile, Allan finds Ben’s body in his yard. Carl eventually finds the little glowing teapot from space that has been emitting the sound. Carol finally makes biscuits successfully, after uncounted failures, so she finally smiles. Ben’s cow chases Sandy and Carol, but Allan arrives in time to shoot it.
The family gets in the car; Allan says something is closing in on them, so it’s time to get out of there. They don’t get far before birds start suicide bombing the car, and they all end up back at the house. It’s almost as if… they were organized! Allan wonders if maybe that “plane” they heard yesterday might have been from another world. They all get trapped inside the house, ala “The Birds.”
Carl comes back to the house, and he lets all the air out of the tires. He also knocks out the deputy, who was on his way to the rescue. Sandy is distraught over Deputy Larry, who should have been there by now. Larry tracks Carl to the whining teapot and the two men fight. Sandy gets involved and carried off by Carl.
Allan and Larry follow Carl’s footprints toward the alien device. He talks Carl into bringing Sandy back to him. Then Carl falls down, dead. They carry Sandy to safety, and Larry goes back to kill the evil mind-controlling teapot.
They hear the Beast, telepathically. “I have some secrets too,” he says. “It seems we must part. I offer you life, yours and the woman’s for the girl. We have no material form of our own, we live on brains. Hate and madness are the keys to power in my world.”
He wants to take Sandy home to his world to experiment to find out why humans seem to be able to resist him. Allen and Carol explain that the secret to beating the Beast is Love. His spaceship is programmed to leave at first light, and dawn is approaching.
The family goes to the pit where the spaceship is still radiating control waves, but it doesn’t affect them anymore. An eye comes out of the ship, and it has a puppet-like monster inside it. It dies for no particular reason, and then the ship launches back into space. Deputy Larry reappears from somewhere, and everyone is going to be happy.
The vicious dog, Duke looks like a happy pet; not the least bit mean. That’s one dog that can’t act.
Kevin noticed some similarities with “The Color Out of Space,” which was published in 1927, so they certainly had every opportunity to be aware of that. Although it’s not quite that “cosmic,” it’s still a strange thing from space that lures people into its mind-controlling field.
There are a zillion films with a family or group trapped in a house while the forces of nature surround them and pick them off, one-by-one. Whether it be birds, tarantulas, ants, zombies, or clowns, this film inspired a lot of those kinds of films.
Short film: The Rougarou (2021)
· Directed by Lorraine Caffery
· Written by Lorraine Caffery
· Stars Victoria Dellamea, Jacob Tolano, Johnny McPhail, Susan McPhail
· Run Time: 12:23
A little girl wakes up, takes the machine gun out of the oven, and bakes a cake. It’s “welcome home” for her father, just out of prison. She asks him a million questions, like “what’s your favorite color? What’s your least favorite food? How did you get that scar on your head?”
To that last one, he answers, “It was the rougarou.” He shows her the scars that the rougarou left on his back. He warns her to never go outside after dark.
It’s a rough neighborhood, and there’s shooting after the lights go out. The father describes the shooter and says he had red eyes, like cigarette butts after dark.
The next morning, the little girl goes outside to clean up after the party and finds a gigantic footprint in the ground and hole in the crawlspace under their house. Could it be down there? Like everything else, she goes about solving the problem…
This one’s depressing, but not because of the monster. People actually live like this. It’s well filmed, well paced, well lit, and very real. I liked this one a lot.
The Brain Eaters (1958)
· Directed by Bruno VeSota
· Written by Gordon Urquart, Robert A. Heinlein
· Stars Ed Nelson, Alan J Factor, Cornelius Keefe, Leonard Nimoy
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 1 Minute
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s heavily dated, but otherwise good. It was clearly influenced by Invasion of the Body Snatchers which came out a few years prior as well as Invaders From Mars before that. It’s a little more science-fictiony, but it’s pretty good.
Riverdale, Illinois, used to be a quiet town. We see two men fighting. It’s not so quiet anymore. Credits roll.
Glenn and his fiancé were on the way to town when they hear a big explosion. They find a dead dog; all the animals they find are dead. Then they find what looks like a crashed spaceship.
Washington calls in Senator Powers to run the UFO committee. They have already erected a scaffold around the mysterious cone. Several of the town’s leading citizens have mysteriously died or vanished.
Powers arrives, and he’s told the mayor is missing. He meets Dr. Kettering and Dr. Wyler, the two scientists who are investigating the spaceship. They can’t penetrate the hull at all, so Kettering decides to go inside, armed, to investigate. Clearly, the Senator thinks this is all some kind of hoax, but the scientists think it’s real. After a long time, Kettering comes back out; it’s nothing but one long, spiraling tunnel inside.
They get a phone call. The mayor has come back. He puts a gun to his own head, but fights the urge down before they all come in. There’s something on the back of his neck. The mayor points the gun at them, and the deputies shoot him to death. The doctors do an autopsy, and the thing on his neck was attached to his nervous system. When the device is removed, the victim would have died within a few hours anyway. The victim is under their control in the meantime.
A pair of young men attack the sheriff on the road, overpower him, and attach one of the things to his neck. The sheriff then gets up and joins them.
Kettering cuts up a piece of the mayor’s brain, and he is attacked by one of the parasites on his arm. He burns it off with fire. Dr. Wyler calls; he’s found something on the ship. He thinks this cone is just a fuel segment of the ship; the control piece is somewhere else. They call the sheriff to organize a better search, but the sheriff is already under their control. Everyone splits up to search the town, and they all have mini-misadventures.
Senator Powers calls Washington for reinforcements, but the phone operator has already been controlled. The young people are dropping parasites into people’s bedrooms as they sleep. They get Alice, Kettering’s assistant.
They find the body of Dr. Kelsington inside the ship; he disappeared five years ago. He’s not dead, but the parasite gave his body up; he has a bad heart and the thing abandoned him. Kensington wakes up and says they came from the carboniferous age, and they have survived all this time. It’s not a spaceship; it’s from below.
The police guards at the spaceship start shooting at the scientists, but the scientists shoot back. Kettering and Glenn go inside the ship. They find Dr. Cole, who has also been missing for five years. Now he is part of the parasitic intelligence. He explains that they bring Utopia and a perfect, peaceful world. They have a shootout with the sheriff, and Cole disappears in the smoke. They leave the ship, but there’s plenty of activity inside.
Kettering thinks up a plan to electrify the ship with high-power lines. Just as he’s about to zap them, Alice comes out of the ship and tries to convince Kettering that he’s wrong. She shoots him, and Glenn fires the gun, electrifying everything. Everything in the ship is killed, but they still have to round up the controlled people in town. “No problem,” says Powers.
It’s pretty good. I was expecting something from space that literally ate brains, but that’s not what it’s about. Mind control body snatchers had been done before, but this is well done. Little parasites from outer space. It seems clearly influenced by Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956. And it borrowed an idea from Invaders From Mars which came out in 1953.
Yes, that’s Leonard Nimoy under that beard as Dr. Cole in the spaceship. He was shrouded in smoke, but the voice was unmistakable.
It’s pretty good, easily the best of the AIP films we covered this week.
· Directed by William Crain
· Written by Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig
· Stars William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas
· Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
With the tagline “The black avenger, Dracula’s soul brother,” could you expect anything other than hokey blaxploitation? Actually, this was a lot better than we expected-- it’s a good vampire tale with an extra level of campy, dated, goofiness on top. What a snapshot of 70s language and styles. We liked it.
In Transylvania, 1780, at Dracula’s castle. Dracula is entertaining Prince Mamuwalde from “the dark continent.” The prince wants to bring his culture into the modern world; he also wants to end the slave trade, which Dracula finds convenient and useful. The prince insults Dracula and says they’re leaving, but Dracula has other plans. Drac’s minions overpower the prince and his wife, biting him. “You shall pay, black prince. I shall place a curse of suffering on you,” says Dracula. “I curse you with my name. You shall be Blacula!” They then lock Blacula into a coffin and Princess Luva into the tomb. Credits roll.
We move to the present day, still in Transylvania. A couple of gay interior decorators buys all the furnishings from Count Dracula’s castle, and the real estate guy explains that Dracula has been dead for 150 years. Naturally, they take the coffin in the basement as well, which they ship to a warehouse in Los Angeles with their haul. They open the coffin, and one guy cuts himself. The smell of blood wakes up what’s inside the coffin-- Blacula! He drains both Billy and Bobby, puts on his cape, and crawls back in the coffin.
A day or two later, Blacula goes to Bobby’s funeral. Some mourners come in. Doctor Gordon plans on finding out what happened to poor Bobby. Gordon looks at the wound on Bobby’s neck and notices that the corpse is drained of blood.
Tina is one of the mourners, and Blacula recognizes her as Luva, his lost princess. He chases her for blocks through Los Angeles, until he gets hit by a taxi. The taxi driver gets out and yells at him for being stupid. He angrily bites her. He does, however, find Tina’s purse and ID inside.
Meanwhile Tina/Luva goes back to her apartment. Her sister Michelle comes over, and they talk. Gordon goes to the morgue and talks to Sam, the Coroner. Gordon is there to look over the body of the taxi driver. Then he goes to see Detective Peters for the records for Bobby and Billy’s case, but it’s gone missing.
The whole group goes to a nightclub, where there’s an awesome band performing a great musical number. A less-monstrous-looking Blacula, using the name Mamuwalde, tracks down Tina there and says he found her purse. Gordon gets a call from the funeral home; Bobby’s body has gone missing. Another friend of the group, Skillet, introduces himself. Tina finds Mamuwalde attractive, and the two set a time to meet tomorrow night. A photographer in the club takes everyone’s photo.
We cut to Nancy the photographer at home in her darkroom. She’s getting ready to develop the photos of the people at the club. Blacula doesn’t appear in any of the developed photos, but he does appear in time to kill the photographer. She, in turn, bites a policeman.
Blacula comes to Tina at her apartment. When he says she is his wife, she doesn’t exactly deny it. He gives the backstory to their tribe back in Africa. She asks him to stay with her, which makes him very happy.
Meanwhile, Gordon is in the cemetery digging up Billy, the white kid who was bitten along with Bobby. They find Billy in the coffin, but he’s very not dead. Now Gordon is completely convinced that vampires exist, something he had been suspecting for a while now.
He calls Sam at the morgue and tells him to take the taxi driver out of the freezer and then lock her in the room. Sam opens the freezer, but he forgets to lock the door. Gordon picks up Lt. Peters to go to the morgue, but by the time they arrive, the taxi driver has killed Sam.
Blacula goes back home for the day, and Tina says she loves him. The next night, Gordon and Michelle meet Blacula at the club, and they all talk about vampires. Someone mentions that they haven’t seen Nancy in a few days, so Gordon goes over and sees that there was a struggle in the darkroom. He finds the negatives that show Blacula doesn’t show up on film. Now he knows Mamuwalde is the vampire, and he’s with Tina.
Gordon comes in, and Blacula runs away. Two cops chase him, and one shoots him repeatedly before being drained dry. They tell Tina the story of what he really is, and she doesn’t take it well.
The police and Gordon circle in on the warehouse where this all started. They run into a bunch of vampires. They burn most of them with a convenient crate of filled glass oil lamps and stake the rest. They run into Blacula outside; he’s moved his coffin. Rather than kill them, he turns into a bat and flies away.
They convince Tina to help them trap Blacula. She leaves the apartment, and Blacula, in bat form, follows. There’s a search and a chase in an old chemical factory, and Tina gets shot. He has no choice but to bite and turn her. Gordon and his police friend find his coffin, open it, and end up staking Tina by mistake.
Blacula looks at Tina’s corpse and makes a little speech. Then he goes upstairs and into the sunlight. Without his lost bride, he doesn’t want to live.
Blacula is the first black vampire to appear in film, and this film was created about the middle of the blaxploitation phase of the 70s. There’s a load of non-politically correct language and stereotyping around race, gender, and sexuality. Blacula looks dated with those sideburns, but he’s one of the more intelligent, competent vampires.
There are several musical numbers in the nightclub performed by the Hues Corporation. They are really good and fit into the movie perfectly.
It was actually far better than I expected from its reputation, and I have to recommend it.
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Get ready for next week, where we’ll be watching some more classics. We’ll watch four more horror films, including “The Angry Red Planet” from 1959, “Cult of Chucky” from 2017, “Nosferatu in Venice” from 1988, and “V/H/S 94” from 2021.
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