• Brainiac (Casa Negra) DVD Review

    Released by: Casa Negra
    Released on: August 29th, 2006.
    Director: Chano Urueta
    Cast: Abel Salazar, David Silva, German Robles, Rene Cardona, Luis Aragon, Ofelia Guilmain, Ruben Rojo
    Year: 1962
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    Brainiac – Movie Review:

    After some truly macabre illustrations underneath the opening credits (they sure look like they were done by the same artist who created the similar drawings for the opening of The Witch’s Mirror – Chano Ureta directed both films, so this is entirely possible!) we meet one Baron Vitelius (Mexican exploitation stalwart Abel Salazar) who, at this very moment, is found guilty of devil worship and other nasty things by some hooded religious types. He’s sentenced to death, to be burned at the stake, but as the flames lick at his feet a comet passes overhead and he curses those who would put him to death, claiming that when the comet return to Earth, so shall he, with the intent of killing off their ancestors.

    Three hundred years later, in 1961, the comet passes through Earth’s atmosphere one more time and, as luck would have it, it crashes to the ground in the form of a papier-mâché boulder. Out of the rock emerges Vitelius, though now he’s taken on the form of a hideous monster with an inflatable head, a long forked tongue, and suction cup fingers. He sucks the brain out of an innocent bystander and assumes human form, stealing the poor man’s clothes for his own.

    From here, Baron Vitelius sets out on his mission of unholy vengeance, sucking the brains out of the descendants of those who had him burned centuries ago. He starts by picking up a hottie at the local bar and sucking out her brain, but once he’s done with her he decides to hold a high society party sure to attract those he wants to kill. His plan looks like it’s going to go off without a hitch but what Vitelius doesn’t know is that someone is on to him and plans to put a stop to his evil ways.

    From the opening scene where Salazar laughs in the face of those who would have him killed to the finale where, after eating brains out of a bowl with a spoon The Brainiac is laid to rest, this is a completely off the wall film. The effects are as charming as low budget effects can be, look for the aforementioned space boulder and the use of a few still photographs in place of moving comets, but it all works. The entire film was shot on a soundstage which gives it a very artificial look but in the context of the story, as ridiculous as it is, it works perfectly. The whole thing sort of feels like the bastard child of Ed Wood and Mario Bava in that it borrows heavily from the storyline for Black Sunday but has all the production values and unintentional wackiness of Plan 9 From Outer Space.

    One of the many Mexican imports redubbed and distributed by the legendary K. Gordon Murray, the film found a following thanks to repeated late night television broadcasts and numerous home video releases of dubious legality. Casa Negra’s release is the first officially authorized home video release that the film has ever received in North America and it presents the film completely uncut (there’s one scene that was never dubbed into English and it appears here with optional English subs which do NOT appear automatically when it switches to Spanish).
    The Mexican version plays a little straighter than the English dubbed version does, but even in its native language this is still such an odd movie that it really stands out on its own as a truly unique little gem of a film.

    Brainiac – DVD Review:

    The movie was shot for a fullframe presentation which is how it is shown on this DVD, with a brand new transfer that has been taken from restored vault elements and completely re-mastered to damn near pristine condition. Casa Negra has obviously put some serious effort into making this transfer as clean and as nice as possible and it shows. Those who have only seen the film by way of the crappy beyond words Beverly Whilshire DVD release a few years back or the almost as shoddy disc that Alpha put out are in for a treat as Casa Negra’s transfer is very, very nice. Print damage has been all but completely eliminated save for a trace of grain here and there, and the black levels stay strong throughout. Detail levels are strong and contrast appears to be set properly. There aren’t any problems with edge enhancement or mpeg compression though some aliasing does rear its head in a couple of scenes.

    The original Spanish language track is here in Dolby Digital Mono as is the dubbed English track that will be familiar to most American and Canadian viewers. The difference in quality between the two tracks is negligible with the Spanish track getting the edge over the dubbed version just because it plays better. Dialogue is clean and clear and there aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion. There are spots where things sound just a little flat but that’s not surprising considering the age of the movies and there really isn’t anything to complain about here in terms of the audio presentation. The English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read though a few slip ups in the subtitles are there if you want to look for them.

    The main extra on this release is an audio commentary from 'Kirb Pheeler', the man who created the interactive press kit for The Brainiac that’s available online and on this DVD and who has been a fan of the film for some time now. Pheeler does a nice job of explaining the basic history of the film, covering its spotty home video release history and the rights issues that surround the film in addition to providing some basic trivia for the cast and crew of the film (some of which may or may not be cribbed from simple IMDB searches...). He’s got a great sense of humor throughout the movie and is able to point out both some of the atmospheric and genuinely cool parts of the film as well as some of its charming flaws. He never takes the material too seriously but neither does he ever come close to disrespecting the film either. While the talk might be a little bit too ‘fan boy’ for some there is quite a bit of good information in here and the man’s obvious enthusiasm for the film is nothing short of infectious. It’s a fun commentary even if it isn’t all that deep.

    In addition, look for the U.S. radio spot that was used to promote the movie during its theatrical release in the sixties, a great still gallery of photographs and promotional artwork (though this isn't as good as it could have been, as it could have been more extensive), cast and crew biographies, an essay on the history of the film, and a fun interactive press kit for the film.

    Rounding out the extra features are animated menus available in both English and Spanish, an exclusive Casa Negra Loteria game card, and of course, chapter selection options. The packaging for this release is also quite slick, as it comes in a clear keepcase with reversible cover art (an English side and a Spanish side). Mexican horror films have usually received pretty shoddy treatment on DVD so far in the format’s history, it’s nice to see that changing lately – Casa Negra seems to be at the forefront of this change and it’s for the best as their track record so far is outstanding even if some of the supplements aren't quite one hundred percent perfect.

    Brainiac – The Final Word Review:

    One of the undisputed classics of Mexican genre cinema for decades now, The Brainiac has almost always seen shoddy treatment on home video. With this release, fans can finally own a wonderfully restored version of the film with both the dubbed version and the original Spanish language version of the film and some okay extras on top of all that. Consider this one an essential purchase!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      This movie is so much fun, its almost illegal.