4 More Zombie Movies

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Following on my last 4-movie zombie fest, another set of similar movies, this time about enslaved subjects both living and undead, raised and commanded by remote control thanks to mad science, cult ritual, alien power, or a mobster with radioactive gadgetry.

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The Face of Marble (1946): William Beaudine directs this Monogram story of mad scientist John Carradine working with his assistant Robert Shayne on experiments to bring the dead back o life through a combination chemical-electrical treatment. Their first subject revives only halfway in a zombie-like state. Their next, the dog belonging to Carradine’s wife (Claudia Drake) becomes a ghostly Hellhound. Meanwhile, their servant (Rosa Rey) is a voodoo practitioner who uses her powers to bring Drake and Shayne together. There’s almost too much going on between the lightning bolts, a love triangle (quadrangle if you factor in Shayne’s girl Maris Wrixon), apparitions and voodoo dolls, plus a nosy police inspector. Carradine is good, and there’s an interesting turn of events when Drake dies suddenly and Carradine turns her into a limbo creature and ghostly apparition. She spookily walks through walls with her great dane by her side, and both are invisible to anyone but their prey, so there are some good scenes where Shayne and Wrixon try to fight them and we get both their views of the attacks and everyone else’s, of them punching at air. Poetic image and peaceful ending for our undead pair when their voodoo mistress dies and they walk into the sea.

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The Man from Planet X (1951): Edgar G. Ulmer’s fascinating low budget, fog-shrouded classic about the expressionless alien with the bloated head who arrives from a dying planet when its orbit brings it near the Scottish Moors. A professor (Raymond Bond), his daughter (Margaret Field, Sally’s mother), an assistant (William Schallert), and an American reporter (Robert Clarke) are there to research and end up encountering the alien. They try their best to communicate and make peaceful headway until greedy Schallert angers the thing by torturing it to extract information. The alien then uses his ship’s humming ray gun tech to enslave Field and many locals, who must be freed before the alien prepares the area for invasion by the rest of his race, and also before the military move in and start blasting everyone. Ulmer’s no-frills production is great fun and surprisingly believable, with basic but memorable visuals. The enigmatic but sympathetic extraterrestrial scares you when he first peeps out at Field through his porthole and there’s good atmosphere created by the moors, a castle with a dungeon, and rocky cliffs beyond which sits that unique, minimalist spherical spacecraft. This is considered the first alien contact/invasion movie.

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Creature with the Atom Brain (1955): The first of two Edward L. Cahn movies in this post. Mafioso Michael Granger returns to America to get revenge on everyone who crossed him, with the help of a Nazi scientist who’s perfected an atomic reanimating system that turns dead bodies into remote control slaves. Wiring is inserted into the slaves’ brains so that their eyes transmit what they see to the TV set in the villains’ secret lab, and a mic setup turns the undead minions into Granger’s ventriloquist dummies. They also retain abilities and knowledge such as driving, dropping in on old friends or getting into the police station where they work, and if it wasn’t for the odd violent outburst, like tearing a girl’s dolly limb from limb, they’d pass as normal folks. It’s astounding that their vacant stares, obvious skull-encircling incisions and stitch marks don’t give them away in the height of a city-wide “dead men walking!” panic, but it adds to the fun and the menace. Forensic scientist Richard Denning heads the investigation, which would baffle a lesser mind with its radioactive blood droplets, glowing fingerprints, and seemingly unconnected victims. Once crooks and lawmen alike are told they’re on a hit list, they’re reluctant to go into protective custody until they come face to face with one of Granger’s superstrong robotic henchmen. Denning’s charming home life has some funny little subversive touches, like a daughter who names her new girl-doll Dave, and wife (Angela Stevens) who craves time alone with her husband and polishes off the martini he leaves untouched when duty calls. Nice finale with the zombie horde being riddled with bullets.

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The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959): Another Cahn-directed movie, and my most enjoyable one of this bunch. The men of the Drake family have been cursed with early death for almost 200 years, ever since Grandpa Drake wiped out an Amazon tribe and earned the ire of their witch doctor. Now, Drake brother Ken (Paul Cavanagh) has died and his head’s gone missing, it’s up to the fourth target Jonathan (Eduard Franz) to find a way to stop or fill out the terms of this curse. Villain Henry Daniell is delightfully demented, and quite sprightly for a 180-year-old. He describes with great relish how the ritual requires victims be poisoned with a precise prick with a poisoned tip, that the heads must be gently stripped off the skulls without any bone being punctured or cracked, which would cause the victim’s soul to leak out. We get to watch the process of peeling, cooking and shrinking down of a head, see the creepy final grapefruit-sized likenesses with long hair and lips sewn shut, and witness the clean skulls returned to the Drake crypt as reminders to the family. Daniell’s giant assistant (Paul Wexler) is quite the sight, with his luxurious long hair and stitched lips,trudging about the Gothic grounds with his head-basket, impervious to bullets. Police detective Grant Richard struggles to get past his skepticism to embrace the supernatural explanation and comprehend all the strange sights. Plenty more spooks: floating skulls appearing to Franz, Daniell’s head sewn onto a dark-skinned native body, prints from fingers with little skull brands, Cavanagh’s headless corpse in his coffin, and dramatic combustion/evaporation for defeated undead.

I recently watched Cahn’s Invisible Invaders too.

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15 thoughts on “4 More Zombie Movies”

  1. I’ve seen all of these save for Face of Marble, so thanks for the introduction! I always thought that alien in The Man From Planet X just needed a hug, but that “portable” 50’s era TV set on his chest made it impossible. No wonder he was so quietly ticked off!

    As for new-ish zombie flicks, I’ll recommend Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, but the disc version thanks to the great making of documentary that makes the film an even more enjoyable experience.

  2. Yes Planet X ET was pretty ambiguous and after the way Schallert treated him, no wonder he was in a snit. His costume–the goldfish bowl, the valve and the tv set–is so basic and surely dirt cheap, but what a memorable look. That head really freaked me when it first appeared. These things are so fun to binge on. Cheers

  3. These all sound like fun. I think I own The Creature with the Atom Brain on one of those cheapo DVDs that has, like, 8 movies on it. I will check when I get home so that I can give that one a go.

    1. They are fun, Face of Marble is the slowest of the bunch but I can binge on these all day. It’s amazing how many variations on the zombie/undead filmmakers can come up with! Cheers

  4. These all sound like fun films, although I have seen an awful lot of this kind of movie none of these really ring a bell. Reading your post I get the impression that they are all a lot of fun so I may just have to seek them out.

    1. Yup fun is the word, they do pretty much what you want them to, and it’s fun to watch the different ideas about how to make, control and defeat the undead. I liked the CSI stuff in Atom Brain.

  5. Great choices and very fine write ups.
    The only one I’ve not seen is FACE OF MARBLE.
    John Carradine,Monogram,William Beaudine…what’s not to like!

    I have a very fond affection for CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN…
    yep! that Dave/doll thing is indeed subversive.
    Edward L Cahn is at long last getting some much deserved RESPECT!

    I saw his later career as bad Westerns good Horrors.
    Never seen his 1932 Western LAW AND ORDER which is considered
    a minor classic.

    Other recommended Edward L titles are VOODOO WOMAN,
    IT, THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE and CURSE OF THE
    FACELESS MAN. The latter two have recently been given Blu Ray
    editions…his legend marches on!

    The Edward L I have been after for ages is GUNS,GIRLS AND
    GANGSTERS with Mamie Van Doren,Gerald Mohr and Lee Van Cleef.

    1. Face of Marble is a little slower than the rest of these, but your thinking is the same as mine, all those names are a draw for me. I did like IT! as well, made great use of the limited spaceship set, liked the way they used the multiple levels and gave us yet another memorable alien. I don’t have those other Cahn pix you listed but do have a couple of his crime ones, including GUNS, GIRLS & GANGSTERS in fact, have to see that. CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN has me on title alone! Thanks!

  6. Fun titles all but Four Skulls was a pleasant surprise when I caught up with it upon its release in the Midnight Movies series. Man From Planet X is a well known sci-fi image. Lampooned by Joe Dante in his Looney Tunes flick.

    1. Yeah Four Skulls was my fave of these but really not much to complain about for any. I had seen that Planet X alien many times before this, neat how such low-budget FX makes for such a memorable creature.

  7. INVISIBLE INVADERS, while not a zombie movie (they’re aliens…in dead people) is kinda interesting. Visually, it was the obvious inspiration for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and later, redundant zombie stuff like the over-hyped WALKING DEAD.

    1. Yes I noticed that, very similar to NOTLD. I got these off a zombie list someone posted at imdb, and I agree these stretch that idea, but interesting variations and fun either way. Thanks!

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