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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Evil Brain From Outer Space

The intent of this study was to focus on theatrical (cinema) sci-fi movies and not so much television series or made-for-TV movies. This tends to be somewhat fuzzy line, producing exceptions. One such exception is Evil Brain from Outer Space (EBOS) was a made-for-TV movie, assembled from three late 50s Japanese theatrical Super Giant serials produced by Shintoho. This makes EBOS akin to Crash of the Moons ('54) created from several "Rocky Jones: Space Ranger" episodes, or Satan's Satellites ('58) was created from episodes of the Commando Cody serial Zombies of the Stratosphere ('52). Also, evil brains from outer space are almost a 50s sci-fi tradition. The superhero, played by Ken Utsui, was modeled after Superman. He is called Starman in the American dubs. He was "Super Giant" in the Japanese originals. EBOS is the fourth TV movie from Super Giant episodes, and the least coherent and most confusing of the four.

Quick Plot Synopsis
(Note: This running narrative cannot capture all of EBOS's random events)
Through narration, we're told that s supposedly great thinker on the planet Zemar, Balizar, was assassinated, but quickly created machines to keep his brain alive. The experience turned him evil and he plots to rule the universe, starting with Earth. The high council on the Emerald Planet decide to send Starman to earth to stop him, lest he use nukes and contaminate space and other planets (like theirs).
A young lab assistant stole Balizar's brain from Dr. Kurikawa's lab, but lost it when police mistook him for a robber. Dr. Sakurai is charged with inventing something that can kill the brain. Meanwhile, the sinister Dr. Kurikawa has a Zemarian base under his house. The masked leader of a group of minions in black tights and hoodies says a new mutant will deal with Sakurai. A fanged man-thing with brain-like cap and filigree "ears" tries to get Sakurai, but Starman intervenes. The two fight, but Filigree escapes. Some trench-coated Zemarian clones rob jewelry stores and throw needle darts to kill people. They steal some plans bound for Sakurai, but two kids see them. They try to get the kids, but Starman intervenes. Starman follows the trenchies to their HQ. Starman fights the black hoodies there. The police arrive, arresting the hoodies. The Zemarians plot to kill various earth leaders, but Starman is one step ahead of them. Several trenchies are arrested too. Next comes a witch mutant who kills a couple of women with a touch of her claw-nails. An earth traitor delivers plans for the Zemarian attack to Dr. Okawa (brother of Kurikawa). He and his white-hooded minions prepare for the final attack. Starman and legions of police surround the house. Okawa produces the witch to fight Starman. They fight, but Starman wins. Okawa is found dead. Starman takes a nuclear device up into the sky so it can explode harmlessly. Meanwhile, Filigree tries to get Sakurai, despite police guards. Just as Filigree defeats the police, Starman intervenes. After a bit of fighting, Filigree escapes. Starman follows him to the cave HQ of the black hoodies. There, Starman fights and defeats Filigree. The masked leader turns out to be Kurikawa. Balizar's brain is found in a locked room. Sakurai's acid-poison kills the brain. The earth is safe for little children. The end.

Why is this movie fun?
The carefully managed fights read like martial arts ballet. Trying to identify which footage came from the three different films used to make EBOS has a certain entertainment value, if in a sort of forensics sort of way.

Cold War Angle
With most Japanese sci-fi (whether cinema or television) the nuclear topic is never far away.

Some Assembly Required -- EBOS was edited together out of the last three Super Giant movies. The three previous TV movie edits used two-part Super Giant episodes, so had enough footage from a common story line. The last three Super Giant episodes were standalone stories, each with their own monster(s), plot and villain. Footage from all three were cobbled together to create a new story. Some longish exposition by a narrator attempts to bridge gaps in the new story.
Super Giant 7: The Space Mutant Appears (April '58) provided key footage. SG 7 had an evil scientist (with hawk on his shoulder) who created an evil brain. This episode contributed the brain-monster (with curious filigree "ears") and the cave laboratory full of black hoodied minions with the skull and bat wing logos on their chests.
Super Giant 8: The Devil's Incarnation (March '59) featured an evil scientist with his face burned during WWII. He, too, has a brain-thing in a bell jar. He creates a witch from his dead daughter. The witch murders women. SG 8 contributed scarface, the witch (sold as yet another Zemarian mutant) and the white-hoodied minions in a dungeon lab quite similar to SG7's lab.
Super Giant 9: The Poison Moth Kingdom (April '59) was about an arab terrorist (how ahead of its time!) who plans to assassinate Japan's crown prince. SG 9 contributed lesser amounts of footage.

Supa-san -- Super Giant was Japan's first screen superhero. Modeled after America's Superman (tights, cape, super powers, flying, etc.) Supa Jiantsu was the first of a line of colorful japanese heros, and filled much the same role in popular juvenile fiction. It's not hard to see the roots of the ubiquitous "Power Rangers". Super Giant wasn't physically large. The "Giant" was more akin to "Great" than "Huge".

Choreo-battles -- Notable in the Super Giant films were the well choreographed "fights" in which the lone hero held off a whole crowd of evil minions with his quick martial arts moves (and occasional gymnastic moves). As in many subsequent asian fight films, the minions obligingly wait their turn to be defeated. In EBOS, Starman takes on all of the baddies in choreo-battles: the black hoodies, the white hoodies, the trenchies, the Filigree monster and the witch. Attentive viewers will even see some fight footage repeated.

Bottom line? EBOS is not for those who expect a coherent story or even logical progression. It is a fourth story told with cuttings from three other stories. Confusion and breaks in continuity cannot help but follow. Much patience and willingness to let loose ends lie, is required. Fans of martial arts films my be amused by the early roots of the cinematic fighting style.


-Alan D Hopewell said...

GACK! Definitely one of thwe worst. One of our local (Cleveland) movie hosts, Super-Host, practically wore out his print of this.

Nightowl said...

Hi Alan,
Yes, Evil Brain is pretty bad. You can almost feel the producer's (and editor's) frustration at trying to hack together a single story from the three unconnected Super Giant episodes.

The first three ventures were easier, since they were made of two-part episodes of the same plot.

This fourth one reminds me of leftovers casserole for supper -- made out of whatever was left in the fridge.