Friday, March 14, 2008

Those brains aren't even on ice

The Brainiac (Mexico, 1962 -- no relation to any incarnation of the Superman mythos)

Baron Vitelius, a suave heretic, falls afoul of the Mexican Inquisition, and chuckles throughout the post-torture proceedings, especially when they talk about the women he’s seduced. Burned at the stake, he mystically attaches himself to a passing comet and promises revenge on the descendants of the Inquisitors 300 years in the future. Luckily, when that day comes, each of them has only one descendant, and they’re all conveniently living in Mexico City under the same surnames. If only all geneological research were that easy!

When the Baron (“del Terror,” in the movie’s alternate title) hones in on his victims, his hypnotic powers are signaled when someone off-camera turns a flashlight on and off on his face. Then, using an early morphing technique, he turns into a goblin-like creature with hooked hands and a head that inhales and exhales when he breathes. Literally, the whole head expands and contracts, which is both humorous and oddly disturbing.

Most importantly, he also has a two-pronged tongue that he uses to suck the brains out of his victims. The real revelation was that the creature doesn’t ingest the brains on the spot. Instead, he somehow retrieves them, and stores them in a fancy goblet at his palatial home. When he needs a boost, he scoops a little bit out into a sherbet cup and eats the brains daintily, with a spoon.

In a few cases, between the flashlight face and the brain sucking, he uses another magical ability: disappearing and reappearing at will. The Baron enters a nightclub, walks right into the middle of the room, and vanishes. Then he pops up right next to a woman at the bar, only a few feet away. He could have just walked over to her, so at this point he’s just showing off.

Despite all this merriment, The Brainiac doesn’t reach the levels of surreal invention on display in director Chano Urueta’s El Espejo de la Bruja (The Witch’s Mirror). There’s way more repetition and flashback than a movie only 77 minutes long can sustain. We don’t need his entire sentence in front of the Inquisition read out in full…twice! We got the point that these people were the descendants the first time, without the slow use of the morphing flashbacks. The film really starts to drag, so I can't unambiguously recommend it.

It will, however, make hearing the Flashdance "Maniac" more bearable the next time it's pumped in overhead at the Subway: "He's a Brainiac, BRAAAAAAAINIAC on the floor/And he's sucking brains like he's never sucked before!"

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