Back in, oh I’d say 1985, I used to spend my Saturdays watching Commander USA host a b-movie show on the USA Network. I watched a lot of really great movies and always enjoyed the Commander and Lefty’s subtle comic genius.
The one movie that’s stuck with me all these years is a Mexican monster movie called The Brainiac. The character has nothing to do with the Superman villain by the same name. This Brainiac gets his monicker from the fact that he sucks brains out of people’s skulls, storing them for later for a little midnight snacking.
I don’t recall much of the plot or characters, other than foggy snapshots of awesomeness. I’m not sure why it took me so long to buy this flick, but now that oversight has been rectified. So join me, ColuMn reader, as we watch The Brainiac one more time.
The Brainiac opens in the year 1661, with a looooong bit of backstory exposition told by the announcer from Super Friends. The location is Mexico City, and the Spanish Inquisition has reached the shores of the New World. Baron Vitelius d’Estera is facing charges of “attempting to foretell the future using corpses” and banging a bunch of married women and young virgins, among other things. He laughs at their torture and dares them to do more. His only friend, Marcos Miranda tries to come to his defense, but is given 200 lashes for his troubles. With no other options left, the Inquisitors sentenced him to death by burning him alive in a field. As the flames begin to engulf him, the Baron spots a comet and vows to come back in 300 years and kill the descendants of the Inquisitors.
This is actually a pretty cool scene, bad special effects aside, as the Baron makes the Inquisitors’ black hoods disappear, revealing the faces of each in turn.
We leap forward in time to 1961, at the precise moment that the comet returns. A group of astronomers observe the strange comet through a large telescope, and see it emit “a very strange light”. Two of the astronomers (a male and female who will play key roles in the story as it develops) decide to “investigate”.
The male we recognize as the same actor who played the Baron’s friend, Marcos Miranda. Fortunately, the comet is right overhead, and the light it emitted is within easy driving distance. The light turns out to be a chunk of comet that dissolves and reveals a hideous creature we know as THE BRAINIAC (though that name is never uttered in the movie). Before the two astronomers (who are also an engaged couple) can get there, the Brainiac, using his long tubular tongue, sucks the brain out of a drunk guy and transforms into (wait for it) the Baron!
The two astronomers immediately run into the Baron, who recognizes the descendant of his friend Marcos, expresses an interest in astronomy, so Marcos’ descendant, Reinaldo, hands the Baron his business card and promises to friend him on Facebook.
The Baron wastes no more time and gets right down to business. He does this thing where a lights blinks off and on on his face while he creepily stares somebody (usually a woman) down. His intended victim falls into a trance, and the Baron is free to go about his business, which mostly involves sucking brains, but sometimes expands to getting information or forcing somebody to vote Republican (he really is evil).
And did I mention that the ladies just love this guy? He gets more ass than the only toilet at a Taco Bell. Seriously, this guy can’t bite his toenails without some hot, early 1960’s babe sucking his face. This has the unfortunate effect of turning him into the Brainiac, where he returns the sucking a little overzealously. There’s really no need for this storywise, but the guy who plays the Baron, Abel Salazar, was also the producer, so you really can’t begrudge him.
His first few victims aren’t descendants of the Inquisitors (at this it’s neither implied or stated), but he needs to start collecting brains. He just got some killer weed and he knows he’s going to have the munchies later.
The Baron sends out invites to a fancy party, distracting the astronomers introduced earlier from investigating the mystery of why no other astronomer in the entire world has seen the comet. It’s at the party that we finally meet all of the descendants of the Inquisitors that tormented the Baron 300 years earlier. This is done really well, as the camera focuses in on a party guest, which fades into the face of their ancestor. I get it now. I can hear the pitch in my head. “It’s like the Count of Monte Cristo only with brain sucking!”
Uh-oh! Reinaldo’s fiance, Miranda, is one of the descendants! And Reinaldo is the descendant of the Baron’s only friend, Marcos! Shit’s gonna fly!
The Baron’s got a brain chillaxin’ in his pimp cup and excuses himself from the party to help himself to a serving. He returns to what has to be the worst party ever thrown, as people stand awkwardly in a line exchanging inane pleasantries.
The Baron then joins one of the descendants, who is a professor of history, at his home, where the Baron is introduced to the Professor’s daughter. It’s a really great sequence, as the Baron reveals who he is, hypnotizes the daughter and the professor, and then forces the professor to stand paralyzed as he makes out with the daughter, turns into the Brainiac, and then kills her in front of her father’s horrified eyes. Then it’s the professor’s turn, followed by the Brainiac going apeshit, tearing the place apart and burning it down.
The next day, the Baron visits another descendant’s house, and forces the older gentleman to watch as he hardcore makes out with the wife before becoming the Brainiac and sucker her brain out. He then confronts the older guy with his true identity and compels the descendant to throw himself into the furnace.
The Brainiac is kind of a one-trick pony. He’s also extremely lucky that none of the descendants have moved out of the town. It makes it much, much more convenient, even though he loses out of what could be some really killer frequent flier miles.
After a brief visit by the police, it’s brain-munchin’ time again for the Baron, but now he’s got THREE brains in his goblet.
The Baron next pays some newlyweds a visit. It’s a little awkward this time, because the descendant is female, so the Baron has to totally make out with a dude. Oh, no he doesn’t. He murders the husband first and then goes all Brainiac and sucks the brain out of wifey.
The cops, meanwhile, are starting to piece things together. They make the connection between the ancestors and the corpses that are piling up all over town, and jump to the somewhat logical conclusion that the Baron is involved.
Finally, the Baron invites Reinaldo and Miranda back to his mansion, promising a look at the mysterious comet. The Baron eats a little brain and makes an excuse to get Miranda alone by promising that she’ll get to pick out some jewels. So the Baron and Miranda go off together, leaving Reinaldo to snoop around. Reinaldo probably should have chaperoned, as the Baron almost immediately starts rubbing his boner against Miranda’s back. Reinaldo’s oblivious to the cocksmith’s attempted seduction, far more interesting in prying open the chest where the Baron keeps his brain mug. Miranda escapes the Brainiac, who has decided that vengeance is better than getting laid, and runs to Reinaldo, who has discovered the brains. The Brainiac doesn’t want to hurt his friend’s descendant, but totally will if he doesn’t step off. Just as things look over for Miranda and the tubular tongue comes out, the heat shows up with matching flamethrowers (standard issue for the Mexican policia), burning the Brainiac alive once more, and saving the day.
The Brainiac, or El barón del terror, is a fun little movie, with some genuinely tense moments. Chano Urueta may not be the Steven Spielberg of his generation, but he’s fully capable of building suspense and putting together a nice little b-movie. The writing isn’t exactly Shakespeare, with coincidence, giant leaps in logic, and flamethrowers, but it suffices. I had a really good time watching this again, even though I was expecting it to be a disaster.
But the acting is pretty rotten and the special effects are abysmal. The Brainiac, with his pulsating head and lolling tongue, looks like The Fly’s retarded half-brother. Despite some really discomforting set-ups, the kills mostly take place off-camera. You have to admire a film that would feature such depraved killings in 1961, and with better acting this might have truly been a classic of the horror genre.