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The Brainiac
(aka The Baron of Terror)

1661: In Mexico, a man is accused of witchcraft and other various anti-religion crimes, and is sentenced to be burned at the stake. But he identifies each of his hooded accusers, and vows to get revenge on their descendants 300 years in the future, when the comet flashing over his head at that moment is scheduled to make its return trip near Earth on its elliptical orbit.

1961: The predicted return of the 'cursed' comet is witnessed by a pair of unlikely astronomers, a young man in a nice suit, and his equally dressed-for-success, voluptuous girlfriend. The comet suddenly disappears from sight, but the two decide to go take a closer look outside (despite its being a comet, not a meteor). The comet actually does fall to Earth in the form of a huge crystal rock, a scene witnessed by a local man hiding in the bushes; the crystal then transforms into a monster - who soon kills the man and sucks out his brain.

Baron of Terror Meanwhile a mysterious but charming and very rich baron has just moved to town, and he wows everyone. But soon the police notice that some of the Baron's party guests are turning up dead, with mysterious holes in their necks and their brains sucked out...

Such is The Brainiac, aka El Baron del Terror, a 1962 Mexican monster movie that is charming with its cheesiness, but which is ultimately a little bit of a letdown, considering how much appreciation various horror aficianados have given it on these Internets.

I liked the central Monster of the piece - the reincarnation of the Baron, dropped from space after 300 years to suck the brains of his enemies' descendants. (Jeez, what kind of marijuana were they smoking when they thought up all that?) The look of the monster itself contained enough cheese for 'bad-good' horror movie lovers - the tentacled hands, the pulsating head, the forked tongue. But the story centered around the creature just left something to be desired, in my opinion - each of the victims gets murdered in pretty much the same way each time without much suspense.

Mind you, I like and appreciate the other few Mexican horror films of this era that I've seen - La Llarona (aka The Curse of the Crying Woman), The Witch's Mirror, The Black Pit of Dr. M. Being a product of that time, they carry the sort of old-fashioned, vaguely European flavor that I enjoy so much in the Hammer period films of the time, or other foreign horror classics like Mill of the Stone Women.

But I just didn't think Brainiac stood up with those other great movies. Maybe if I caught it again on the right evening, or if I had been exposed to it as a kid, maybe I would feel differently. Certainly it has all of the elements of a good old monster flick like I usually enjoy.

Still, you gotta admit: where else can you see a cultured, exquisitely mannered Mexican baron enjoying a nice spoonful of human brains he keeps locked in a trunk in his fabulously-appointed home?

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