A gangster is killed by a big man who pays no attention to bullets, and who leaves glowing fingerprints. Police scientist Chet Walker discovers that the fingerprints are radioactive -- as well as those of a dead man. We soon learn that this walking corpse was created by Dr.Wilhelm Steigg; he's allowing secretly-returned deported gangster Buchanan to get revenge on those who were responsible for his conviction. Steigg removes part of the brains of recently-dead men, and replaces them with a device that allows them to control the body from a distance, like a robot; they can even see through the creature's eyes via television. Another atomic zombie kills the district attorney who convicted Buchanan, which leads Chet and his homicide detective friend Dave Harris to deduce that the killings are connected to the Buchanan case.
Directed by: Edward L. Cahn
. Starring: Richard Denning
, Angela Stevens
, S. John Launer
, Michael Granger
, Gregory Gaye
, Linda Bennett
, Tristram Coffin
, Harry Lauter
, Larry J. Blake
, Charles Evans
, Pierre Watkin
, Paul Bradley
, George Bruggeman
It feels very much like a precursor to Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator (1985), even though the original stories that was based on predates Creature by at least 30 years.
Still, with a luminous serum, and re-animated corpses, it would be like if you had Dr. Hill funding Dr. Herbert West from the beginning and what would follow in their wake (anybody that knows Re-Animator knows that West couldn't stomach the idea of someone controlling his research, but let's say that he put up with it. This feels like that what if scenario playing out, which of course, is fun for someone like me).
In the place of Dr. West is the ex Nazi scientist, Dr Chet Walker and in place of the Hill character is the mob boss, Frank Buchanan. Chet does the re-animating, and Frank controls the corpses with some kind of communicator (sound familiar?) for them to basically do his bidding. He not only sends them out to kill select targets, but also to terrorize the town. The final act involves a big blow out showdown with the corpses rising, facing off with the cops.
Hot on their trail are police detectives trying to track them down and stop them. And other than the series of assassinations via animated corpse, the film focuses a lot on the investigation, rather than the Dr. ChetFrank characters (they get a fair amount of screen time, enough for this film). While on the other side of the spectrum, Re-Animator focuses on the character who would pretty much get wrapped up into assisting Dr. West in his experiments and Dr. West himself and the rivalry between West and Hill becomes a key plot point as well. Also, in Re-Animator, West and Hill are both so much more alive and wonderfully over the top, and therefor, far more watchable than the ChetFrank characters of Creature (which is why focusing less on these characters in Creature isn't such a downside. They're not bad, just not as entertaining, but they do a sufficient job).
Re-Animator is also a much smaller film, sticking to a few key specific indoor locations (including its really awesome finale in the hospital morgue) and characters, while Creature is much more broad, expansive, with plenty of outdoor sequences (including the final epic showdown) and tons of characters floating around. So, the films are very different storywise and feel very different, but have some really key similarities that make it fun watching and comparing them.
In the end, Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator is the better film, but Creature With the Atom Brain is still a lot of fun, even if slower paced (which is not to say slower paced is a bad thing at all, but just to give a heads up to those who might consider watching this), and the final moments with what the girl names her dolly and how she feels about it just makes me smile for no real reason associated directly with anything else that goes on in the film.
I could totally see these two films as an awesome double bill, maybe at a drive in theater.
Review by Jon Knight from the Internet Movie Database.