Horror 365, Movie 164: Monstrosity

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fuuurrrr… Yes, we’ve got a number of cats skulking around Castle Blogferatu. They like to sleep on the stairs where they’re easy to trip over, knock vials of poison or acid off the tables, and other kinds of endearing cat things. Their greatest appeal is their absolute dearth of reliability and trustworthiness.

It’s also what makes them such great horror movie accessories, plot devices, and supporting characters. Examples are plentiful, movies like Sleepwalkers, Cat’s Eye, Pet Sematary, and today’s movie, a 1963 gem called Monstrosity (released on TV as The Atomic Brain).

Where does one begin? Well, after 2 minutes of narrated exposition (of which the movie has plenty) of course. Here we find out that Dr. Otto Frank is conducting transplant experiments using live animal brains, dead bodies, and a cyclotron. All of this takes place in the basement of a mansion. What? You don’t have a cyclotron in your basement? Well that’s on you then.

To be fair, said mansion belongs to Mrs. Hettie March–as rich and unpleasant as she is old. She’s bankrolling the good doctor’s efforts because she wants to transplant her brain into the body of a young woman. Given the nature of the experiments, Dr. Frank has been surprisingly successful. Up to this point he’s created Hans (a vicious thug with a dog brain) and a “walking corpse” (a reanimated zombie-like woman). Science for the win.

Meanwhile, Mrs. March hires 3 attractive young women as “domestic help.” There’s Anita (Mexican), Bea (English), and Nina (Austian). The only reason I point this out is because you’ll never figure it out from their, uh, “accents.” The reason they’re all from other countries is so Mrs. March can threaten them with the immigration authorities if she needs to.

Well it also turns out that part of the interview process involves them undressing so Mrs. March can give ’em a good once over. Yeah it’s as cringeworthy as it sounds. This is how she discovers that Anita isn’t perfect as she has a birthmark on her back, so she’s turned over to Dr. Frank for experimentation.

Throughout all this, we’ve seen various characters interact with the unnamed household feline skillfully portrayed by a black cat named Xerxes. As his next experiment Dr. Otto decides to transplant the cat’s brain into Anita. You’ll be shocked to learn this works which disgusts but impresses Mrs. March. How it works isn’t really clear since Anita’s head hasn’t been shaved, cut, or bandaged, but okay.

Be warned, I’ll be letting the cat outta the bag with some spoilers. Y’see, Mrs. March has chosen Bea as the next lucky contestant in everybody’s favorite game show, Who Wants To Stay A Millionaire (By Putting Your Old Brain In A Young Body). Unfortunately, Bea stumbles upon Anita and ends up getting an eye scratched out. Meowch. That leaves Nina by default.

However, Dr. Otto’s figures out a way to grab Mrs. March’s fortune by keeping Nina around since she’ll be the “new” Mrs. March–it’s a clumsy explanation but whatever. So instead he puts brain into, you guessed it, the cat. But we’re not done yet, ladles and jellyspoons. When the good doctor steps into the cyclotron to reset things, the cat/Mrs. March locks him in and begins the self-destruct sequence which he conveniently explained at the 10-minutes mark.

During the ensuing cat-astrophe, Nina escapes followed by the cat, possibly in the hopes that Mrs. March can switch places with Nina once and feral. I do crack myself up.

On a more analytical note, it’s interesting that Mrs. March at first chooses Bea, the English woman. This leaves out Austrian Nina (kinda Third Reich-ish) and Mexican Anita (cuz 1963 white woman). There are also some unfortunate stereotypes in terms of women, foreigners, age, and appearance. Finally, it’s worth pointing out the connection between Monstrosity and Get Out. Both are littered (heh) with old rich white people essentially buying kidnapped young bodies, either female and white or male and black, in order to live on into perpetuity. Yikes.

And with that, let’s paws here until tomorrow.

BODIES- 4.5 onscreen (Mrs. March’s body is destroyed, but her brain is in the cat), 2 offscreen
Stream- Epix, Fandor, Film Detective, Philo, Plex, Prime, Sling, Tubi
Rent- Prime

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