518. The Atomic Brain (1963)

A fave of mine even without the riffing. Three servants, a mad old woman, a nuclear scientist. Sounds like a sitcom. Weird narrator, brain transplants, people constantly using the stairs. “So we chaaaaaaaange partners!” “Selznick International Pictures”, “The Strange Loves of Martha Washington”, “Tonight on a very special Grandma Ironside.” Peak early Mike or a whole lot of darkness?


[clears throat]

Well, it does have Xerxes the Cat, who as we all know had a long and distinguished showbiz career.


Not a favorite of mine, but memorable for the song they sang to the old lady’s walking and the awful British accent of the tall blonde.


I’ve already mentioned in neighbor threads that Mrs. March isn’t much of a villain. Eaton tries her best to sell it, but the writing lets her down, big-time.

I guess another Ram Chip besides the KITTY! is the friendship of the girls and their concern for each other. But I’d still like to punch whoever thought it was a good idea to name the mad scientist “Otto Frank.” :roll_eyes:


A bit of both.

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True. Based on the conventions of the time and what the movie had to work with. As a straight-up picture, March can’t escape the genre or the formula whatsoever. I will admit Eaton sells it beyond the merits of the movie and her scenery chewing animates much of the action. Lots of entertainment is implausible innately and it’s performance and suspension of disbelief that when executed can lessen how laughable something is.

As riffing fodder? Her oddness as a heavy lends conviction to the strangeness. Dog Frankenstein, Dr. Frank, a grown woman eating a mouse. A tryannical woman in a wheelchair meshes with the gothic absurdity of it. In any other movie, it would be even more laughable than it is. In Atomic Brain (1963), she fits right in. March works because she’s a contradiction. Her crude wants are explained by her useless body. Why anyone tolerates her is the real question. The answer? Money. Then again it is a movie and we should really just relax.

P.S. There’s a trope in MST experiments of unconvincing elements. Arch Hall Sr as father material in Eegah (1962), Harold P. Warren as a decent human being in Manos (1966), Christopher Lee as a charismatic leader in Fu Manchu (1969), Tor Johnson as a Soviet Scientist in The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961). Isn’t the inability to sell the audience of something and further it becoming ridiculous a necessity to being on the show? One could argue that the larger the disconnect the greater the impact. Like Torgo’s knees or how Mitchell keeps his job.

I don’t even think she’s a contradiction as a character. That would imply subtlety on the part of the director and writers. The potential was there to build a plausible and interesting plot around her character, but the lack of skill, or imagination, and the threadbare budget made that impossible. It’s to Eaton’s credit that she managed as well as she did, I suppose.

Also, I’ve never relaxed a day in my life, which should be obvious by now to everyone who reads my posts. :wink:


You forgot the gigolo who looks like Darren McGavin.

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Informed Attribute - TV Tropes

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MST3k didn’t air in Canada so before internet piracy, I needed to rely on Rhino VHSes. I had heard about the show and it seemed completely up my alley due to loving genre cinema and comedy and this was the first tape I purchased for $20. Worth every penny. Cheating is one of the truly great shorts.

“Oh, hi Mrs. Granb-- OH MY GOD!”


No I didn’t. I almost wrote “Four Servants” instead of “Three”. He is a subplot not the main plot. So I kept it simple. :slightly_smiling_face:

What’s wrong with—googles—oh! OH! Oh.

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Otto Frank? I figure the screenwriters never bothered to crosscheck the name. It was in a world before the Internet and information at one’s fingertips didn’t exist. In an post-WWII era, the name Otto nodding to the Germans and Frank short for Frankenstein was fairly obvious as a first and last for an uncaring nuclear scientist tampering “in God’s Domain”. Atomic was shot in 1958. 13 years had passed since the Nazis lost. There was no immediacy or raw connection in catching that Otto Frank was the father of Anne Frank. They had no clue and devoid of acute familarity of the Frank story that would be lost on many people particularly prior to the World Wide Web. This is one of those weird ironies where a quick and easy name coincided with a victim. Who knew? They certainly didn’t.

The thing that always knocks me for a loop?

Mrs. March herself, Marjorie Eaton, was the actress who originally played the onscreen representation of the Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back.

emperoreaton emperororiginal


The diary was published in the early 1950s and got a great deal of acclaim and coverage afterwards, in numerous countries including the U.S. The stage adaptation appeared in 1955 and the original film in 1959. An adult in the entertainment biz who hadn’t spent his or her whole life on Mars should really have known.

I still wanna’ punch someone over this.


You’d be surprised what people are unaware of. ESPECIALLY in the Entertainment Business.

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lol. Yeah. It’s possible that I rate creative people too high. Since I am one… sort of. I mean, nobody’s optioned my script yet. But they did send me a polite rejection with the phrase, “You forgot to have things happen in this screenplay.” :wink:

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As for the episode itself, it was a little dark warped bit of film, but because it was on Rhino VHS, I loved it and adored it and played the hell out of it.

The running gag of :musical_note: “SHE MOVES, SHE CREAKS, SHE’S SO, DANG OLD” :musical_note: was a gem, and they really honed in on the ineptitude of the “official bevy” that was invited to the mansion.

It has a real gem of a host segment in the form of Magic Voice taking center stage. A clever bit of audio editing to create interplay between M.V. and the slimy narrator, and Mary Jo Pehl rocks that.

And we can’t forget that What About Juvenile Delinquency short, directed by none other than Herk Harvey, the mastermind behind Carnival of Souls (in addition to his other shorts like Cheating, Why Study Industrial Arts, and of course, RiffTrax’s SHAKE HANDS WITH DANGER). For some odd reason, Crow’s riff of “He’s changing into the Incredible Hulk” always gets me, as does Servo as the old teacher: “THIS IS MY TURF NOW!”


Maybe Mrs. March got her old body back after all, and found her true calling as a small-time drug kingpin undercover in a Midwestern public school! :astonished:

The way Mike tears into the short’s hero for his garbled pronunciations is priceless. :joy:



Also, the panicking over whatever’s going on here: