Creature with the Atom Brain is a 1955 American black-and-white zombie science fiction film from Columbia Pictures, produced by Sam Katzman, directed by Edward L. Cahn, that stars Richard Denning,, Angela Stevens, Michael Granger and Gregory Gaye. The screenplay was written by Curt Siodmak.
American gangster Frank Buchanan (Granger) forces former Nazi scientist Wilhelm Steigg (Gaye) to create zombies by resurrecting corpses through atomic radiation in order to help him exact revenge on his enemies.
Creature with the Atom Brain was released as the bottom half of a double bill with It Came from Beneath the Sea.
A hulking zombie breaks into a mansion and kills a gangster named Hennesy. The blood stains left behind at the crime scene are radioactive, and the fingerprints of the killer are of a man who had died days before the murder; the police are baffled.
Gangster boss Frank Buchanan, who had been forced to flee the United States before he was deported, was betrayed by members of his own underworld gang. While traveling in Europe, he finds ex-Nazi scientist Wilhelm Steigg (Gaye), who is trying to reanimate the dead in order to provide a menial labor pool that is easily exploited. Buchanan funds the research and brings the scientist to America with the unstated goal of sending Steigg's zombies out to murder those who ousted him; one by one, they are killed in the same fashion.
The police eventually discover the common connection between the murdered gang members and Buchanan. They try to put the remaining three into protective custody, but Buchanan uses a reanimated dead cop to kill one of them, and a reanimated dead police captain to kill the remaining two. When the zombie captain is captured, police doctor, Dr. Chet Walker (Denning) discovers an atomic-powered remote control brain implant and deduces what has been going on.
Police and army troops converge on Buchanan's lead-lined mansion, and he sends out his unkillable zombies to battle them. Walker, however, is able to get into the mansion and smash the atomic-powered equipment that controls the zombies; after doing so, they all collapse. Buchanan is about to shoot Walker, but the still-animated zombie police captain, now under Walker's control, grabs and strangles Buchanan before he can fire a shot.
The film was made by Sam Katzman's Clover Productions for Columbia Pictures Corp.
In The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle wrote, "Good '50s fun abounds, with all the twisted gender ideology and antiseptic social ideals that that implies, packed in a tightly-wrought action film with strong (if entertainingly dated) conceptual support". David Maine of PopMatters rated it 6 out of 10 stars and called it "a thoroughly enjoyable, noir-ish SF chiller, if you can get past the dingbat wife and cutie-pie kid".
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the film on DVD in October 2007 as part of the two-disc, four-film set Icons of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman, along with three other films produced by Katzman (The Werewolf, The Giant Claw and Zombies of Mora Tau).
Creature with the Atom Brain inspired the name of the Belgian rock band Creature with the Atom Brain, as well as the 1980 Roky Erickson & The Aliens song of the same name.
Director Cahn would go on to make Invisible Invaders (1959) using the same basic concept (in the later film, invading aliens inhabit the reanimated corpses of humans).