The other night I had 60 minutes to spare, but rather than watch the shambling husk of Andy Rooney attempt to explain what was confusing him this week, I decided instead to spend that hour with The Brain Eaters. I’m pretty sure I made the better choice.
In case the short running time isn’t enough of a tip off, then let me assure you, The Brain Eaters is pure second-billing fodder from the bygone days of the Saturday afternoon double feature. The creature effects consist of nothing but some fuzzy lumps (eerily reminiscent of Rooney’s eyebrows) adorned with pipe cleaner antennae being pulled by strings, the soundtrack is comprised of scratched vinyl outtakes from works by Prokofiev and Shostakovich (but credited to fictitious composer Tom Jonson because that name sounds less like a dirty Russian commie), and the hero is played by hard working B-movie and TV vet Ed Nelson (whose previous lead role was as the crab in Attack Of The Crab Monsters).
And yet, The Brain Eaters is still a watchable film. The cast is earnest, the script has some nice surprises (those characters died, really?), and there’s even a brief appearance by a young Leonard Nimoy (misspelled Nemoy in the too-expensive-to-correct opening credits) looking all Gandalfish as the spokesman for the wooly invaders. Plus, it’s got that tried and true plot element found in so many 50’s movies, the communist inspired fear of the communal hive mind and the loss of individual identity.
Now who would have thought so many aliens in the 50s would turn out to be Quietists? As explained in the Columbia Encyclopedia, Quietism is “a heretical form of religious mysticism founded by Miguel de Molinos, a 17th-century Spanish priest (and, bizarrely, something of a Nimoy lookalike).”
“The essence of quietism is that perfection lies in the complete passivity of the soul before God and the absorption of the individual in the divine love to the point of annihilation not only of will but of all effort or desire for effort… Molinos and his doctrines were condemned by Pope Innocent XI in 1687.”
You know, despite the Buddhist feel of Quietism, one might wonder why the Church never approved of it. After all, in this week’s reading we hear, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” On the surface, that sounds a lot like the annihilation of the self through the absorption into the divine. But as the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia explains, “The self-abandonment which Christ in the Gospel requires of us is simply the renunciation of our own interest.” It’s a discarding of the sinful attachments which get in the way of our conforming our will and reason to God without actually abdicating those faculties in the process. Unlike the Brain Eaters, God wants volunteers, not drones.
Speaking of droning, here’s Mike & The Bots with their take on Andy Rooney.