Four B-Grade Science Fiction Films in the Public Domain

Inspired by Open Culture’s new post, “The 5 Best Noir Films in the Public Domain,” I did a brief search to see which other films reside in the public domain.

Behold the wonder that is b-grade, public domain sci-fi.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

The Brain that Wouldn’t Die entered the public domain after American-International Pictures failed to add copyright information to the new title card.

Completed in 1959, the film was officially released in 1962. Directed by Joseph Green with an estimated budget of $62,000, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die follows a grief-stricken doctor who keeps his decapitated girlfriend’s head alive while he searches for a replacement body. The girlfriend, Jan Compton (Virginia Leith), is understandably pissed that the doctor won’t let her die. So, she communicates telepathically with a mutant locked in the laboratory, willing it to kill the doctor.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 covered The Brain That Wouldn’t Die in episode 513 and was the first film watched by Mike Nelson after he replaced Joel Robinson.

Attack of the Giant Leeches

Attack of the Giant Leeches was released in 1959 with an estimated budget of $70,000. The film underscores America’s Cold War anxieties with one character even going so far as to speculate that the leeches are a result of radiation from Cape Canaveral. There’s not much more to the plot than folks being attacked by mutant leeches. (But, really, what else could you want?)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 covered Attack of the Giant Leeches in episode 406.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

The Martians are worried about their children. They seem to be watching too much Earth-TV (read: American TV) and have begun to push back against Martian society’s dogmatic structure. One of the Martian leaders decides to kidnap Santa Claus so that Martian children can live a happier life. Other Martian leaders disagree and a battle of ideology ensues.

There can’t be any underlying propaganda in that plot, right?

Routinely described as one of the worst movies ever made, Santa Clause Conquers the Martians was released in 1964 with an estimated budget of $200,000. Mystery Science Theater 3000 covered Santa Clause Conquers the Martians in episode 321.

Oh, and this film is the first documented appearance of Mrs. Claus.

Teenagers from Outer Space

In typical sci-fi fashion, Teenagers from Outer Space, is about an alien species that needs to colonize Earth for food purposes. The gargon, a lobster-type creature, is an alien delicacy that needs air to breath. For whatever reason, the alien crew thought it would be a good idea to bring two teenage rivals along on the mission: Derek and Thor.

After the aliens arrive to Earth, it becomes quickly apparent that Derek and Thor have opposing moral and ethical outlooks. Derek, the “good” teenager, runs away from the crew after trying to convince the others to leave Earth. Now Derek is on the lam and the gargon begins growing exponentially. Chaos ensues.

Teenagers from Outer Space, released in 1959, was a box office flop, even with its small budget of $20,000. To add further insult to injury, Bryan and Ursula Pearson sued director Tom Graeff for the $5,000 investment they had made. The Pearsons got their $5k back, but the judge ruled that there were no profits to share. In the fall of 1959, Graeff suffered a breakdown and “proclaim[ed] himself the second coming of Christ.” He eventually committed suicide in 1970.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 covered Teenagers from Outer Space in episode 404.

“I shall make the Earth my home. And I shall never, never leave it.”

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  1. Maybe it’s more fantasy genre, but I thought Troll 2 was hilariously bad.

    Liked by 1 person

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