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The Brain of Colonel Barham Recap

At a military base, a team of officers and scientists look on as Colonel Alec Barham. Rahm feeds data into a computer. When the lead scientist, Dr. Leo Hausner, changes the data by one symbol, the computer locks up. Rahm reports that there was a malfunction and he had to improvise, and complains that the equipment is faulty. He leaves in his wheelchair, and General Daniel Pettit apologies for Alec's actions. Pettit explains that Alec is a sick man from disease after his accident and he has a right to be angry. One of the scientists, Nichols, agrees with him. Hausner says that they can't predict the problems with a Mars landing, and only a human mind can adapt quickly enough. He suggests that they integrate a human brain into the computer, and Dr. Rahm has already done it with chimpanzees. Hausner proposes that they use Alec, noting that his disease is in a terminal stage.

Major Douglas McKinnon, the project doctor, realizes that the intercom is on and Alec has heard everything. He turns off the intercom and tells Hausner that he just gave Alec a shock.

Later at his doctor's office apartment, Alec and his wife Jennifer discuss moving to the city. Jennifer is glad to look after Alec, who says that she takes her wedding vows more seriously than he ever did. Alec tells her that he doesn't need pity and will stay there, and mentions that they want to use his brain. He explains about the mission, and complains that all the money they spent on him is wasted because of the accident that crippled him. Furious, Alec rages about the injustice of it.

Pettit and Douglas come in and the general wants to discuss his offer with the couple. Alec insists on Jennifer being excluded, and abruptly tells Jennifer that it doesn't concern her. Douglas takes her to get coffee and once they're gone, Pettit says that it will be mostly Rahm's project. He says that the proposal works, and points out that the machine will see every planet of the entire system... and may be immortal. Alec asks how he would do with pretty girls, and Pettit asks him how he's doing now.

Douglas talks to Jennifer about her marriage, and she says that six of the eight years was in active service. He explains that he has to know more about Alec to complete his records, and says that Alec is a superior astronaut with unfaltering self-confidence. Douglas wonders where the balance is, and Jennifer wonders if he means Alec's weaknesses. A call comes in and when it's done, Jennifer demands information about what they have in mind for Alec. Douglas finally tells her that they're going to send a robot first and they need a human brain merged with the machine. He says that he doesn't approve of the project, saying that they don’t' know enough about the human mind. Douglas explains that Pettit called and Alec agreed, and Jennifer wonders why her husband would volunteer.

That night, Alec waits in his hospital bed. Douglas visits him and Alec talks about Pettit thinking he volunteered out of patriotism. Rahm sees it as common sense, and Hausner views it as intellectual curiosity. He tells Douglas that he can't see the obvious, and wonders if Alec is acting out of egotism. Alec figures Jennifer is opposed to the operation, and says that his wife doesn't believe in divorce and if he becomes immortal as a bodiless brain, she's stuck with him. He tells Douglas that he wants to undergo the operation, and figures that Douglas thinks the operation will fail. Douglas wonders what kind of mind Alec will have afterward, and says that he would settle for human.

The next day, Douglas, Pettit, and Hausner waiting outside the operating room. Pettit tells Douglas that he read his report on Alec, but doesn't believe his warnings. Rahm and his team come out and the doctor announces that the operation was a success. They wheel out Alec's body, and Rahm says that they'll have to wait until 4 o'clock when Alec awakens.

At 4, Rahm and his team place the brain in a liquid-filed job and hook it up to the monitors. The doctor reports that the encephalogram is registering normal brain activity. He awakens Alec, and they register activity in the motor area showing the brain is trying to move. Alec asks what happened to the test chimp, and Rahm says that there was an overload in the brain. Alec "speaks" through the machine, saying that he feels pain. Rahm puts Alec back to safe and says that the pain is caused by shock. Pettit orders them to meet in his office in two hours.

Out in the hallway, Douglas approaches Jennifer as he goes to the briefing. She says that she saw Alec's body but won't go near the brain. As far as Jennifer figures, Alec is dead. Douglas tells her that future generations may be half-machine and half-human, and says that it's too soon to tell if the operation was a success. She says that she'll wait for him and she's a patient woman.

In the briefing, Pettit asks for a critical evaluation. Rahm dismisses the pain as psychosomatic, and Douglas agrees. Hausner insists that Alec's brain is perfectly suited to their needs. When Douglas objects, Pettit asks what's bothering him. Douglas warns that the human brain responds to impulses and the inhibiting force is partly connected to the body and physical needs. He warns that subconscious may be released and it wouldn't take much for an egocentric, and says that Alec was the wrong choice. Hauser insists that they must succeed with the brain, and Pettit tells Douglas to make it so.

Later, Douglas studies the machine Alec is hooked up to. Rahm's assistant, Ed Nichols, tells Douglas that Alec has said that the pain isn't so bad. He relates that Alec came out of unconsciousness by himself, and leads Douglas to the side. Nichols says that Alec can hear them via the machine, and the power to the brain has been going up steadily in the last hour and he can't identify where it's coming from. By morning, Alec's brain will operate on its own.

Douglas talks to Alec via the machine, and Alec says that he can hear him. Alec says that he doesn't feel at all, and dismisses the pain he felt earlier as imaginary. He asks if Douglas wants to discuss his problems, saying that they're nothing to be ashamed of. After a moment Douglas grabs at his head and then tells Alec that he reversed the situation very neatly. Alec asks him if Jennifer has been told, and Douglas says that she has and she's there making the arrangements for disposing of the body. He tells Alec that it's not a good idea to have her visit Alec, and the power spikes as Alec realizes that Jennifer refuses to come. Nichols motions to Douglas to leave, and Douglas suggests that Jennifer will visit once she's had a chance to adjust.

Once Douglas leaves, Alec tells Nichols to come closer. Once he does, Alec has him confirm that Jennifer refused to come there. He orders Nichols to find Jennifer and bring her there. Nichols refuses and goes to get Rahm, but Alec shoots bursts of energy from his brain to Nichols. Using the energy, Alec controls Nichols' mind and compels him to search for Jennifer.

Douglas visits with Rahm and tells him that the brain is becoming disassociated with delusions of grandeur. Rahm insists that Alec has obtained grandeur but says that they'll watch Alec closely. Nichols finds Jennifer, grabs her, and drags her from the lounge. Douglas hears them struggling and runs in, and shoves Nichols away. The psychiatrist confirms that Jennifer is okay, and Nichols renews his assault. The two men fight and Douglas knocks Nichols out.

Rahm examines Jennifer, and while they wait Pettit tells Douglas that he can't understand why Nichols went berserk. Douglas says that Nichols' profile shows no aberrant tendencies, and Rahm comes out and says that Jennifer is suffering from shock. He reports that Nichols says he can't remember anything, and Pettit figures that Nichols was drunk. Douglas asks how Alec is and insists on going to the laboratory with Rahm.

In the laboratory, Alec asks Rahm how he checks out. Rahm says that he's fine, and Alec tells him that he's satisfied. Once Rahm leaves, Alec says that he no longer wants to see Jennifer and there's nothing he can do about her now. He tells Douglas that he's only concerned with the success of the project and Douglas better stay out of his way or he'll "remove" him.

The next day, Douglas visits Jennifer in her hospital bed. He asks why her marriage broke up, and Jennifer explains that Alec was seeing other women. Douglas says that Alec became disturbed when he said Jennifer didn't want to see her, and he figures there's a connection between that and Nichols' actions. He asks if she feels well enough to go home, and figures that Alec has moved onto a "cosmic state" and that could be worse than petty emotions. He goes to see the team's first test of Alec's brain.

At the base, Major Locke tests Alec's mental reflexes and the others are satisfied with the results. Rahm is surprised that Alec adapted more quickly than he expected. Douglas asks Rahm if there have been any physiological changes, and Rahm confirms that the brain has grown. The psychiatrist says that Alec has developed a sense of omnipotence and has a messianic complex, and turns to destructiveness when rejected. He tells Pettit that he's convinced Alec made Nichols attack Jennifer, suggesting hypnotism. Rahm objects, saying that Douglas is trying to destroy his project, and dismisses Douglas as a charlatan.

Later, Rahm is working in the laboratory and tells Alec that he is developing new tissue. Alec tells him to get a larger container, and says that he knows Rahm had a quarrel with Douglas. Rahm says that Douglas believes the project should be abandoned, and Alec tells him to kill Douglas. The energy levels rise and when Alec orders Rahm to do what he says, Rahm realizes Douglas was right. Alec hypnotizes him and the mesmerized doctor goes to kill Douglas.

Rahm walks past Jennifer and Locke, unseeing, and Jennifer tells Locke that Nichols looked the same way when he attacked her. She figures that something is wrong, and Locke goes after Rahm. Meanwhile, Rahm enters Douglas' office and draws Alec's gun from his desk. He shoots at Douglas, hitting the wall behind him as he ducks. Locke runs in and knocks Rahm out, then confirms that Douglas is okay.

Locke and Douglas tell Pettit and Hausner what happened, and Hausner points out that Douglas attacked Rahm's professional attitude. Rahm denies remembering any of it, and Douglas figures that Rahm must have come from the laboratory. Locke suggests that Pettit talk to Jennifer because she said Rahm was acting like Nichols. Hausner protests, saying that Alec needs Rahm. Douglas points out that the brain doesn't need anyone now, and Pettit has Locke find Jennifer while he, Hausner, and Douglas visit Alec.

Jennifer enters the laboratory and stares at her dead husband's brain in horror. Alec tells her to stay a while and she'll soon get used to his new condition. Jennifer accuses him of turning Nichols against him and sending Rahm to kill Douglas, and Alec tells her that Douglas was becoming a nuisance. His wife says that if he doesn’t stop they'll destroy him, but Alec doesn't believe they can and tells Jennifer to sit down.

Pettit, Douglas, and Hausner come in and Pettit repeats Douglas' accusations. Alec suggests that Douglas is jealous or confused, and says that he's in love with Jennifer. The only way she can get rid of Alec is if he's "killed", and Douglas says that they've turned Alec into a monster. Alec tells Douglas that he can kill him anytime he chooses. When Pettit says that's enough, Alec tells him that he's no longer under his command. Hausner insists that it doesn't matter and only the project is important.

The general has the others leave the room and tells Jennifer to go. Alec orders her to stay, and then fires a blast knocking Pettit out of the room when he orders Alec to be disconnected. Hausner insists that they can't destroy Alec, but Pettit says that Alec can't be negotiated with and they'll have to blast the brain.

In the lab, Alec tells Jennifer not to be foolish when she tries to leave. He fires a blast of energy driving her back, and the men outside hear the discharge. Pettit takes a guard with him to see if they can get in through the window, and Douglas runs into the room. The brain blasts him, and Douglas dives behind a table where Jennifer has taken cover.

Pettit and the guard go to a fire escape across the street and spot Alec's machine through the window. The general tells the guard to get him a rifle.

Douglas grabs a blanket from a nearby blanket, and Jennifer asks Alec how long he's going to continue the madness. While she distracts Alec, Douglas throws the blanket over Alec's visual device and takes cover again. They head for the door, but Alec blasts the attached machine against it, blocking their escape. Douglas shoves the machine away and gets Jennifer out, and across the street Pettit shoots and destroys the machine keeping Alec's brain alive. It bursts into flames and explodes, and Jennifer says that whatever was in there wasn't Alec. Douglas agrees, saying that Alec died on the operating table.

Written by Gadfly on Oct 19, 2019

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