Friday, August 21, 2015

The Thing With Two Heads (Olive Blu-ray)

Ray Milland was a childhood hero of mine. While many of you may remember him form Dial M for Murder, my experience with him started during Fox 5’s Creature Feature Week in the mid-80’s when he played the victim of a science experiment gone horribly wrong in X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes. Boy have we come a long way from the days of Roger Corman in 1963 to find Milland still the victim of scientific hi jinks only this time it is to great comedic effect with plenty of socio political subtext.  Olive Films has given us a chance to enjoy a strange scientific experiment in The Thing with Two Heads on Blu-ray.

Ten years after X, Ray would star as a surgeon in search of a way to test his experiment of humans in The Thing with Two Heads. His experiment, of course, was to transplant the head of one being on to another, an experiment with which he had great success on animals. When he falls ill, Milland is forced to undergo the test experiment himself only to find himself grafted on to a former death row prisoner who happens to be black. Did we mention that Dr. Kirshner (MIlland) is a staunch racist? You can see where this goes quickly. While the effect of having the two headed being is obvious and rather unsophisticated, it’s the combative force between the two mortal enemies on one body that stirs both discussion and the chuckles. It’s got the proper level of camp to compete with movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but maybe falls short of the superb humor you may have found in The Man with Two Brains. I’ve never felt Milland was right for humor or if so, he makes a better straight man than a racist surgeon. Still he and Jack Moss play off each other effectively to create the proper tension and keep the movie feeling lively.

This is a good looking Blu-ray that helps to preserve some of the traditional artwork associated with the release. The transfer quality is good and befitting of a B list title. It suffers from some slight dust and marks, but overall the release respects the picture. Unfortunately there are no extras associated with this release.

Having enjoyed Lee Frost’s work on The Defilers which was made earlier in his career and after enjoying Love Camp 7 and The Black Gestapo, it’s not wholly surprising that Frost could direct an effective comedy playing off exploitation elements during the 70’s. His work is filled with lighthearted and rather serious exploitation flicks, some with more skin than others. His documentary work on Mondo Bizarro and Mondo Freudo hit the Something Weird Video label for those of you looking to catch some truly out their mondo material.  Frost could seemingly do anything.

At that outset of this review I discussed how I came to know and love Ray Milland. Coincidentally, Kino released X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes this year on Blu-ray as well. Ten years apart. Two completely different Milland pictures.  I can’t help but remember how Elvira gave me first inkling of the existence of The Thing with Two Heads when she “Freudianly joked” that she was going to be airing the “Head with Two Things… err… The Thing with Two Heads” in her movie Elivra Mistress of the Dark.  This slapstick piece of social commentary could only be better if someone had put Carroll O’Connor in the lead juxtaposed against Richard Roundtree (that’s Archie Bunker and Shaft respectively).  Do yourself a favor and enjoy the camp, science fiction, comedy with a message. 

From Olive:

The Thing With Two Heads is a film that answers the age-old question: Are two heads better than one? Despite his deteriorating health, incredibly rich and deeply racist brain surgeon Maxwell Kirshner (Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend, Dial M For Murder) plans to be around for a very long time. What better way to achieve his goal than to transplant his still cognitive noggin onto the body of a healthy human being? Having performed similar experimental surgeries on animals, Maxwell convinces his colleagues to perform the groundbreaking and unsanctioned medical procedure on him – the first successful head-graft. With his body in rapid decline, Maxwell’s head is transplanted onto the first available body. And that would be death row inmate Jack Moss (Rosey Grier,Skyjacked, Timber Tramps). Did we forget to mention that Jack Moss is black? The Thing With Two Heads, directed by Lee Frost (The Black Gestapo, Private Obsession), from a screenplay by Lee Frost, Wes Bishop and James Gordon White, co-stars Don Marshall (Uptown Saturday Night, Terminal Island), Roger Perry (Count Yorga, Vampire), William Smith (Conan the Barbarian, The Outsiders) and Jerry Butler (A Bronx Tale, La Bamba).

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