Thing with Two Heads

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The Thing with Two Heads (1972)
Cast: Ray Milland, Rosie Grier, Don Marshall
Director: Lee Frost
Nutshell: Racist Bigot has his head transplanted onto a Soul Brothers body….Oooops!

“ordeal” The Worst Movies of All Time
“sufficient laughs” Time Out
“opportunity missed” Creature Features
“played partially for laughs, which helps a little” Maltin

The Thing with Two Heads begins with ailing medical genius and devout racist Dr. Kirshner who has just weeks to live and is thus pursuing his secret transplant experiments in total desperation. He arrives, wheelchair bound to his labs one morning to be informed of the heartening news that his revolutionary methods appear to be working without any adverse effects on the gorilla that they recently conducted the transplant tests on.

 

The gorilla (played by make up Guru Rick Baker) has another head transplanted on to its body and appears to be coming along just fine, if a little irate at having a partner he can’t get rid of. When Kirshner’s physical condition deteriorates the search for a donor body reaches frenzied levels and finally a “guinea pig” is discovered in the form of a soul brother on Death Row who is given a 30 day reprieve from Sparky the electric chair so that he can volunteer himself for the sake of medical science research. The poor fellow doesn’t know that he is about to have Kirshner’s demented head transplanted onto his big black bulk!

The transplant works perfectly but the real fun starts when Kirshner gets the shock of his life as he discovers that he is now attached to the body of an African American! “Is this some kind of joke?” he exclaims as he recoils in horror at his nightmarish discovery. Equally if not more distressed at receiving the head of a bigot next to his own is poor Soul brother Jack Moss who soon has the entire police force out searching for him after his hospital escape. All sorts of mayhem ensues as the two headed thing hits the streets in search of the man who can save Moss from Death Row with some crucial evidence?

The Thing with Two Heads joins a motorbike rally causing most of the other riders to crash and flee in terror! No less than 14 police cars are totalled as they career around the countryside trying to apprehend the rampaging two headed thing. Finally, Moss gets to his girlfriend’s apartment where she is understandably reluctant to spend much time with him so long as he has Kirshner as an attachment. It is decided that Kirshner’s head has got to go, thus poor Kirshner has to find himself a new body or then vanquish the soul brother and take over his body completely despite the fact that he would remain horribly black!

Will Kirshner succeed in pulverising Moss into submission, removing the original head and inheriting his albeit black body, or will the Soul Brother manage to off Kirshner and dump his head where it belongs, in the garbage can!

The Thing With The Two Heads borrows heavily from the 50’s classic The Brain that Wouldn’t Die with its head transplant theme but injects some novelty into proceedings with its racism angle. The movie provides some good cackles along the way but perhaps not as many as could rightly have been expected from a film with such an ingenious plot. The “feel” of the film is typical AIP exploitation fare of the early 70’s right from the tacky bright yellow TV style lettering of the titles to the jazzy, funky shaft-like music score in the background and the obligatory song or two! The special effects too are a marvel in that they are seriously cheesy and hopelessly inept……Kirshner’s head in the action shots is a scream.

Matters could have been helped by some more banter between the two heads rather than wasting ages (seemed like half the movie) on an infernal car chase scene cum motorbike rally full of the most tediously dull stunts. It goes on and on and is about as (un)amusing as a feature length episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. The direction is largely flat and uninspired though the central idea is a gem and should have been exploited far more effectively. Someone should remake this film and cast someone like Eddie Murphy or Will Smith along with someone like Mike Myers as Kirshner or better still it should be remade by Bollywood with one head a Sainik and the other a Talibani – now that would be fun…….or The Thing with Two Heads; one Israeli and one Palestinian head would be interesting.

The feeling with The Thing With The Two Heads is that though it contains a fabulously amusing premise, what follows doesn’t quite manage to do justice to the concept. Full marks to Milland for playing his bit with relish as well as Rosey Grier (ex New York Giants football star) who does well as the unfortunate Moss. It’s quite a giggle, but one just gets the feeling that it could have been so much more.