As Ye Olde Lady I've become, still watching the occasional uber-schlock, I have to try to put myself in the childlike frame of mind that first brought me to such films.
I was a fan from early childhood of the sensitive Universal or similar types of monster flicks -- poor misunderstood Frankenstein monster, goodhearted King Kong in love, sexy Dracula defeatable only by a woman, sad ol' limping Mummy never gets the girl.
But I was born a generation too late to see these first-run & when I went to the Drive-in Movies (for free because my great-grampa was the groundskeeper & family got free passes), the newer horror films were of a different nature altogether.
But on a whole lower level, there were the films I rarely got to see at all because there just wasn't a cinema house or drive-in low-down enough to book extreme roadhouse sleeze.
I would see, in newstand monster movie magazines chiefly from Forrest J. Ackerman, stills of films I wanted to see oh so bad, & was not to learn for many a year how lucky I was never to have had the chance.
But now & then an ultra-shlocker would play a town away at the El Rancho Drive-in, which we kids called El Cheapo, El Sleezo, or El Raunchie.
It was Thursdays that cost two dollars the carload, & whoever was old enough to drive plus had access to a car would load up with friends. To be comfy for the triple-bills some of us would sit outside on the ground in front of the car. It was such a picnic. And the movies might be anything from chop sockies to third-string spaghetti westerns to unbelievably crapulistic horror.
These would be films like The Man with Two Heads (1971), about Dr. Jekyll & Danny (Denis DeMarne).
It wasn't about a man with two heads at all, but was retitled at the last minute to ride the coattails of other no-budget pieces of crap that were doing good box office, The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971) & getting the jump on the soon to appear The Thing With Two Heads (1972). It would've otherwise had the title Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Blood, & kind of too bad they changed it.
The Thing with Two Heads was one that I saw as a brand new release in a crowded car on two-dollar-a-carload night. It was glorious to see it with a group of weirdos who enjoyed laughing at how gosh awful it was.
Poor ol' Roosevelt Grier had really wanted a film career after having been a national football star, but he just couldn't score films of merit.
His television guest stints were a mite less embarrassing than his movies, & he got a side-role in Roots: The Next Generations (1979), but in the main, his acting career was kind of tragic. And after a serious bout of depression that almost took him down forever, he bounced back with a third career, as a Christian minister.
In The Thing with Two Heads, Rosey plays a convicted criminal who was innocent, who gets the head of a white racist grafted onto his enormous body.
Rosey's body wasn't that enormous until a special suit was made so that Ray Milland could ride about on his back in as stupid a two-headed-man costume as you can be imagined, more like The Man With Ray Milland Riding Piggyback.
Milland was truly on the skids as a performer. He'd been a big shot in his heyday, in first-rate Hollywood films, & a highly rated sitcom in '50s television. But his career tanked when he got too old for leading man roles, & he lowered his standards in order to be employed at all, appearing in some Roger Corman films that have since proven to be classics in great part because of the quality of Milland's acting, most noteworthy X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963) & The Premature Burial (1962).
But by the seventies he had fallen yet another peg & was appearing in films notorious for lousiness, like this one & Frogs (1972). Just look at Milland's face as he rides piggy-back pretending to be Rosey's second head. You will see such depth of misery for how low he has fallen.
As inept as the film is, the humor at least is seemingly intentional, & some of the performers actually are trying to act. When Rosey shows up at his girlfriend's place with a racist's head sewn onto his body, her droll "You get into more shit!" can't have been accidentally that funny.
And yet aside from snippets of dialog, nothing else seems to be a parody, as though the screenwriter had written a comedy but the director made a failed stab at turning it into a serious horror film.
Apart from the sadness of realizing how genuinely unhappy Milland was to rate no better film offers, & Rosey being destined to severe clinical depression, the film is otherwise a hoot. Achieving a totally magical level of awfulness, the ridiculousness so-called "special effects" for two-headedness, & the hysterical dialogue between Rosey & Ray's conjoined characters, make it a much better choice than Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) for Bad Movie Night.
It's hard to believe such a film had already & so recently been filmed. The "FX" team on The Thing with Two Heads pretty much took all their ideas from The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant; aka, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplantof the previous year.
Translpant is available separately on dvd, or on double-bill dvds with Thing with Two Heads in the MGM Midnight Movies Series, or from Cat Com along with excitingly awful Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973).
This time the premise is that a sweet & innocent mental deficient (John Bloom) has an extra head grafted onto his shoulder by a mad scientist (Bruce Dern from before anyone had heard of him), the second head being that of a psychopath (Albert Cole, playing his part wish such glee that he definitely brings an element of kooky fun to this awful production).
The mental deficient was cast as a fatty so that the second actor could stand behind him, but he wasn't strong like Roosevelt Greer, & there's not so much walking about with the psycho riding piggy-back. In some scenes of standing perfectly still, you'll catch glimpses of Albert Cole just standing there resting his chin on John Bloom's shoulder.
The psychopath has enough control over the retarded adult's body to force him to kidnap the mad scientist's wife (Pat Priest, barely memorable for her role as Marilyn in the Munsters family). She has a sound thrashing with sexual threats & helps provide a parodic version of that classic monster-movie sequence of the limp girl carried off in the arms of the monster.
Because Incredible 2-Headed Transplant lacks the comedy dialogue of Thing with Two Heads, the remake turns out to be better bad stuff than the original version. But both titles deliver up pretty much what their titles promise, without cheating one bit, & both merit considerable praise assessed by their own intentions.
The inspiration for these dumb films was actual demented scientific experiments in which a dog's head had been kept alive, briefly, grafted to another dog.
The demented experiment had been done in 1955 by Dr. Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov of the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences, & film footage of the tail-wagging dog with an extra puppy-head biting its ear flashed 'round the world. The second head had been attached along with its own original heart in order to insure enough blood pumped for both heads.
The experiment was done several times & the longest surviving "pair" of heads lasted two & a half months, though the pair seen round the world only lasted six days. Discriptions of the puppy, with no body of its own, lovingly licking any hand that would pet it, is truly stomach-turning horror for these animals' extreme abuse by scientists.
There had been even earlier experimentation by Sergei S. Bryukhonenko. of keeping a severed head alive with a machine pumping blood to the brain. If you think you can stand real horror, you can view the entirety
Experiments in Revival of Organisms (1940) in the Prelinger Archives, or relevant excerpts at youtube.
You will see authentic footage of a dog's head kept alive for hours after decapitation. And be warned, this animal is conscious & responding to stimuli like any good-natured dog, & it's absolutely stomach-turningly sick; it won't be easy to get over having seen it so think twice before you check it out.
Equally sinister & disturbing were Demikhov's experiments to create his two-headed dogs.
He proudly documented his work on film, in such a manner as to show two healthy dogs playing together before the surgery, then struggling to survive after the transplant, the puppy head shown eating separately & simultaneously with the main head of the truly sad-eyed host dog.
Some of Demeikhov's archive footage was included in the National Geographic Channel documentary The First Head Transplant (2006). As it was the Cold War & America didn't want to be left behind in anything, it would seem a rational propoganda machien would've wanted to use the Soviet "boast" of the far-extreme of animal cruelty as "proof' of perfidy among commies.
But nooooo, the US just couldn't face being less evil than the enemy. So our government soon put mad scientist Robert White to work doing brain transplants & head transplants of monkeys as well as dogs.
Sometimes in this documentary Dr. White seems like a semi-normal scientist & it's disturbing to think anyone with an ounce of normalcy could've pursued such "science." It implies any almost normal scientist might have the same potential for evil.
But then White does stuff like hold up his hands & brags, "Look at these hands of mine! I have touched Lennin's brain!" or with equal glee, "These are instruments for if you wanna put a hole in somebody's head!" It's pretty obvious he's got a screw loose & not necessarily at all like reasoning healthy-minded scientists.
White's dream was eventually to do human head transplants but the poor guy never got the chance. Unless that's still government-classified.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl