Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on July 19, 1972
Directed by Lee Frost
Written by Lee Frost, Wes Bishop, and James Gordon White
Cast: Ray Milland, Rosey Grier, Don Marshall, Roger Perry, Chelsea Brown, Kathy Baumann, George E. Carey, William Smith, John Dullaghan, Wes Bishop, Lee Frost, Joan Prather, Rick Baker
Apparently, cinema-goers of the early 1970s weren’t quite satisfied with just one two-headed transplant film at their disposal, so American International jumped on their own bandwagon and promptly brought an end to this unlikely sub-genre with the release of The Thing with Two Heads, a less serious and thus more entertaining horror drama unleashed to audiences one year after The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant.
This time around, we have ego-driven, wheelchair-bound, and full-time racist Ray Milland as a doctor with an inoperable brain condition, who also knows a thing or two about transplants…and has already experimented with grafting the head of one gorilla onto another. Putting two and two together, he decides to try the experiment on himself, to salvage his brain from his own dying body; somehow, the medical explanations for it all make perfect sense. And before you can say The Defiant Ones, Milland’s snowy-white cranium has been detached and—unbeknownst to him—re-attached to the hulking shoulder of death-row prisoner Rosey Grier, who is of course black. General pandemonium then ensues.
As if the film’s title and concept weren’t comical enough for you, watching former pro football great Grier ride a motorcycle hell-bent across open countryside, with an ill-fitting and hopelessly fake head stapled to his neck, should probably do the trick. Director Lee Frost, who spent his career helming exploitation and drive-in cinema (Chain Gang Women, The Black Gestapo…you get the idea), co-wrote the screenplay with frequent collaborator Wes Bishop, and though their concept was taken seriously by everyone involved, they made sure it retained a tongue-in-cheek attitude throughout.
For whatever reason, the film had an episodic television feel to it, and played like a hybrid of Marcus Welby, M.D. and The Six Million Dollar Man, which depending on your tastes, could be really cool or really, really stupid. And poor Ray Milland! I don’t know, maybe he had a blast making these types of movies, but man oh man, how far he’d fallen since Ministry of Fear and The Lost Weekend (and even X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes). And from here, his horizon didn’t look any more promising: Frogs and Terror in the Wax Museum were just around the corner. After all this, I guess it might be fitting to call him the Vincent Price of the ’70s drive-in circuit. Which depending on how you look at it, could be really cool or really, really stupid. (4/10)