1910s & 20s * 30s * 40s * Pre-50s * Frankenstein * Atomic Angst * 1950 * 1951 * 1952 * 1953 * 1954 * 1955 * 1956 * 1957 * 1958 * 1959 *
1960 * 1961 * 1962 * 1963 * 1964 * 1965 * 1966 * 1967 * 1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971 * 1972 * 1973 * 1974 * 1975 * 1976 * 1977 * 1978 * 1979

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant

American International Pictures put out a schlock horror/sci-fi hybrid in 1971, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (I2HT). This was a 70s reworking of the 1959 (or '62) film, Manster which featured a rampaging man with two heads -- one especially bent on evil. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde connection is made plain in the script. (notes below) Bruce Dern plays the Frankenstein role as Dr. Girard. Pat Priest (Marilyn from the Munsters TV show) plays his wife, Linda. Casey Kasem (of American Top 40) plays family friend, Ken. Of course, the poster offers the usual iconic abduction scene with far more frontal exposure than the movie ever even tried to deliver on.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Maniac killer, Matthew Cass is caught and sentenced to a mental hospital. Nearby, lives Dr. Roger Girard (Dern) and his wife Linda (Priest). Old Andrew and his big son Danny are their groundskeepers. Danny suffered brain damage as a child, in a caved-in mine, so has the mind of a child. Roger (and his creepy cohort, Max) have been experimenting with grafting second heads on a variety of animals. He shows this off to his doctor friend, Ken (Kasem). Linda isn't allowed to know of the experiments. Cass escapes. He kills Andrew and carries off Linda. Before he can rape her, Roger shoots Cass. They take him back to their lab. Danny, upset over death of his father, is sedated. Max suggests that they put Cass's head on Danny's body. Somehow, this will be an interim step to Max getting Danny's body. (?) Roger agrees and they do the transplant. When Danny/Cass (hereinafter referred to as DC) wake up, he/they escape. DC hides in the old mine, then comes out to kill a couple of teens necking on a remote road. Witnesses tell of a two-headed giant. From the big footprints, the Sheriff suspects Danny. Roger denies knowing anything. Linda is locked in the lab for finding out too much. DC, hungry, stumbles upon the camp of three bikers. DC kills all three with maniacal glee. The sheriff has a posse with dogs. Ken hears about the two-headed giant, so goes to confront Roger. Ken tries to rescue Linda (now tied up in the bedroom) but Roger and Max stop them. Roger, Ken and Max look for DC too. Meanwhile, DC doubles back to Roger's house. He trashes the lab and abducts Linda (now locked in a cage. The honeymoon is obviously over.). Ken, Roger and Max follow the tracks and fallen shoes to the old mine. Max wants DC captured alive so he can still have the body for himself. This doesn't work out. DC knocks out Max. Ken shoots DC, to little effect. Roger shoots DC with more effect (Cass in the head). Ken helps Linda escape as the mine caves in. Roger, DC and Max are buried. Linda suggest that they not tell the whole truth, so Roger's legacy won't be soiled. The killer was Danny. Roger is dead too. So sad. Ramp up ballad. Roll credits. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
On its own, I2TH has little redeeming about it, beyond it's Jekyll and Hyde ancestry. The saturation of 70s style is interesting for those who lived through it. (Check out Casey Kasem's HUGE lapels!). The rampant 70s-ness will likely only mystify later generations. Pat Priest looks lovely as she traipses around in bikinis, nighties and low-cut dresses, all with an innocent Doris Day air.

Cultural Connection
The Jekyll and Hyde duality of good and evil was still a very potent theme. It would get many more serious expressions, but it was not immune to tawdry exploitation either. There was a demand for cheap gratuitous sex and/or violence films in the second-feature drive-in market. Such films were not really expected to be quality entertainment -- or even all that good. They just had to fill out the second half of the bill. Perhaps the assumption was that most of the teen drive-in audience was, by then, much more focused on necking than the film, that it just didn't matter. I2TH played second bill to Scream and Scream Again, featuring Vincent Price.

Hyde Bound -- Where the connection to 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the 1959 film Manster is largely inferred, the connection to I2HT is spelled out. When the Sheriff and his deputy examine Roger's trashed lab, the deputy says: "Dr. Girard must have been brewin' up some of that Jekyll and Hyde joy juice in here." There you have it via White and Lawrence's script. Two-headed monster men are Jekyll & Hyde at the same time. Note how the trope continued in that Danny was the "good" (at least innocent) head and Cass was the totally degenerate "bad" head. Note too, the continuation of the Hyde-esque sexual immorality undertone to the "bad." Cass is almost as fond of rape as he is of murder.

Hyde on Two-Head Coattails -- In late 1971, Andy Milligan wrote, produced and directed a Jekyll and Hyde remake (in a 70s take on Victorian style). It was a fairly lame remake, originally titled Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Blood.  But, I2HT apparently had garnered enough publicity that Andy retitled his low-low-budget production: The Man With 2 Heads. The poster almost suggests two-headedness, however, there was no man with two heads. Rather, it was the conventional Jekyll and Hyde alternating "heads". Andy's film is remarkable only in that it demonstrates the Hyde roots beneath the two-heads trope. Otherwise, it is an entirely avoidable film.

Stock Characters -- Aside from the absurd premise, the screenplay is comprised of stock characters. Roger is the stereotypic Frankenstein, dabbling outside of ethics for some vague benefit to mankind AND some personal glory. Max is the typical leering Mephistopheles goading Roger on, for his own selfish gain. Linda is the typical trophy wife, lovely, clueless, prone to faint a lot, get tied up (bondage?) and be abducted by the monster. (It's a living). Cass, the maniac, is the insatiable killing machine for no reason. The Sheriff is the usual slow bumpkin. Such well-worn characters were easier to write. There's no need for character development, because an audience already knows them well.

Poor Pat -- Pat Priest got her "big break" (of a sorts) as a replacement for Beverly Owens as "Marilyn" on the Munsters TV show (1964-66). She was slender, pretty and platinum blond -- the stereotypic bikini babe of the Beach Party movie era which was in vogue, but winding down. Post-Munsters, Pat's career "peak" could be said to be the 1967 Elvis film Easy Come, Easy Go in which she played the girlfriend (Dina) of Evils's nemesis -- in the blond bikini beach babe idiom. From then on, she found only small TV roles or bit parts. Her most "staring" role was in I2HT. (a sad testimony) Note the pool scene in which she lounges lusciously leggy in a blue bikini -- a pure beach babe shot. Poor Pat was a beach babe just a little too late.
Thin Science -- As is typical of a horror/sci-fi hybrid, the science is quite thin. There is, however, a poorly stated medical motive to the absurdity. This will be a factor in the follow-up 2-headed man film, so worth mentioning here. The idea, was to graft the head of someone you're trying to save, onto a donor's body while it sill has its original head. The original head would keep the body alive while the new head "took". Once the new head was stabilized and also controlling the body, the original head would be removed -- no longer necessary. This was Max's intent. Use Cass's demented head to prove the process, then lop it off and have Roger graft Max's head onto Danny's powerful body. Once the Max head was stabilized, the Danny head could go. Viola! New and Improved Max! --- Of course, it's wise not to try to read too much into such silly films, but this seems to be the medical motive.

Bottom line? I2HT is a low-rent film that could easily be forgotten with little remorse. The only reason to watch it, is as a series with Jekyll and Hyde at one end, then Manster, and finally The Thing With Two Heads. Outside of this series, it has little reason to be watched. MGM's Midnight Movies issued I2HT and TWTH as a double feature DVD. Unless it's in the dollar bin, or you like 70s schlock, it's probably not worth the money or effort.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jekyll and Hyde? Maybe, but another influence was the 1931 Frankenstein. All the main characters are the same. Roger i Henry, Linda is Elizabeth, Ken is Victor, Max is Fritz, and Danny/Cass is the monster.

Not that this film is anywhere near that classic. For instance, it never occured to Roger that placing the head of a maniac on the body of a giant might be a bad idea. At least Henry Frankenstein did not know he was transplanting the wrong brain.

Pat Priest filled those skimpy outfits very well, and posed for Playboy that year. It's ironic that the normal looking Munster was the first one to appear in an actual horror flick.