Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Head (1959)


“Put down that telephone. You really are insane.”

“I think that, on the contrary, men are certainly going to look at you.” - Dr. Burke

“Are you an undertaker? You hold me like I was dead.” - Lily

“The last chance was to perform the dog operation on your head.” - Dr. Oud

A mysterious stranger arrives. Something's coming to a head at the Tam-Tam club.

Director Victor Trivas has a few directorial credits, but his writing credits are more numerous, including Hell on Earth (1931) and The Stranger (1946.) Barbara Valentin was a sex symbol in Horrors of Spider Island (1960.) Producer Wolf C. Hartwig produced that film and a whole bunch more. Christiane Maybach was in A Study in Terror. Horst Frank was in The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971.) Michel Simon worked from the mid-20s to the mid-70s. Karin Kernke was uncredited in Schoolgirl Report 12 (1978.) Paul Dahlke had a career from the mid-30s to the mid-80s.

It is an important lesson: Science will not stop until it destroys us all. Another lesson: Someday our matter will become the matter of others.  Better lesson: The soul of a harlot is scientifically transportable to the body of a deformed virgin. We have here a German variation on the mad scientist trope. That character says things like, “I have beaten death” and “I have saved your brain for mankind” and “You'll learn that everything is possible!” and even "The price of my genius was madness."  Well, that's all pretty clear.  Our good doctor is a real tragic superman, alright.  He makes something 'Serum Z,' and that's nothing but fun. Such films wrestle with the dangers of becoming addicted to the erotic tease of scientific progress. Sex is science, after all. It's a clear progenitor to The Brain that Wouldn't Die. This is a better produced film by far, but you may have more fun with 'Jan in a Pan.' Stan in a pan? The film picks up the thematic trope of 'obsessive, doomed love' too. The good doctor says things like, "You belong to me alone!"  Unfortunately, the development of the plot sinks in a gloomy black and white swamp. There's some cool tech in the lab to keep the film in line with its type. Vital signs are indicated by a polygraph type squiggle. I suppose only very rich people in the 1950s had TVs installed into their walls. The film provides the expected continental sex appeal, uh, for those who care more for anatomy than surgery. The sets are spacious, if unrealistic in practical function; a spiral staircase runs through the center of the house, from the lab to the upstairs quarters. Your ostensible noble scientist is a drunken Lon Chaney Jr type with a Nietzsche mustache; his less than noble colleague takes it to another level of science to keep him alive. That shot of the moon looks a lot like a blacked-out shot of the sun. The wide trick shot is unconvincingly matted. A lab is destroyed with a superimposition.  The serious German inspector is a classic type, but he plays a very small part, doing not much in the way of inspecting.  The end title card is in a fun, spooky font.  There's a painting in the artist's studio that I don't think you would have seen in an American film at this time. At one point the stripper refers to being in 'Europe,' so there's that geographical certainty. But, really, how many other films give you a female hunchback? Come on, Irene!

'The Head' can be viewed on Youtube in a dubbed print of abysmal quality. Some reels have visible matting at the top of the frame. Does the harsh splicing of music indicate the removal of offending material? Use your, uh, noggin, and figure it out.

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