The Head (1959) tells the story of a scientist who accomplishes a great feat: he creates a serum that can keep a dog’s head alive – with full brain function- even after its body is dead.
But the scientist suffers a heart attack before he can make the best of his discovery or keep experimenting. His assistant, who had expressed an interest in testing the serum on humans, decides to keep the scientist’s head alive so he can use the man’s medical knowledge to continue experimenting with the serum.
The assistant’s main goal? To transplant the head of their nurse, who has a hunched back, onto the body of an exotic dancer.
The Head was directed by Victor Trivas and appears in Mill Creek’s 100 Horror Classics set.
Mill Creek’s print of this film has muffled and somewhat distorted sound, as well as a pretty faded picture. It’s certainly not the best print I’ve seen in one of these sets, but it’s watchable if you’re used to public domain films.
More problematic than the print quality is the fact that this is actually a dubbed English-language version of a German film, Die Nackte und der Satan. Dubbing is always distracting to me, and this film is no exception. I wish this set included a subtitled German-language version rather than a dubbed version.
As you may have noticed from reading the premise above, this film is similar in story to The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962), which was actually filmed in the year that this one was released. The Head isn’t nearly as cheesy as the later film. It has a completely different mood, and the performances (as best as I can tell by trying to look past the dubbing) aren’t quite as exaggerated. I love Virginia Leith in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and that film is an incredibly enjoyable slice of corn, but this version of the story is definitely more of a true thriller than a total cheeser.
The Head is a highly atmospheric film. From the funky font and spooky music of the opening credits, an eerie and tense mood is successfully built.
I also enjoy the story’s focus on the nurse and on the aftermath of her transplant in the second half of the film. The psychological effects of the surgery are explored, as is the discovery by the nurse of the truth about her surgery. Going in, she wasn’t aware that her body would be replaced with that of another — she simply thought she was getting some cosmetic surgery done.
The Head is a decent watch, though I certainly would have enjoyed it more had I been able to watch it with subtitles. Recommended for those who would like to see a more serious take on a similar story to The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. The score: 2.5/5