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Ray Milland as Dr Maxwell Kirshner
Roosevelt (Rosey) Grier as Jack Moss
Don Marshall as Dr. Fred Williams
Roger Perry as Dr. Philip Desmond
I love this extremely silly 1972 comedy Sci-Fi. Co-starring distinguished British actor Ray Milland, known and admired for his starring roles in classic films such as his Oscar-winning role in 'The Lost Weekend' (1945), and star American football player Roosevelt Grier (billed as 'Rosey' Grier for this film), I can only think both of them must have really needed money desperately. However, be thankful that they did, because this laugh-riot really was worth it.
With a tagline of 'They transplanted a white bigot's head on a soul brother's body!', this movie is not for terminally politically-correct viewers. How this absurd situation came about is as follows:
Dr Maxwell Kirshner owns and runs a prestigious hospital doing ground-breaking experimental work in the field of transplants. He is dying of terminal lung cancer and, being a mad scientist type and an egomaniac, he feels that he must survive and that the only way of achieving this is to have his head transplanted onto a healthy man's body. He has already successfully accomplished this on a gorilla, which we are shown in its cage happily romping about with two heads, one the original and the other transplanted from another ape. With two heads, he can eat two bananas at once, so he's a happy ape.
The next step is to be able to transplant human heads onto donor bodies: once established and any rejection problems sorted out, the other head would be removed. To this end, he recruits Dr Williams, a famed expert on rejection prevention, sight unseen. Dr Williams arrives to start work, but Dr Kirshner gives him a frosty reception - turns out Dr Kirshner is a nasty bigot, and Dr Williams is Black. Dr Kirshner unpleasantly tries to make up stories about there having been a 'mistake' and the position 'no longer being open', but finally agrees to give Dr Williams six months. So, to say that the relationship gets off to a bad start and that Dr Williams doesn't feel much sense of loyalty, is putting it mildly.
Soon Dr Kirshner's physical condition deteriorates and it's time to take action. 'My genius must continue,' he declares. But how on earth can a donor be found? After weeks of intensive searching by the entire hospital staff, nobody suitable turns up. Finally, they try a widespread appeal for a Death Row prisoner willing to donate his body to a scientific experiment which will result in death about 30 days afterward. Rather than go to The Chair, the convict will at least have had another 30 days and will have served the noble purpose of contributing to science to help others.
Big burly Jack Moss, just about to be strapped into Ol' Sparky, decides to donate his body to science. He gets transported to Dr Kirshner's hospital and the operation is carried out. But you may have guessed what sort of reaction the bigoted Dr Kirshner, who has now become comatose and kept alive on a life support system, is going to have when he wakes up and sees that he's been transplanted onto a big beefy Black dude...
Well, what started off as a fairly straightforward Sci-Fi mad doctor tale, turns into wacky and zany action comedy. When he/they wakes up, Moss breaks out and goes on the lam, taking, of course, the unwilling Dr Kirshner with him, and now you need to suspend any sense of credibility that you may have had left after the previous shenanigans. We get one of the daftest (and longest) escape sequences complete with car chases and motorcycle stunts. With what appears to be the entire police force in hot pursuit, we see some of the most incredibly and laughably inept driving by what should be expert drivers as one police car after another crashes or flips over during the protracted chase.
There's lots of silly dialogue to enjoy - as well as constant bickering between the two heads, we get such gems from Moss's girlfriend who warily asks, at her first sight of Moss with his transplanted 'companion', 'Honey, I know you don't like to answer a lot of questions, but - how did that happen?' 'I'll tell you about that later', Moss replies. 'This is Max - he's a doctor.' 'Nice to meet you,' girlfriend says. No reply. 'Does he talk?' she asks. 'Sure he does' says Moss, giving Kirshner a playful slap about the face. 'Don't touch me!' Kirshner growls. 'See? Works every time!' smiles Moss. Girlfriend then goes on to ask, shyly, 'Honey, I was wondering - um, do you have two of anything else?' Much laughter ensues (but her question goes unanswered!).
Altogether, this film is incredibly fun and really compulsive viewing. I loved it. Production values and direction are very basic and low-budget-looking, and the acting among the supporting actors is just adequate, but Roosevelt Grier and Ray Milland, while never going to win any Oscars for this one, look like they had a lot of fun playing their roles and they both ham it up for all it's worth.
The whole thing looks very tongue in cheek rather than showing any attempt at taking itself seriously, and it's a very 'feel-good' movie after the escape takes place. The film has much a similar feel to Roger Corman's more comedic horror and Sci-Fi films such as 'Bucket of Blood' and 'Little Shop of Horrors'. It's quick-paced with never a dull moment.
The soundtrack is quite good, with some funky numbers and a joyful rendition in the car of 'Oh Happy Day', a big hit at the time, a bit reminiscent of Wayne and his Wayne's World pals doing their 'Bohemian Rhapsody' singalong in their car (though not so OTT in this film!).
The car and motorcycle stunts were well done albeit a bit unbelievable and with camera booms sometimes visible, but what the heck. Special effects are basic and pretty much non-existent - there's really only the two-headed effect, which is OK but not overly convincing.
It's available either on its own, as in the DVD shown here (mine is an old VHS tape so I can't comment on this DVD's extras, if any) or as a double bill on DVD with 'The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant', which came out around the same time. I don't recommend getting the double bill over the single film - 'The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant' is SO bad that even I hated it and can't bring myself to review it because it was so mind-numbingly boring and stupid in a bad way rather than a 'so-bad-it's-good' way, that I can't think of even one interesting thing to say about it in a review. So be warned.
Break out the popcorn and beer for this one. Highly recommended as a bit of excellent pack-up-your-brains fun.
Also on Ciao as thereddragon.