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Sunday, October 5, 2014

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2014-Day 5: THE HEAD (1959)

While watching THE HEAD (1959) as my bedtime movie a few weeks ago, I discovered that it is far from the dud I'd been led to believe it was. This noirish, expressionistic German film was a part of the brief wave of late-'50's "body horror" sci-fi flicks and it tells the story of an utterly insane wannabe surgeon (Horst Frank) who joins forces with a brilliant professor (Michel Simon) who has successfully kept a dog's severed head alive apart from its body. The professor, who is in poor health, would like to take his theories to the next level and sustain the life of a severed human noggin but he is unsure that his procedure would work. When his health problems get the better of him and the professor is moments from death's door, the insane surgeon — who also happens to be a genius — severs the scientist's head and keeps it unwillingly alive in his lab. All of that would have been enough to hang a creepy film on but the story turns the horror and tragedy up to 11 as one of the supporting characters, a malformed and hunchbacked nurse (Karin Kernke), catches the eye of the mad scalpel-jocky, who decides to give the facially-beautiful woman a body to match her looks. The nurse falls for his line about him being able to give her a "new body," a phrase she takes as a metaphor, and agrees to the procedure. The madman then stalks and kidnaps a voluptuous artist's model/stripper, murders her, and transplants the nurse's head onto the sexy body.

The rest of the narrative revolves around the nurse (who was in a medically-induced coma for three months while she healed) putting together the clues and coming to the horrific conclusion that her lust-struck surgeon is quite mad and has murdered an innocent woman to provide her with an ideal form. Imagine being in her position and finding all of that out. Seriously, it's tremendously sick and disturbing, and far darker than more frivolous and exploitative entries in this sub-genre. THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE is my favorite severed head sci-fi/horror flick thanks to it's intentionally sleazy and lurid content and aesthetic, but THE HEAD gets my vote as the best and most downright creepy entry in its category. Very good stuff. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.

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