The Head: Ood-les of Fun

The Head directed by Victor TrivasThe Head directed by Victor Trivas

The Head directed by Victor TrivasNo, this isn’t the psychedelic Monkees movie from 1968; that one’s just called Head. Rather, The Head is a West German horror production from 1959 – and a very good one, as it turns out – that tells a freaky story of a wholly different kind. As The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film so astutely reminds us, the film was released in the same year as the similarly themed American film The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and is just as way-out an experience.

In it, Michel Simon – French star of such classic ’30s films as La Chienne, Boudu Saved From Drowning and L’Atalante – plays a scientist, Dr. Abel, who has devised something called Serum Z, which will allow human and animal tissue to survive independently of their donors’ bodies, thus making possible organ transplants and other innovations (this, eight years before the first actual successful heart transplant on Louis Washkansky in 1967). When his new assistant, Dr. Ood, attempts to transplant the healthy heart of a recently deceased hobo into Abel’s failing body, the operation goes badly. Good thing that Ood can then decapitate Abel’s titular noggin and keep it alive and healthy with the new wonder serum! And as if that weren’t enough for one film, Ood – wonderfully played by Horst Frank – soon decides to operate on his pretty hunchbacked nurse, and attach her head onto the hottie body of a local stripper! Holy mix and match!

Anyway, The Head is a surprisingly interesting and involving film. It features better than adequate acting (Karen Kernke as Irene the hunchback and Christiane Maybach as the obnoxious stripper are both memorable), especially by Frank as the insane, ultimately pathetic and moon-raving Ood (Dr. Odd would be more like it!). Writer/director Victor Trivas brings in his film with a good deal of seedy style, and the look of the picture, with its Expressionistic sets, is often startling. Indeed, I was not surprised to learn that the set decorator here was Hermann Warm, who had earlier worked on such classic films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr. Although my Psychotronic bible maintains that the FX are “pathetic” here, I must respectfully disagree. Actually, the sight of Simon’s homely noggin, resting in a dish and connected to wires and bubbling chemical tanks, is most impressive. Throw in some moody B&W photography and a musical score by Willy Mattes and Jacque Lasry that sounds like the “Space” segment of a Grateful Dead concert and you’ve got quite a striking little film indeed. Even a typically crummy-looking DVD from those indolent underachievers at Alpha Video cannot ruin this experience…


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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