I put on this movie last night, fearing the worst. This is going back to my Sci Fi Invasion boxset, which has given me a hit with Star Knight, and a miss with Night Fright (odd, that I picked two movies that rhymed). Then, Eyes Behind the Stars wasn't great but was certainly weird and memorable, and I don't remember what other ones I've seen were from the box right now, if there were any. So far, in other words, I've had a extremely good run with this set, considering. And this movie just made it a whole shitload better.
I didn't want to get too excited, but I just kept thinking about this movie on BART just now (I commute to SF) and thinking about my review. Yes, I was excited to write a review for it, in a rare case of review glee like the good ol' days when I started this blog. Not that I don't enjoy writing this, it's just that sometimes the movies suck and I have nothing to say, see my last few short reviews.
The Head, it's such a bland name, and the plot, it's been done before and again. In fact, I have even seen The Brain That Wouldn't Die, which is pretty much a carbon copy of this film in most ways. You have the mad scientist, here played with eccentric glee by Horst Frank as Doctor Ood. You have the head living without a body, here it is Professor Abel, who was originally doing the experiment, died, and was brought back by Doctor Ood. Then there's the girl, Irene. Irene is a hunchback, and to repay her loyalty Dr. Ood is going to put her head on the body of Lilly, a stripper he murders.
The best parts of this movie though, is not the plot, which is true 50's drama-horror-suspense like so many, but the way it's done. Again, it's the atmosphere, it's the look, the design, the acting, the mood, the music. It's all so top notch, absolutely perfectly done. The film stock walks that perfect line between damaged but good enough quality, you get the aged feeling but not the look of something cheap and trashy. The darkness, the light, it's all perfect. I'd say this is a technically very well made film.
The acting is also top notch. Dr. Ood is played with a manic intensity by Horst Frank. Yes, it borders on overacting, and some will see it as such, but to me it was perfect. He's not screaming and sweeping his arms around like crazy, he's got subtlety. The dubbing was also spot on, since this was originally German, filmed in Germany, the dubbing is good and not that noticeable; again just the right amount of noticeable to make you appreciate it's charm.
Another thing I liked was the sexuality. This movie was surprisingly sexy, erotic, almost had nudity, etc. I don't know what it was rated on it's American release, it did have an American release on a double bill with a Christopher Lee film. But the girl is really hot, the girl Lilly whose body Irene inherits. Then they have some really ahead of their time sexual tension and scenes. Of course as a guy I love those old vintage looking girls, thin as a stick and breasts jutting out at 45 degree angles. There's a hot scene where she touches her breasts in front of a mirror, then there's a scenes where she opens her shirt and the guy sticks his hand in....oh man. I want to be that guy.
It just had all the right ingredients, that's what it comes down to. I would strongly recommend it if you have an interest in old horror films and don't know where to start. It's a B movie, for sure, but it's really good, technically amazing, well acted, etc. The special effect, the decapitated living head, was obviously just done with some forced perspective, and it's a lame effect, but that is truly the only weak point of the film. It's very well paced, it isn't just all dialogue. There's also not the ham-acting cop character that is always in movies like this. The cops in this are very minimal.
I was going to give it 4 stars, but you know what, my blog, my rules, my thinking about it this morning....fuck it