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Head, The

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film. (1959 as Die Nackte und der Satan; 1961 US). Rapid Films/Trans-Lux Distributing Corporation. Produced by Wolf C Hartwig. Directed by Victor Trivas. Written by Trivas. Masks made by Karl Hanoszek. Cast includes Dieter Eppler, Horst Frank, Karin Kernke, Christiane Maybach, Helmut Schmid and Michel Simon. 97 minutes. Black and white.

Professor Abel (Simon) has perfected a means of keeping dogs' severed heads alive with the help of his Invention, Serum Z. Using this, he hopes to benefit humanity with organ transplants, starting with a new heart for himself. Dr Burke (Schmid) is to perform this operation aided by Abel's new assistant Dr Ood, but Abel's weak heart gives out before the transplant. Ood, revealed as a Mad Scientist, attempts his own variation of the dog's-heads experiment, using the head of Abel (after killing Schmid for trying to stop him). He succeeds, with Abel's head kept alive on a table with various tubes inserted into his cranium. Ood is obsessed with extending the experiment to a head transplant (see Identity Exchange), using Nurse Irene Sander (Kernke), who has a severely deformed back. The donor of Irene's new body is to be Lilly, a strip-club dancer Ood previously knew as Stella. It emerges that Ood was formerly Dr Brandt, a plastic surgeon who helped Stella escape the police after poisoning her husband. Irene's head is successfully transplanted to Lilly's body; she does not realize what sort of operation Ood has performed until sculptor Paul Lerner (Eppler) becomes enamoured of her and wishes her to pose for him. Naturally, Irene has the exact same birthmark on her left shoulder as Lilly: she begins to realize what has happened. Running away, she confronts Ood, who confirms that it was her own former body that had been found run over by a train and identified as Lilly; he then shows her Abel's living head. In panic, Irene flees back to Paul's studio: Ood follows, sets fire to it late that night, and abducts her. Paul manages to convince the police of sinister doings by Ood, including the murder of Burke, whose grave he earlier stumbled across. Ood has set fire to Abel's laboratory as the police arrive, though Paul gets Irene out safely; they witness Ood leaping to his death from the balcony. The two depart together with Irene facing many difficulties at the fade-out.

This Horror in SF film more properly belongs to the Expressionist/Gothic horror school than sf proper, with its mad scientist plus heavy use of fog and the full moon. There are reports that Soviet scientists were indeed successful in keeping the heads of dogs alive for brief periods in the 1950s. The similarities to The Brain that Wouldn't Die (1961) are obvious – apparently a case of the same basic idea being used independently by different filmmakers. The Head is by far the better of the two. [GSt]

see also: Brain in a Box.


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