If you sucked all the humor out of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962), you might be left with The Head (1959.) However, you’d then have to bloat it with almost 20 additional minutes. This leaves a deadly serious film that’s too long and not much fun. I’d take “Jan in the Pan” any day over… “Dr. Abel on the Table?!?”
The two are similar in another significant way. In both movies, mad scientists look for a body on which to place a head in the local strip club. In The Head, though, the body isn’t for Dr. Abel (Michel Simon.) It’s for Irene Sander (Karin Kernke), the hunchback with a heart of gold. Dr. Abel promised a cure for her based on “Serum Z,” that allowed him to keep a dog’s head alive.
However, when Dr. Abel welcomes Dr. Ood (Horst Frank) into his commune for doctors, Ood proceeds to steal the formula and use it on Dr. Abel, forcing him to bear witness to his terrors without being able to lift a finger to stop him. A third doctor, Walter Burke (Kurt Muller-Graf) seems to be there only so there can be a body count.
Ood performs an operation on Irene, leaving her headless body on the railroad tracks, then attaching her head on Tam Tam Club dancer Lilly’s (Christiane Maybach) beautiful body. The authorities think Irene’s body is Lilly’s and don’t really question that she’s dead. But sculptor Paul Lerner (Dieter Eppler) recognizes the birthmark on Irene’s new body.
You may ask what’s wrong with the story; it sounds good enough. I know my synopsis makes it sound fantastic, but the execution is just dull and dry. As far as the production goes, I’ll admit that with its black-and-white foggy evenings and full moons, it does have some atmosphere. That aspect reminds me of another better movie, Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory (1961.)
Late in the film, Ood grabs his head and confesses to Irene that he’s sick. That’s all we know about it and I’m not sure if it’s meant to explain his evil deeds. I also found myself grabbing my head while watching The Head, but I knew the reason… to shake it and keep myself awake. The most exciting thing about it is the translation of its original German title: Satan’s Naked Slave.
Written by Victor Trivas
Directed by Victor Trivas
Starring Horst Frank, Karin Kernke, Helmut Schmid, Dieter Eppler, Kurt Muller-Graf, Christiane Maybach, Michel Simon
RT 97 min.
Released July 24, 1959 (W. Germany), Oct. 11, 1961 (U.S.)
Home Video DVD (Alpha Video)
Rating 4 Godzillas (out of 10)