April 15, 2013

Movie Review: The Head (1959)

Horror and science fiction cinema have had a long running relationship with mad scientists and surgical horror. The Head, aka The Nude and the Devil, is an obscure example from Germany. The 1959 feature is not without it's charms, but it is also seems a little flat to me. In a decade that brought such films as The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Fly, and even Manster, The Head seems out of place, as if it would be more comfortable among the films of the 1930's and 1940's rather than with its contemporaries.

The Head follows Dr. Ood (Horst Franck), a rather unscrupulous doctor with a mysterious past who has come to aid Dr. Abel (Michel Simon). Abel has recently discovered a concoction called Serum Z, which allows dead tissue to live past the death of the body, he has gone so far as to keep a dog's head alive for days. Meanwhile, Irene (Karin Kernke), a nurse with a hunchback, is hoping that Abel will be able to help her with an operation.

Before Abel is able to help her, he reveals he needs a heart transplant and even has a donor lined up. Unfortunately, the donor dies before the transplant. Ood let's out his mad doctor side and decapitates Abel, keeping him alive like the dog's head. He also forces him to continue helping with his experiments, culminating with a head transplant with Irene.

Of course, things go a little sidways as people disappear and others begin to ask questions. None of it matters all that much with Ood, who is more than willing to do what it takes to continue his work and hide the evidence.

Overall, The Head is rather forgettable. It probably would have left a stronger impression had Horst Franck taken a more over the top approach. Yes, the subdued approach he took was a solid choice, but there really wasn't anything else to give the movie personality. I will give some credit to Hermann Warm for his production design, some of it is definitely inspired by his previous work on the silent classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920.

The film, written and directed by Victor Trivas (best known for writing Orson Welles 1946 film The Stranger), is probably worth it for aficionados of the era. Still, it is not all that great and does not leave much of a mark, so you probably aren't missing much if you skip it.

Mildly Recommended.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment