Have you ever wondered why there aren’t any movies that have gorillas with two heads escaping from labs, running sideways down the street and invading corner markets just to eat bananas with both mouths? Maybe you’ve been looking for a movie about a bigoted doctor that’s contracted “terminal chest cancer” and needed to figure out a way that he could prolong his life, but you don’t even know if one existed. Well, my friends, search no further – your prayers have been answered and your movie has been delivered – it’s been here since 1972! The title of which you seek is The Thing with Two Heads, directed by Lee Frost, and starring Ray Milland and Rosey Grier as the titular character.
So the rich and bigoted Dr. Maxwell Kirschner (Ray Milland) finds out he has the “terminal chest cancer” and has only a few weeks to live. Luckily for him, he’s been conducting experiments on an ape (or a guy in an ape suit, since it’s not a very convincing ape) to see if a transplanted head on the existing body will survive after the original head is removed. I’m guessing through the power of osmosis, the transplanted head fuses itself to the spine of the ape and once the original head is removed it transplanted head lives with the body happily ever after.
Now that we’ve gotten the formality of science out of the way, we can move on from that minor plot point and get to the heart of the story. Since Kirshner knows that this will be the procedure that will save his life, now he only needs to find a body. Luckily for him, because he’s rich, and a renown surgeon, he’s got some connections. One of those connections is with the warden of a nearby prison, and he gets one of the death row inmates to donate his body to science. That inmate is Jack Moss (Rosy Grier) and he’s unknowingly placed himself in the position to eventually have his head cut off, but wouldn’t you know it… He’s innocent of the crime that put him on death row! The moral dilemma! Oh, and top it off, he’s black.
When Kirschner wakes up to see the result of his surgery, he’s infuriated to see that his head has been made to share with a black man’s body. He seems to get over that pretty quickly when he realizes that regardless of the body’s color, he’s still alive, and that he only has to live with this dude’s head for a very scientifically estimated 28 days before he’ll be able to take off the other head. Even better – he’ll only have to live for 14 days until his spine attaches to the donor body’s spine and then he’ll be able completely take control of the entire body.
Kirshner’s plan is to lay in bed, sedated, for the 14 days, but Jack Moss has other plans. He plays as if he’s asleep, and when the nurse comes to dose him with more sedatives, he shoots her up with the medication, and takes out the guards that are keeping watch over the lab. When he gets out into the main lobby of the lab, he takes the only other black person in on the experiment hostage – Dr. Fred Williams (Don Marshall), a doctor who’s an expert at transplants, and ironically, one that was recently discriminated against because of the color of his skin. What follows is one of the most ridiculous and longest car chase scenes of all time, topped off by some of the most ridiculous special effects of all time – including about a 20 minute dirtbike chase scene that has to be seen – my description will do it no justice, hell the screen caps I’ve added probably won’t do it justice, and the trailer at the bottom of this review will barely do the job… Will Dr. Williams end up helping Moss or Kirschner, and is Moss really innocent? It’s all (somewhat) explained in The Thing with Two heads!
Alright now, let me see if I can explain at least the special effects… Ok, well whenever both actors have to speak, they have the Ray Milland (who will be known for the rest of this review as “the white guy”) stand behind the black guy and try to get their heads as close together as possible. Whenever there’s a chase scene that can be shown without the white guy talking, they have a dummy head attached to Rosy Grier’s (who will be known as “the black guy”) shoulder. When they ride in a car together, or lay on a bed or on the ground, it’s totally obvious that white guy is either behind the seat, or laying underneath the black guy, because their heads are at different angles. Worst of all, they hide the “stitching” from the surgery with this big neck brace with a pad between the necks. The entire time it looks like a big white toilet seat is around their heads, which honestly looks hilarious. Hell, the whole effect looks hilarious.
A majority of the movie is really in this one long chase scene that starts in a car after the thing escapes from the lab and is chased by doctors and the police. It eventually moves onto a foot chase when the thing and Dr. Williams ditch the car and get chased by a helicopter with the most crosseyed sniper in the world. I mean this guy could take a leak and get piss on everything but the toilet.
They then stumble upon a motorcross track, and when one of the dirtbike riders see this dude with two heads running towards him, he ditches the bike and heads for the hills. The thing and the doctor take the bike and drive around the track away from the police cars and actually win the race after about 15 minutes of looped race footage and half a fleet of cop cars end up rolling into a ditch. One of the cops even looks like a fatter Joe Don Baker, but unfortunately it wasn’t him. If it was, this would have been a perfect movie.
If the movie isn’t entertaining enough, you could do this – watch it with some friends and make a drinking game out of it. The rules are easy, every time they show a low angle shot of Moss, Kirschner and Williams on the dirtbike, take a drink. Every time you see some looped footage of motorcross racers falling off their bikes, take a drink. Every time a cop car rolls into a ditch, take a drink, and every time someone calls Moss a “black bastard” take two drinks. I guarantee you’ll be piss drunk before you even get to the last 20 minutes of the movie and then the ending will make even more sense, and in fact it’ll probably be pretty satisfying. The Thing with Two Heads is a great and entertaining blaxploitation movie. For that simple fact The Thing with Two heads gets 4 ridiculously placed heads out of 5.