Ray Milland ... Maxwell Kirshner
Roosevelt Grier ... Jack Moss
Don Marshall ... Dr. Fred Williams
Roger Perry ... Dr. Philip Desmond
Country: USA Runtime: 93 min AKA:The Beast with Two Heads
It's hard to imagine how the pitch meeting for this film went. Because someone had to first think up this
idea, then go into a meeting and tell others about it, causing them to say "Yes, we want that movie!" It's
hard enough to get good films made in Hollywood, so how does so much garbage get produced?
Admittedly, this 1972 film is a product of its time. A quickie with a kitschy plot to draw in the kids, freaks,
hippies, and weirdoes that attended midnight screenings and double bills of similar schlock. But how
does a terrible script like this rope in Ray Milland of all people. You know him, right? He won an Oscar
for The Lost Weekend, and a couple of Golden Globes too. He was in The Glass Key, Dial "M" for
Murder, and Escape To Witch Mountain for Christ's sake! How'd a fellah like that get swindled into a
role like this?
Milland plays Dr. Maxwell Kirshner, a highly-regarded transplant specialist that has been crippled by
severe arthritis. He reveals not only his racism to his colleagues, but the fact that he is dying of
inoperable cancer and that the only way to save his life (or his genius, really) is to transplant his head
onto a new, healthy body. Tests have been performed on a gorilla, who's two-headed rampage opens
the picture with grace and style...this is sarcasm, of course, but it is actually the best part of the film.
Kirshner soon starts to wither away and is near death, so his fellow medical staff must jump into action.
They need to find a body, and fast, so they head to the most likely place to retrieve a useless hunk of
meat: DEATH ROW!
There we meet Jack Moss (played by Rosey Grier, who I believe played football at one time) who is
about to pay the reaper his due, even though he continues to say he is innocent and his girlfriend is
close to proving it. He is offered the deal to donate his body to science (little does he know) and with
that comes a stay of execution for 30 days. He needs the extra time for his lady to find a way to clear his
name so he takes the deal and is placed in the custody of Kirschner's doctors. He goes to sleep and is
more than surprised to find a white guy's head sown onto his shoulder when he wakes up.
Understandably perturbed, and still in control of the body that is his (for the moment) he jumps off of the
operating table and he escapes...or I should say, THEY escape.
Against Kirshner's wishes, Moss goes on the lamb, evading the cops. The bulk of the movie is here,
with a parade of cop cars chasing after them and crashing rather amazingly as the two-headed duo
make their getaway in a car, and then on a motorcycle. This scene goes on for way too long, and cop
cars come out of nowhere only to crash, and then when it seems to be over, even more appear for more
of the same. I like crashes, but this started to bore me. Soon, Moss and his new brother from another
mother, find their way to his girlfriend's apartment, and he wants to get frisky, but she just can't get it wet
with her two-headed man, and decides to tuck him in (THEM IN) for a nap. Kirschner manages to take
control of Moss's body and escapes again, heading off (get it?) to try and get Moss removed. But a
good-natured black doctor on Kirschner's staff, manages to stop racist Kirshner in time and restores
Moss to his one-headedness. The film ends with the black cast sing along to "Oh Happy Day" as they
Such a quirky idea could have been a fun movie, but with a slow start to the two-headed action (which
takes 35 minutes to get going) and a dragging chase sequence in the middle directed in a boring
point-and-shoot style, the film's wackiness fizzles out and only provides moderate entertainment. I really
wish this movie would have gone balls to the wall with the premise, and maybe it thinks it did, but in the
end the film gets in over its head (get it?) with its leaden pacing and ridiculous story. At least the
transplant scene was worth watching, which featured a really realistic severed human head, and some
early gorilla work by makeup maestro Rick Baker...and Milland was good in it, which is no surprise. My
conclusion is he needed the cash, but I suggest you keep yours.