A trifecta of double faced two-in-one killer-dillers – the mythos of Janus and Jekyll by way of the grindhouse!Here is a psychological cinematic journey into the darkness within including the Japanese filmTHE MANSTER (aka THE SPLIT), THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (Racist Ray Milland gets his noggin confounded when it’s stitched onto Rosy Grier’s hulking bod), and THE INCREDIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT (with Brue Dern AND Casey Kasem). Let’s take a look at these seminal double-headers.
Naturally, we have to start at the beginning. The Roman’s had their own two-faced god Janus – one face good, the other evil – a mythological attempt to explain away the duality of man (“the Jungian thing”). Janus looked to both the future and past simultaneously – a god in perpetual transition – causes and effects – both gatekeeper and doorstop.
In his seminal THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, Robert Stevenson established the classic maxim that man houses two separate entities – one good, one evil. By using an elixir of his own making, Jekyll separates the two. Of course, he meddled in things man was best left to leave alone, littering the streets to London with corpses thanks to that rude boy Hyde. The story has been told and retold ad nauseam.
But unlike that splitsville scenario, THE MANSTER (aka THE SPLIT) gets right down to business. Foreign correspondent Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley) heads to the Land of The Rising Sun in hopes to landing a scoop. A nutty Japanese scientist, Dr. Suzuki, has developed startling new uses for cosmic rays and Larry wants all the deets.
First the doc drugs Larry’s tea turning him into a sex-crazed boozy mutant. The doc’s wife now a hideous creature with impressive latex masque is a big turn on for the jaundiced journo. When his wife arrives, things go from bad to hideously worse. First, Larry sprouts a new eye on his shoulder that grows into second head – a head that thirsts for blood! Roaming Tokyo by night, the two-headed Manster kills a Buddhist priest (Bad karma, dude) and a sex bomb (natch).
Returning to the volcano lair of the sinister Suzuki, Larry lusts for revenge. Amazingly, Larry suddenly splits into two separate bodies. In the film’s climax, good ol’ Larry snuffs both Suzuki and his second self before copping a plea to his long-suffering wife and the fuzz. Stateside, THE MANSTER was released on a double-bill with Georges Franju’s classic LES YEUX SANS VISAGE (dubbed into English as THE HOROR CHAMBER OF DR.FAUSTUS) which hit the drive-in, flea bag circuit before going into super rotation on The Late, Late, Late, Late Show.
On the other head – er – hand…. THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972) went in two directions at once – angry Blaxploitation film and absurdist black comedy.
Dying, a racist bigot scientist Ray Milland orchestrates the transplant of his head onto a new younger body.
Whoops – it’s been sewn onto the body of a black death row inmate (Rosey Grier)! See clash of the races! See each head try to punch the other! See Ray and Rosey ride a motorcycle!
How were the amazing effects accomplished? Facing the camera, Ray stood behind Rosey and then rested his towel-wrapped head on Rosey’s giant shoulders. Yes, THAT simple. For long shots, a dummy Ray head was just stapled to Rosey.
But the film does have some neat-o SFX makeup by a young Rick Baker – most notably a two-headed Gorilla which actually looks durn cool.
Oh, and death row convict, Rosey, of course, is innocent. With Ray along for the ride, he is determined to clear his name. He does so, brilliantly.
Not to be outdone THE INCREDIBLE TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT (which was actually released first in 1971) starred Bruce Dern and America’s Top Ten Casey Kasem! Roll that around in your mind palace, for a sec.
As per AMA guidelines for 1970s docs, Dr. Bruce Girard (Dern) is experimenting with head transplants.
His caretaker has a mentally disabled son, Danny. In a truly bizarre set of circumstances, an escaped maniac forces Dr. Dern to attach his head to the man-child’s body. Bloody havoc ensues. Casey plays a fellow medical practitioner and The Munsters beauty Pat Priest show up to briefly distract us from this veritable cornucopia of schlock.
Ah, the classics.