The Thing With Two Heads (1972)


“Level with us, doctor: have you created a monster?”


Director:  Lee Frost

Starring:  Rosey Grier, Ray Milland, Don Marshall, Roger Perry, Chelsea Brown, Kathy Baumann, George E. Carey, Wes Bishop, Lee Frost, Rick Baker

Screenplay:  Lee Frost, Wes Bishop and James Gordon White, based upon a story by Lee Frost and Wes Bishop



Synopsis:  In addition to his general ill health, the world-renowned transplant surgeon Maxwell Kirshner (Ray Milland) has developed an arthritic condition that severely hampers his ability to perform surgery. Nevertheless, he continues to oversee the work of the talented medical team he has assembled at the Kirshner Transplant Foundation—and those who assist him with certain secret research conducted in the basement operating-room of his palatial home. Kirshner has himself carried down into the basement to assess the result of one such experiment: a gorilla with two heads. Examination of the creature indicates that the transplanted head is stable and healthy. Kirshner and his team prepare to complete the experiment by removing the original head, but the attempt to sedate the animal fails. It escapes, and makes a break for freedom… At the Foundation, Kirshner tells his second-in-command, Dr Philip Desmond (Roger Perry), that on the basis of some exciting new research, he has hired sight-unseen a young expert in transplant rejection, Dr Fred Williams (Don Marshall). However, when he arrives there is an ugly scene when Kirshner, discovering that Williams is black, tries to repudiate their contract. Williams is disgusted and angry, but insists upon being given the career opportunities promised by Kirshner. His health rapidly deteriorating, Kirshner takes Desmond into his confidence—about his terminal cancer, the experiment with the gorilla, and his plan to cheat death by having his head transplanted onto a healthy donor body. Though stunned by these revelations, Desmond throws himself into the task of locating a potential subject with terminal brain cancer; however, no appropriate candidate can be found. When Kirshner slips into a coma, Desmond realises that drastic measures are needed. He contacts an old college friend, now Lieutenant-Governor of the state (George E. Carey), and makes a startling proposition… At the prison which houses the state’s Death Row, Jack Moss (Rosey Grier) volunteers as a subject for a medical experiment, in the hope that the extra thirty days granted him in exchange will give his girlfriend enough time to find the missing witness who can give him an alibi. At Kirshner’s house, an apprehensive Moss questions the medical team, but Desmond tells him only that they are conducting a transplant experiment… Tensions remain high as the medical team monitors the outcome of the surgery. When signs of rejection appear, Fred Williams is recruited to assist; but he is not taken into Desmond’s confidence and remains outside the surgical suite. At last Desmond is confident that the transplant has been a success. Jack Moss begins to come out of sedation, groggily demanding to know what has been done to him. When he is allowed to see himself in a mirror, he is appalled. But Moss’s horror is nothing compared to that of Maxwell Kirshner, when he regains consciousness to discover that his head has been transplanted onto the body of a black man…

Comments:  There is no disputing the fact that Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier has lived a remarkable life. Born in Georgia, one of a family of twelve, he was an outstanding footballer, first at college level and then in the NFL. Like a number of pro-footballers of his era, Grier spent some time pursuing a secondary career in the entertainment industry. He had some success as a singer during the 1960s, and in 1968 released the Bobby Womack-penned tribute to Robert Kennedy, “People Make The World”. Late in that decade, he had his own community television show in Los Angeles. He also took up acting, appearing regularly on TV from the mid-1960s right throughout the 1970s as well as making a handful of movies (including Skyjacked, which I imagine will be showing up on this site sooner or later).


Meanwhile, after his football career came to an end, Rosey Grier became a bodyguard; he was guarding Ethel Kennedy the night that her husband was assassinated, and was the one to capture and subdue Sirhan Sirhan. A stereotype-buster of the highest order, Grier is not only an enthusiastic needlepoint-worker and macramé expert, but has authored books upon the subject. In 1983 he became an ordained minister, and since has worked tirelessly for the disadvantaged.

And if we needed any evidence that this world is a cruel and unjust place, we have it in the fact that for all his remarkable achievements, these days Rosey Grier is probably best known for playing one-half of the titular entity in AIP’s The Thing With Two Heads.

Say what you like about the 1970s, and goodness knows I have, for lovers of outré cinema it was an era of unparalleled delight; a time when nothing was too bizarre to end up in front of the cameras. Indeed, you can pretty much sum the era up by pointing out that there was not merely one film about head transplantation at this time, but two in the space of eighteen months: a phenomenon perhaps a little less startling when we consider that they were both the work of AIP. Having released The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant in 1971, the company promptly ripped itself off by producing The Thing With Two Heads in 1972—but shook things up in the process by partnering with the dubious duo of Wes Bishop and Lee Frost, and resorting to the common early-70s tactic of taking an existing story and reworking it with a blaxploitation twist.

The Thing With Two Heads is a strange film indeed, and not just because of its central premise. From the moment that the title appears, the duplication of the word “heads” being accompanied by a broadly comic boing! on the soundtrack, we realise we’re not being asked to take the film too seriously; so when the subplot of Maxwell Kirshner’s racism appears, played straight and perfectly nasty, the tone-shift is jolting.


Given the nature of its premise, the film almost can’t help making a serious point or two, yet those points appear in the cheerfully stupid context of a smash-’em-up car-chase action-comedy. In essence what we have here is an unauthorised remake of The Defiant Ones, but one in which the unwilling partners never stop despising one another. And perhaps society’s progress in the interim can be measured by the reaction of this film’s black characters to Maxwell Kirshner and his dinosaur attitudes. Jack Moss and Fred Williams begin by becoming rightfully – and righteously – angry and disgusted with Kirshner; they end by laughing at him.

By this stage in his career, Ray Milland had adopted what we tend to think of as “the Michael Caine work ethic”, accepting just about any assignment offered him in order to keep acting, and making at least one, and usually more, appearances on the screen in every year from 1969 to 1984. Even so, it seems highly likely that when signing his two-picture deal with AIP, Milland did so sight unseen—that is, without knowing exactly what he was letting himself in for…

And on the other side of the equation—well, I like to amuse myself by imagining that, even as Fay Wray was recruited for King Kong by being promised that she would star opposite “the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood”, Rosey Grier was lured into making The Thing With Two Heads by being promised a chance to work closely with Academy Award-winning actor, Ray Milland…very closely indeed

It is easy to overlook the fact amongst this film’s myriad absurdities, but both Ray Milland and Rosey Grier give pretty good performances here—better than the film deserved, anyway. In particular, the way they play off each other once Moss and Kirshner have become travelling companions is remarkable. The Thing With Two Heads is a dizzying mixture of intentional and unintentional comedy, but as far as it works, it does so because of the admirably self-deprecating humour of its two leading men, and their willingness to disregard their dignity.

The Thing With Two Heads wastes no time at all before plunging the audience into its premise. (It seems that AIP had learned something, at least, since trying to make a mystery out of what was going on in a film called Attack Of The Crab Monsters.) The basement of Maxwell Kirshner’s house has been converted into a private operating-suite; and if it’s not quite the traditional basement-laboratory of early science fiction, it’s probably the best we can hope for in these unregenerate days. In one corner of the suite is a cage, and in that cage is a gorilla with two heads.

His appearance as “gorilla” marks the feature-film debut of special-effects maven Rick Baker. The suit he wears is—well, let’s call it “problematic”. The emphasis is, naturally enough, placed upon the two heads, one real – or “real” – and one animatronic, thus foreshadowing some of the effects work later in the film. The heads themselves are okay (though we are hardly convinced by the scene in which they both “eat” a banana), but the rest of the suit, frankly, is no more convincing than the ones donned in earlier days by such career gorilla-men as Charles Gemora and George Barrows. For one thing it’s the wrong colour, being a light brown which only serves to emphasise its artificial construction; its legs are also too long. On top of this, at various points Baker forgets himself and stands bolt upright in a distinctly un-apelike manner. As with many things in this film, the viewer is basically asked to take the gorilla-suit seriously and not-seriously at the same time.

(The nature of the parallel universe in which The Thing With Two Heads takes place is evident in the fact that at no time are we ever given any indication of where Kirshner got two experimental gorillas in the first place…)

After overseeing a major transplant surgery at his Institute – his arthritis preventing him from personally carrying out any but the most basic surgeries – Kirshner returns home to complete his experiment by removing the gorilla’s original head. The attempt to sedate it goes wrong, however, and the enraged animal breaks free, injuring Kirshner and making its escape into the streets, where its pursuers, two of Kirshner’s staff, finally corner it in a corner market, as it sits contentedly munching on two – count ’em, two! – bananas. Boom­-tish!

The Jim Nicholson / Sam Arkoff Story!

Meanwhile, Kirshner continues in his efforts to bring together the best-possible transplant team. The experimental results of a young doctor from Michigan get him so excited that he hires this new specialist in combating tissue rejection without interviewing him first—only to find himself confronted by someone who, as Kirshner himself puts it, violates his hiring policy.

Dr Williams is not slow to understand why Kirshner’s enthusiasm for his work has abruptly cooled, and though he is both bitterly disappointed in the man whose work he has so admired and personally outraged, he insists upon Kirshner fulfilling their contract. When Kirshner snarls at him that he can have his six months and then get out, Williams responds by throwing at him that six months is plenty of time for him to learn all he needs to know—and then he’ll get out very willingly.

(In the context of tissue transplantation, it is hard to be sure whether it was with conscious or unconscious irony that Williams was made a rejection specialist.)

A deeply embarrassed witness to all this is Dr Philip Desmond, but he offers nothing more than a half-hearted reprimand to Kirshner, who is busy revising his opinion of Williams’ work down to “superficial accomplishments”. Of course, we note that whatever his own opinions, Desmond must have been aware of Kirshner’s “hiring policy”—in addition to, of course, being one of the beneficiaries of it. Anyway, Kirshner takes no notice of his tepid criticism, but asks him to cover for him while he takes care of some important matters at home.

This, of course, is the postponed surgery on the gorilla—which Kirshner performs himself, thus underscoring the fact that, in contrast to attaching the second head to the body, the removal of the original head requires only a fairly basic operation. The surgery is a success – at least, from the point of view of Kirshner and the second gorilla; not so much the first one – and just in time, too…

“It’s a livin’!”

Desmond is summoned urgently to Kirshner’s house, where he finds his boss in a state of collapse. Kirshner now makes a full explanation: his own terminal cancer, his plan to extend his life via experimental surgery, and the success of the trial of his technique with the gorillas. Desmond is horrified by Kirshner’s condition, stunned by what he learns of his secret proceedings, and dazzled by the thought of conducting such an operation on human subjects—so much so that, we note, the ethical implications are put rather quickly to one side.

Of course, Kirshner’s idea is that they will find a donor in the shape of someone with inoperable brain cancer, but otherwise healthy. Desmond, fully aware of how very difficult it will be to find someone not only willing, but with all the necessary conditions – and in the limited time left to Max Kirshner – sets the entire staff to work seeking out potential subjects. They have not yet succeeded when Kirshner lapses into a final coma…

Now desperate, Desmond comes up with a radical alternative solution. He contacts an old college buddy, Mitch, now Lieutenant-Governor of the state. After promising complete secrecy, particularly from the Press – “We’re already having enough trouble with these executions!” chuckles Mitch – and all necessary security, as well as a subsequent certification of death, Desmond gains official cooperation in obtaining an alternative body-donor. Mitch does then – rather belatedly, we might be inclined to think – inquire about the nature of the experiment. “A transplant,” replies Desmond blandly. “Just another transplant…”

Consequently, the inmates on Death Row in the state prison are offered the chance to avoid immediate execution by donating their bodies to science—though personally, if I’d been the warden, I think I would have put more emphasis on the “thirty more days” part of the deal, rather than, “You will have the personal satisfaction that your life has aided humanity and the scientific world.”

…and starring Ray Milland as Alfredo Garcia!

Be that as it may, no-one volunteers—not until convicted murderer Jack Moss is actually in the electric chair. At the last moment he claims the warden’s promise and volunteers for the experiment, explaining that, not only is he innocent, but his girlfriend is close to being able to prove it. The extra thirty days might make all the difference.

While Moss is doing The Long Last Walk, the camera is strangely reluctant to show him to us—but we are not altogether surprised when he is subsequently revealed to be black. Certainly not as surprised as Philip Desmond, who has a moment of shocked realisation of the implications when he first lays eyes on his volunteer. This suggests that, in his desperation to get hold of a donor body for Kirshner, Desmond didn’t stop to think things through. I mean, if you’re going to get your experimental subjects from Death Row USA, what are the odds?

(Desmond’s assistant, the bespectacled Dr Smith, is played by screenwriter Wes Bishop; Sergeant Hacker, in charge of the police guard, is played by director Lee Frost. Introductions and a solemn exchange of handshakes follow.)

But—left with no choice, Desmond and the rest of the surgical team proceed. The basement is prepared for human surgery – in one of my favourite bits of product placement, we are given a dramatic close-up of a package of Barnes-Hind© Germicidal Solution – and under police guard, Moss is brought into the room; the guards themselves being strictly forbidden entrance, or even to catch a glimpse of what’s going on. Like Mitch, Moss makes some last-minute inquiries about the nature of the surgery, and also like Mitch, he is put off with vague platitudes.

As his sedation takes effect, Moss begins to mutter about his thirty more days, and how he is going to prove his innocence. This, too, gives Desmond an exceedingly nasty moment; but with Kirshner on the very verge of death, he forces himself to go ahead with the surgery.

“Oh, man,” thought Dr Desmond, “I’m really in deeeeep trouble!”

The surgery sequence in The Thing With Two Heads can only be compared to that of King Kong Lives: on one hand the deadly seriousness of all concerned and the straight-faced presentation, on the other the ludicrousness of its centrepiece, in this case a fake Ray Milland head that is hilariously unconvincing. (To be fair, they did a better job with the fake Rosey Grier head.) This peculiar object, dangling from the tubing attaching it to some variety of heart-lung machine, which is keeping it alive, is transported from one side of the operating-room to the other—during which, its eyes move. I’m sure this was meant to add verisimilitude, but frankly the suggestion that Kirshner is conscious through all this is one I could have done without.

The surgery complete, Desmond remains by the patient and monitors his – their – condition. Kirshner is the first to regain consciousness, and Desmond hurries into speech, emphasising that the operation was a complete success. Kirshner is taken up with his new sensations of health and strength; he can even feel that he has some control over the donor body. (Naturally he moves a hand first, though it isn’t quite a, “It’s alive!” situation.) All through this, Desmond is getting more and more apprehensive, and as Kirshner lifts “his” arm, he utters a broken, apologetic speech about how they didn’t have a choice, how they ran out of time…

“Is this some kind of a JOKE!?” demands Kirshner after a moment’s appalled contemplation.

Well, I’m laughing.

As Kirshner sleeps, Jack Moss regains consciousness. The mirror is where Desmond left it, so Moss is abruptly confronted with his new reality. Having taken a few moments to absorb it, he utters his own variant on Hollywood’s most famous response to an amputation:

Moss:  “Where’s the rest of you!?”

“Does it come in any other colours?”

Kirshner, clearly not a morning person in addition to being a bigot, growls at Moss to shut up—and also to keep his hands to himself. Moss, understandably, becomes hysterical, thrashing about in a way that endangers both himself and his companion, and has to be sedated again, this time by the rough and ready means of a chloroform pad in the face.

We get one of The Thing With Two Heads’ “moments” here, intentionally or otherwise, as Max Kirshner bewails his inability to control the black man he is so ruthlessly exploiting for his own selfish ends. “I couldn’t stop him,” pants Kirshner. “The black bastard, I couldn’t stop him…” Desmond reassures Kirshner that no damage was done by Moss’s outburst, and reminds him that he cannot expect to gain full control of his new body for another ten or fourteen days. In the interim, they will keep Moss’s head locally sedated.

Despite the initial positive signs, the patient – patients – are not out of the woods yet. Dr Williams is summoned to Kirshner’s house, where Desmond recruits him to assist with a case of possible post-transplant tissue rejection, though without taking him fully into his confidence. Desmond starts by apologising for Kirshner, though he blunders almost immediately by referring – as Williams takes in the size and luxuriousness of Kirshner’s house – to Kirshner’s difficult childhood. When Williams makes a sneering response, Desmond sensibly shifts to medical argument, telling him that he needs his professional skills. Reluctantly, but both his ethics and his curiosity aroused, Williams agrees to help.

Just as well, too. There is a hard battle ahead, with Moss / Kirshner threatened by both pneumonia and rejection, and Moss’s deep sedation interfering with his body’s capacity to fight infection. However, thanks in part to Williams’ experimental techniques, both subjects survive.

“Hold it! Next man makes a move, the honky gets it!”
“Oh, lordy, lord, he desperate! Do what he say, do what he say!”

But partly because of the necessity for lightening the sedation, and partly because a nurse is late with an injection, Moss begins to regain consciousness again—in fact, he is brought out of it by Kirshner’s snoring. (Dear God! – if that’s the choice, the electric chair for me!) By the time the nurse appears on the scene, Moss is lying doggo—and the young lady in question ends up getting jabbed in her own caboose.

Moss then starts to make a break for it—only to pause, contemplate the inadequacies of his hospital gown, and get dressed first. Scratching on the basement door, he attracts the attention of one of his guards, who is tossed unceremoniously down the stairs. The second, understandably having a moment of frozen shock when confronted by, well, the thing with two heads, is not only knocked out, he has his gun stolen.

Kirshner, who continued to snore unperturbed through the early phases of Moss’s escape bid, now wakes up and, grouchy as ever, demands that Moss go back to bed. Ignoring him, Moss hot-foots it in the other direction, and finds himself surrounded on all sides by medical personnel, some of whom have seen him before, others of whom gape in disbelief. Holding them at bay with his gun, Moss not surprisingly singles out Williams, forcing him to come along as chauffeur and hostage. As they make their getaway, Desmond shouts for the police to be called, while he and Dr Smith (the latter roused from sleep and embarrassingly clad in red long-johns) rush out to a second car and go in pursuit.

As the fugitives drive along, and Kirshner mixtures threats with orders, both of which are ignored, Moss establishes to his satisfaction that Williams is a surgeon, and demands that he remove “Ol’ Happy-Face” from his shoulder: “Otherwise,” he adds, shoving his gun into Kirshner’s face, “I’ll take care of it myself!”

Run, Sweetback, run!

Williams is sympathetic – not to say amused – but hastens to convince Moss that blowing Kirshner’s head off would have consequences unpleasant to himself, and not just legally.

Desmond and Smith are still tailing the fugitives when they spot a police car travelling in the other direction, presumably towards Kirshner’s house. Desmond flags it down, telling the cops that the car disappearing in the distance is carrying “Jack Moss”—just that and no more, which seems a tad irresponsible. Hearing the siren, Moss forces Williams to swap places with him and speeds away, complaining about what a heap of junk Williams’ car is. “I don’t often use it to escape from the police!” Williams retorts. And he calls himself a black man!

The passenger in the police car starts shooting at the fugitives, causing Kirshner to splutter with a mixture of indignation and fear. Some reckless driving on Moss’s part leads to the police car crashing, and he is then able to put some distance between himself and his remaining pursuers.

(At this point we see for the first time that the police in this film are stationed at “Akersfield”. Look closely in this particular shot and you can also see that, yes, they did ink out the ‘B’…)

Moss tries again to persuade Williams to help him, partly because he had no idea what was to be done to him, mostly because he has been wrongly convicted. Kirshner goes ballistic at even the thought that Williams might agree, and calls Moss an escaped murderer:

Moss:  “Murderer? You the murderer, gunna cut off my head!”
:  “That’s different!”

Many crimes were committed that day…somewhere else.

The sight up ahead of a police blockade brings this debate to an abrupt conclusion. After a moment’s hesitation, Moss turns cross-country, breaking through the police line (and taking out a fire hydrant). The manoeuvre punctures a tyre, however, and the fugitives are forced to proceed on foot, Moss still holding his gun on Williams.

They run up into the hills, where they stop for a moment to catch their breaths. This short break gives Moss a chance to explain to Williams that while he did once own the gun with which the police officer was killed, he had disposed of it before the time of the murder; and that he also had an alibi in the form of a shifty character called Willie Thompson, who was lying low at Moss’s after pulling a job himself. Unfortunately, when he heard that Moss had been arrested, Willie took off—and has been in the wind ever since. Lila, Moss’s girlfriend, has been hunting him down since Moss was convicted.

Exhausted by the events of the day, Moss then dozes off. Kirshner takes the opportunity to tempt Williams with all sorts of things, if only he’ll help him, Kirshner—like partial credit for the historic transplant operation, and a golden professional future as his partner; shafting Desmond in the process. Williams hardly knows whether to be amused or disgusted:

Williams:  “And in order to win all that great acclaim and prestige, all I have to do is help you cut off his head?”

The negotiations are interrupted when a police helicopter suddenly appears over a nearby hill leading the search for the fugitives, who are forced to take to their heels when one of the occupants of the chopper opens fire on them.

Uhhh…the police do know by now that Moss has a hostage, right?

Oh, but then, he’s only a black man. So go right ahead, officer! Fire away!

Sadly, the networks passed on the original pitch for Two And A Half Men.

I shall state right here and now that the helicopter in The Thing With Two Heads does not suffer a tragic fate, and that’s okay. For one thing, this isn’t a killer animal film, so its makers were not under the usual obligation; for another—well, let’s just say that if you have a taste for mechanised movie mayhem, this film will leave you satiated, if not indeed suffering from indigestion.

Although certain films had by this time become renowned (and still are) for their car-chase sequences, most notably Bullitt and The French Connection, the car-chase film had not yet been invented. It would be fair, I think, to consider The Thing With Two Heads as a transition work in this respect. Though the chase sequences in those earlier films were undoubtedly intended chiefly to thrill, they were also embedded in more dramatically serious works, and served to illustrate the dangerous recklessness of their protagonists.

In contrast, the chase sequence in The Thing With Two Heads – which, God help us, goes for fourteen straight minutes – is about as dramatically serious as a monster truck rally; which, indeed, it very much resembles. It is part-dumb-fun, part-shameless-padding.

Now, car-chase films are really NOT my bag; and frankly, I find this sequence a real chore to sit through. The first part of it consists of Moss hijacking a trail bike in the middle of a race, and so setting off a chain reaction of crashes, spills, flips, falls, cliff-slipping and mud-diving; the second part finds the fugitives being pursued by a fleet of police cars (the official count stands at fourteen, but I think it should be higher than that), which crash, smash and roll, one after the other. I suppose it’s an impressive demonstration of where stunt driving was at when the film was produced, if you like that sort of thing.

“And the winner is Jack Moss by a short half head!”

However, I have to say that the only things that enable me to sit through it with something like patience are (i) the cut-away to the Lieutenant-Governor – the former Lieutenant-Governor – facing his former political backers, (ii) the occasional insert shots of Rosey Grier, Ray Milland and Don Marshall all crammed onto a single tiny trail bike, and (iii) the sequence’s concluding shot of the bike race’s finish-line official gazing after the fugitives with an expression of no more than mild bemusement—which is made even funnier by the fact that no-one else in shot seems to have noticed anything untoward.

(It is probably worth noting that, while The Thing With Two Heads can certainly be classified as blaxploitation, and while the viewer is encouraged all through to side with Moss, it is not in the least an angry or mean-spirited film, in spite of Max Kirshner’s bigotry—as demonstrated by the fact that every spectacular crash of a police car concludes with a shot reassuring the audience that the driver isn’t badly hurt.)

Anyway— Having at length shaken off the entirety of the “Akersfield” police force, Moss leads the others to his girlfriend’s apartment.

This is the first Lila knows of the unconventional manner of Moss’s postponement of his execution, and not surprisingly she gives him a long and disbelieving stare, before uttering a remark that makes us wonder just what, exactly, Moss managed to get up to before we were introduced to him on Death Row:

Lila:  “You get into more shit—!”

“But honestly, fellas, I just forgot about that bottle of Penfolds Grange!”
[Wow, remember when politicians used to resign over stuff like that? Feels like a lifetime ago…]

Meanwhile, the staff of the Kirshner Transplant Foundation are gathered around a television set, keeping up with the latest news. Rumours about a “two-headed monster” supersede even the news of Jack Moss’s strange disappearance; we discover that people are only just beginning to put two and two together, or rather two and one-and-a-half. From the studio we cut to recorded footage of reporters besieging Philip Desmond, one of whom puts his inquiry in absolutely classical terms:

Reporter:  “Level with us, doctor: have you created a monster?”

Back at Lila’s, the guests are resting for a while before dinner. After a long separation from his girl, Moss is eager for a little sugar, which creeps Lila out even more than it does Kirshner. Moss kindly offers to cover Kirshner’s head with a pillow-case, if it would help, but Lila flees to the kitchen anyway, where she discusses Moss’s situation with Williams. Still trying to make up his mind whether to help or not, Williams presses Lila for more details about Moss’s alleged alibi.

Meanwhile, with Moss asleep, Kirshner finds himself able to assert control over his body. He keeps his discovery to himself, however…

Over dinner, Kirshner’s rudeness attracts an appropriate response from his companions (when he rejects Lila’s fried chicken, she threatens him with possum and chitlins), before Lila starts making pointed inquiries about the removal of Kirshner’s head. Kirshner hurriedly insists that it would be a highly complex task involving an entire team of surgeons, only for a grinning Williams to contradict him. The transplant is such an operation, yes, but the subsequent removal of the now-vestigial head is nothing more than “a basic amputation”. With the right drugs and equipment, it could be done right away…

Jack’s longstanding suggestion of a threesome suddenly took on a new dimension.

In fact, Williams has decided that he believes in Moss’s innocence; that, consequently, Kirshner has no right to Moss’s body; and in short, as Lila puts it, “Dr Max has got to go.”

Borrowing Lila’s car, Williams and Moss – and Kirshner – make their way to a medical supply house and break in, in search of the necessary items.

Possibly the comic highlight in a film not exactly short of them follows. Finding himself in imminent danger of being removed like a wart, Kirshner takes advantage of Williams’ distraction and reveals his new ability to control the shared body—thus blessing the cinematic world with the glorious sight of Rosey Grier delivering a perfect right-cross to his own jaw and knocking himself out.

Having disposed of Williams likewise, Kirshner finds a phone and contacts Desmond, demanding that he prepare to perform surgery. Desmond protests that the Foundation is crawling with cops, leading Kirshner to conclude that in that case, he will have to perform the operation himself (!). He then takes off in Lila’s car.

Williams, meanwhile, has regained consciousness, and he slips off to make a phone-call of his own. He contacts Lila, begging her borrow a car and pick him up. His best guess is that Kirshner will head for his own basement—and so it is that, even as he prepares to take over Moss’s body on a more permanent basis, Kirshner is rather rudely interrupted…

Even though the situation wasn’t really his fault, Jack couldn’t help beating himself up over it…

At the Foundation, as Desmond paces restlessly, waiting for more news, he gets another phone-call, this one directing him to Kirshner’s house. Desmond rushes over there with Dr Smith and the head nurse, Patricia—the three recoiling in shocked dismay from the sight of Kirshner’s head sitting on a surgical table, hooked up once again to the life-support system. “Philip!” it whispers hoarsely. “Get me another body!”

(And yes, you read that right: it whispers!?)

And then we cut to Moss, Lila and Williams driving away, laughing and singing as if they didn’t have a care in the world.

Like an outstanding death sentence. And a missing witness. And a spectacular collection of accessory charges.

Ah, well. All that’s for tomorrow. This is still today—and any day you get Max Kirshner off your back is a good day…

Want a second opinion of The Thing With Two Heads? Visit 1000 Misspent Hours – And Counting.


This review is part of the B-Masters’ examination of attempts made – with varying degrees of wisdom – to parlay a very different sort of talent into an acting career. Click here for more!

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4 Responses to The Thing With Two Heads (1972)

  1. RogerBW says:

    Well, obviously you just call up Gorillas ‘Я’ Us, or if you’re on a budget World of Discount Primates.

    (The fact that cancer can spread is clearly not anywhere in this film’s top ten scientific problems.)

    What, you mean Death Row might be racially biased? Say it ain’t so!

    Well, if self-appendectomy has happened (and it has)…


    • lyzmadness says:

      And there was the doctor who was isolated in the Arctic and had breast cancer and had to do her own biopsy. And who – note in context – later died of a metastasis to the brain.

      But given the film’s premise I didn’t think it was worth getting into the finer medical details. 😀


  2. I heard of this movie before on a list of bad movies on you tube. What a weird movie. You have an interesting blog and I do enjoy low budget movies


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