The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971): Does anyone do drive-in trash as well as AIP?
I’ll start with the cast.
There’s Bruce Dern as a woefully misguided and strangely sexy scientist specializing in attaching additional heads to existing bodies, first with small animals and moving on to… a mentally challenged man-child and a psychopath prison escapee. Dern speaks in a consistently slow, soft voice, sounding sweetly seductive and super-stoned.
Pat Priest, the second Marilyn Munster, plays Dern’s wife and perpetual damsel in distress/babe in bikini. She crawls around helplessly – a lot – and the interweb seems to specialize in shots of her from this film bound and gagged.
Her helmet hair seems out of place for a 1971 drive-in feature, but I suppose they needed to capitalize on her previously established look, torpedo tits and all, which I find somewhat anachronistic even for the sixties on The Munsters.
Casey Kasem is on hand as the best friend and the futile voice of reason. He should have stuck to audio with Shaggy and my beloved American Top 40. Some presences just don’t carry over to the screen. Or perhaps it’s that his voice alone so dominates my mind that I cannot conceive of it belonging to a character other than Shaggy or to a DJ introducing a long distance dedication™.
John Bloom gets saddled with perhaps the most ludicrous part: the simpleton farm hand who is orphaned by a psychopath and then has to host the murderer’s head on his shoulder and share a nervous/motor system with him. His primary activity is stumbling.
Albert Cole interprets the role of this psychopath, providing the film with its hammiest performance. The actor could have built a full career out of leering at ladies in lingerie.
My favorite well be Berry Kroeger, doing a mad doctor riff that foretells the magnificent performance of the late, great Jack Elam as Dr. Nikolas Van Helsing in Cannoball Run.
AIP spared great expense with special effects. Once the terrifying surgical transplant has been achieved, we are left with lots of torso-up shots with the psycho snuggled behind the man-child, as the actors attempt to distract us from the preposterous padding around the shoulder by employing silent film technique facial expressions projecting all the way to the very back row of the drive-in. I can only imagine director Anthony M. Lanza yelling at them before each take, “Simpleton! Show me confused and uncomfortable, like you’ve just shit yourself!” “Psychopath! Give more with the eyes! I want crazy! Crazier! No! Crazier!”
For the rear and long shots, they plopped what appears to be a baby doll head on the man-child’s shoulder. He then staggers and stumbles around the night-for-day shots with his two disproportionate heads, inspiring more queasiness than terror.
No worry. AIP never made the claim that we’d be knocked over by studio wizardry. They promised to knock us out with titillation and exploitation, and on those counts they deliver stacked gold.