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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (Blu-ray)
The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // November 24, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 24, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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Before The Thing with Two Heads, there was The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant...which, too, was a thing with two heads. Incidentally, the thing with two heads was also an incredible two-headed transplant. Oh, and both movies have multi-headed primates, renowned surgeons on the bleeding edge of science working out of their palatial homes, convicted murderers as half of their two-headed equations, screenplays by James Gordon White, release dates all of a year apart... Yeah, yeah, the two of 'em have all sorts of things in common, but they have their share of differences as well. One has explicit shots of monkey genitalia; the other, not so much. One has Casey Kasem pulling double duty as a surgeon and a DJ on the radio, while the other neither keeps its feet on the ground nor keeps reaching for the stars. One is a stone-cold cult classic and a hell of a pop culture touchstone, and the other is The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant.

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Screenwriter James Gordon White speaks briefly in an interview on this disc about how The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant was a tongue-in-cheek throwback to Frankenstein, and, yeah, he's on the money there. A surprisingly subdued Bruce Dern is miscast as Dr. Frankenst...I mean, Roger Girard. The good doctor even has his very own Igor in his assistant Max (Berry Kroeger), though this aging surgeon is less of a lackey and more of a devil on his shoulder, egging Girard on in his experiments in the hopes of reclaiming his lost youth. The only thing they're missing is a monster. Dr. Girard isn't hoping to reanimate the dead, exactly, but the general idea isn't that far off. Imagine if someone with a healthy mind and an ailing body could have their head transplanted onto someone who was brain-dead. One has a chance to live; the other was all but dead anyway. It's making the most of an unfortunate but I-guess-all-too-common situation. Girard has successfully grafted second heads onto a variety of small animals. Once this has been perfected, the next step is removing the original head from each of these creatures, and from there...? One day, maybe he'll even have the opportunity to experiment on human subjects.

Turns out that Girard doesn't have to wait that long or look that far. In this corner, there's serial rapist/murderer Manuel Cass (Albert Cole), who the doc and Max have just gunned down after his reign of terror darkened their doorstep. That bastard is clinging to life but just barely. A little over yonder is Danny (John Bloom), a gentle giant with the mind of an eight year old, cradling the lifeless body of the father that psychopath ruthlessly slaughtered. Where you see a sweet-hearted, grieving orphan, Max and (after a little prodding) Dr. Girard see a golden opportunity. Hey, you got your bloodthirsty rapist on my Lennie-from-Of Mice and Men! No, you got your Lennie-from-Of Mice and Men on my bloodthirsty rapist! Two great tastes that taste great together. It goes about as well as you'd think. A two-headed, superhumanly strong serial killer is wreaking havoc all over this sleepy little town, and the authorities can't make heads or tailsmore heads of any of it. Girard's wife Linda (Pat Priest) and Casey Kasem...I mean, longtime friend Dr. Anderson do what they can to bring an end to this madness, but this experiment means far too much to involve a sheriff who couldn't possibly understand. Dr. Girard and Max take chase, tripping on a fresh corpse at pretty much every turn.

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There are some worthwhile ideas that screenwriter White would go on to refine the following year in The Thing with Two Heads, but borderline-nothing about The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant works this first time around. One of the most enduring aspects of The Thing with Two Heads is the collision of wills: of having a bitter, old racist grafted onto the body of a hulking black man convicted of murder. There's nothing like that here. Instead, the maniacal Manuel Cass with his gap-toothed grin is in the driver's seat the entire time, with Danny passively looking on with tears in his eyes. There's barely even any dialogue between 'em post-transplant, and there's no end game for either of them to pursue as there is in The Thing with Two Heads.

The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant is devoid of its successor's tighter focus, clumsily weaving together five different subplots: this ungodly monstrosity murdering everyone in its/his/their path, Girard and Max hunting down their creation, the cops struggling to comprehend what's going on, Dr. Anderson ineffectively taking action as he puts together the pieces, and Mrs. Girard trying her damndest to squirm out of the crossfire. With nearly every last bit of that taking place in the final half hour, there's not time to service any of those storylines particularly well. The first fiftysomeodd minutes are glacially paced. The lip-smacking, deliriously over the top, two-headed killer only gets a few standout setpieces, and the incompetently staged action and hopelessly choppy editing stomp on any adrenaline that may otherwise have rushed. The production values across the board are depressingly low, especially the paper maché cave that's recycled a few times, and the creature is mostly shot in oppressively tight closeups to hide the seams. Bruce Dern doesn't seem to have given enough of a shit to memorize his lines, sleepwalking through his delivery and prone to repeating little bits of dialogue over and over. Throughout the course of the movie, he has his wife drugged, bound and gagged, and locked in an oversized doggy kennel, and yet for some reason, he's revered as a saint at the end of the movie, Manuel Cass gets a free pass, and sweet, innocent Danny is completely thrown under the bus. Fuck you, The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant.

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While The Thing with Two Heads is ridiculous in all the best ways, The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant rarely even manages to accidentally be fun. From its excruciatingly slow pace to its repetitive score that's pretty much the same four notes on a bass guitar over and over and over and over and over, I just...no. Can't. Sorry. If you gotta suffer through The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant, Rent It.


Video
The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant has been kicking around in high-def on satellite for at least a decade now, and I wouldn't be even a little bit surprised if that aging master has been dusted off again for this Blu-ray disc. Film grain tends to be coarse and chunky, while contrast skews kinda flat. Color saturation careens around all over the place, and I'm not just talking about that continuity hiccup where Danny's clutching a bouquet of purple flowers one second and blue flowers the next. I thought the palette looked terrific early on, but the further along The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant plods, the duller and more lifeless its hues seem to get. Definition and detail hold up respectably well at times, especially when the camera's closed in tightly, but sizeable chunks look more like DVD-and-a-half (if that) rather than a shiny, new Blu-ray disc. I'm not talking about shots where there's some kind of dissolve or other optical causing an unavoidable hit in quality either:

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There's a good bit of speckling and wear as well, with the final moments in the cave suffering the worst:

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It all still ranks as okay, though, and I'm sure Kino Lorber did the best they could with the master they were handed. It's still disappointing coming so soon after the almost surreally gorgeous release of The Thing with Two Heads a few months back.

On this incredible one-layered Blu-ray disc, you're lookin' at an AVC encode and an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.


Audio
Presented in 16-bit, two-channel mono, The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant sounds alright. Boxy, dated, a little muffled at times, no real dynamic range to speak of: pretty much what you'd expect from an underfunded AIP production from four and a half decades back. There's no intrusive background noise or dropouts, so I'll still chalk all this up as a win.

RiffTrax commentary aside, there are no other audio options.


Extras
  • RiffTrax Commentary: Oh, wow...! Back in April, RiffTrax -- y'know, MST3K's Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, as if you really need an introduction after nine years -- skewered The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant as a digital download, and Kino Lorber has kindly included that track here as well. While it's not exactly the gang's best work, their riffs do make this slow, uninvolving mess of a movie easier to wade through, and I've gotta give a thumbs-up to anything that belts out Neutral Milk Hotel and makes a nod to He-Man's nemesis, Two-Bad.
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  • Interview (9 min.; mostly SD): James Gordon White doesn't have much to say about The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant in particular, devoting about as much of this interview to ranting about useless film critics as he does to his screenplay. There are some notes about how he would've preferred Vincent Price to star as the more-or-less-mad scientist, how long the script sat on the shelf at AIP while waiting for horror to make a comeback, and how misunderstood this tongue-in-cheek-Frankenstein tale has long been. This conversation is primarily a quick jaunt through White's stint at AIP and his distaste for Hollywood in general.

    The post-production work for this feature was fielded in HD -- the photo inserts, captions, and all that -- but the interview itself is in heavily aliased, artifact-riddled, color-bleeding standard-def. Not sure what the story is there.

  • Promotional Material (3 min.): Rounding out the extras are a radio spot and a high-def theatrical trailer.

The Final Word
The extras here sweeten the pot a bit, but if you're in the market for a transplantsploitation flick, The Thing with Two Heads will scratch that itch better than this near-complete misfire. Rent It.


Someone Snapped Too Many Screenshots
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