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The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971)

One wants to love! One wants to kill!

TV Guide only has so much room to describe movies, and usually has a one-line description of this one, with the names Bruce Dern and Casey Kasem (best known these days to kids as the voice of Shaggy in Scooby-Doo cartoons or Robin in Batman cartoons). Yes, they’re in the movie, but not as the headliners. Dern plays a mad, mad doctor (complete with giggles, shrieks and rolling his eyes). Kasem is on hand as The Friend. Dern was already fairly well-known to the drive-in movie crowd for his previous biker movies, while Kasem (the host of radio’s weekly Top 40 show) was brought in as a sort of gimmick.

The mad doctor gets a hold of the head of a homicidal maniac (Albert Cole) and sews it onto a drooling, mentally-retarded back-woods hulk in blue overalls (John Bloom *). Soon the homicidal head takes over the retard head for complete control of the body, and begins lusting after Dern’s wife (Pat Priest, previously the daughter of TV's Munsters family). Dern reacts to this by placing her in a cage to lure in the monster, but she’s saved in the nick of time by a convenient cave-in that destroys the evil doctor, his secret mine-shaft lab, his aging assistant Max (Berry Kroeger), and of course the monster them-self.

100% Weird logo The ineffable Casey Kasem making an extended cameo wasn’t the only gimmick casting. The late Larry Vincent, at the time one of America’s most popular syndicated TV-hosts of bad late-night movies (as I recall, he particularly liked “Attack Of The Puppet People,” and drove a van customized for his show by the same guy who made Adam West’s Batmobile). Larry was known to millions of fans as “Seymour,” though he left his vampire cape home for his cameo in this movie (as Dern’s gardener, a role that probably could have been played just as nicely by John Carradine).

The Golden Turkey Awards says that "the Hollywood Reporter declared “the acting is on the high school level” but neglected to mention that the special-effects department had not yet graduated from kindergarten." And that the special effect of the two-headed monster consisted simply of having Albert Cole walk directly behind John Bloom with his head propped up on Bloom’s shoulder. The movie’s theme song was “It’s Incredible.”

Incredible Two-Headed Monster wasn’t the year’s block-buster hit, but it cost so little to make that it still made a big profit. American International Pictures used the money to make the following year’s monster:

The Thing With Two Heads (1972)

With a little more money to work with, AI hired a couple of name actors for the two-headed role: Ray Milland (The Man With The X-Ray Eyes) and Rosey Grier (master of football and needlepoint). Milland plays a brilliant surgeon who is dying from cancer and really, really hates black people. A pioneer in brain transplants, he decides to have his own head cut off and put on a non-cancerous body. The Golden Turkey Awards says that not any old body will do, he wants: “ivory white, antique white, off-white, or at worst, hot pink... but none seem to be on the showroom floor.” He wakes up to discover that his doctor friend was only able to find one big, healthy body that was compatible with the transplanted Milland head: that of ex-football great Rosey Grier, a black convict unjustly condemned and willing to agree to the experiment in order to save his own head. Milland conspires to kill the Grier head and cut it off, though still doesn’t like the idea of going through life with a black body from the neck down.

Grier grabs a gun from a policeman assigned to the hospital room and makes a break to reunite with his girlfriend (Chelsea Brown), but their touching reunion is marred somewhat by Milland watching from the sidelines. They don’t have that much time to waste because now the cops are in hot pursuit. The movie pressbook enthused:
“The chase now becomes a mad melee of narrow escapes, screeching rubber, flying dust and tortured metal as motorcycles scatter before the ghastly apparition on wheels of the two-headed body and squad cars crash and pound across the hills in pursuit of the fugitives.”

The Golden Turkey Awards - “At long last, Milland decides to make a citizen’s arrest: he takes control of the body and socks his other half in the jaw, knocking him out. Watching Rosey Grier deliver a vicious right hook to his own jaw is one of the unquestioned highlights of the film. With the black head unconscious, our white, honky doctor now runs to his laboratory to prepare his surgical tools for removing that unwanted growth on his neck ... Just as he is about to make the incision, Rosey’s long-suffering girlfriend arrives with a clean-cut young black doctor in tow. These two help the Big Man regain control of his own body and it is the white head that is neatly detached, then attached to a life-support system. Rosey and his girlfriend ride off into the sunset while the mad doctor, or what’s left of him, grumbles and snarls as he begins the search for another body. Any volunteers?”

The Golden Turkey Awards - “The producers of this one were more confused than any imaginable two-headed monster. They couldn’t decide whether they were making a serious statement about racial prejudice, a horror sci-fi film, a motorcycle yarn, or an action/escape/adventure saga. When they saw the finished product they realized they could only advertise it as a comedy, with special appeal to the blaxploitation market. The tag line read The doctor blew it—He transplanted a WHITE BIGOT’S HEAD on a SOUL BROTHER’S BODY! Man, they’re really in deeeeep trouble! American International ... recommended that local theater owners try various ingenious promotional gimmicks, such as framing a “large ear of corn which has 2 big bites out of it and post with the caption stating: BITTEN BY THE THING WITH TWO HEADS.’” The distributor further suggested that 2 football helmets be sewn together as specially designed for The Thing With Two Heads, with the hope that this reminder of Rosey Grier’s record as a football player would help the public to forget his prowess as an actor.”

The Manster (1962)

By the way, there was also a 1962 Japanese movie released in the U.S. as “The Manster: Half Man And Half Monster,” about a New York reporter who gets a little too curious about what a Japanese mad chemist (Satoshi Nakamura) is up to. Nakamura slips him a potion that causes an extra head to pop up. Soon both heads have similar furry eyebrows and crooked teeth, and are on the prowl for human victims. The Manster meets his end in an erupting volcano. According to the credits, it was directed by George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane (apparently a two-headed director). There has actually been a recent semi-remake “How To Get Ahead In Advertising” (1989), a comedy about a copy writer (Richard E. Grant) who sprouts a talking growth. And Don Rickles played a two-headed ventriloquist (the smaller second head disquised as his dummy) in an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

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* Note: The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant was the first of ten films that actor John Bloom starred or appeared in before his death in 1999 at age 54. An unrelated author and former reporter in Texas named John Bloom appears on TV & movies as Joe Bob Briggs and is still at it. Here are the two lists, by their stage names:

John Bloom

"The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant" (as the creature)
"Dracula Vs. Frankenstein" (1971, Lon Chaney's last film)
"Brain of Blood" (1971)
"The Dark" (1979, aka The Mutilator)
Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes 2" (1984)
"Bachelor Party" (1984, Tom Hanks)
"Runaway Train" (1985)
Harry & The Hendersons (1987)
The Great Outdoors (1988, John Candy vs. Dan Aykroyd)
"Frozen Assets" (1992) George Miller's pathetic comedy starring Shelley Long of Nightshift and Hello Again

Joe Bob Briggs

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Part 2 (1986)
Great Balls Of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis bio-pic), no relation to Spaceballs, which was seen on Monstervision
"Stephen King's The Stand" (1994, 6-hour miniseries, cameo as a southern sheriff)
"Casino" (1995, as a bad dealer)
Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (DVD commentary/narrator)
Jesse James vs. Frankenstein's Daughter (DVD commentary/narrator)
Followed by numerous other movie DVDs as commentary/narrator, see his website

New Scientist magazine reported 12/3/02 that researchers at Jichi Medical University in Japan successfully grafted infant rat heads onto the thigh of an adult rat. The infant rat heads continued growing for 3 weeks and opened their mouths as if trying to nurse. Doesn't this sound like the start of another horror movie? page for Seymour (aka Larry Vincent)

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© Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved. Bitten by the thing with 2 heads