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Cinema Connoisseur: Heads and shoulders above the rest

Credit: The Thing With Two Heads

Allen Gaynor | Interrobang | Lifestyles | November 11th, 2013

The Thing With Two Heads (1972)

A wise man once said “two heads are better than one.” That man was Andre The Giant. Philosophers have argued over the exact meaning of this statement for decades. Some believe that it means that more can be accomplished by working together. Others feel that Mr. The Giant actually meant that it is in fact advantageous to literally have multiple craniums perched atop one's shoulders.

Back in 1972, an incredible film titled The Thing with Two Heads was released that examined what would happen if someone were in fact given a second head. So what would happen? Hijinx, hilarity and mayhem, that's what!

Legendary Academy Award winning actor Ray Milland portrays Maxwell Kirshner, a brilliant doctor whose body is beginning to fail him. In order to preserve his life, he begins experimenting with transplant techniques. As a result, his lab is housing a two-headed ape. Within the first 10 minutes of this film, there is a scene where a two-headed ape runs amok in a supermarket, shoving bananas into both of its faces. This would be the high point of most films, but the fun is only beginning.

Not deterred by the supermarket fiasco, Kirshner presses on, and lets his colleagues know that he would like them to place his head onto someone else's body.

Shortly afterwards, we learn that not only is Kirshner a brilliant (albeit possibly a bit mad) doctor, but also a racist. New hire Dr. Fred Williams shows up after being offered a job over the phone. When Kirshner realizes he has hired an African American doctor, he quickly tries to retract the offer, and then begrudgingly agrees to let Williams finish out his short-term contract.

The loveable old racist's health takes a dramatic turn for the worse, and there is suddenly a pressing need for a donor body. Enter Jack Moss (former NFL star Rosey Grier), a death row inmate who may not have committed a crime. He offers himself up to be part of the experiment, in hopes that it will buy him sometime to prove his innocence. Did I mention that Moss is also African American?

When the bigot Kirshner awakes and sees the new body that he is attached to, fireworks ensue between the two. But cooler heads prevail, and the two headed man goes on the lamb, attempting to track down the evidence that will set him free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last.

This leads to a high-speed chase with Kirsher/Moss riding on a dirt bike (joined by Dr. Williams), being chased by an insane amount of police. This sequence lasts approximately 45 minutes, and results in no fewer than 30 cop cars being flipped over.

The Thing With Two Heads ends rather ambiguously, but that is because it deals with some rather complex issues that cannot be easily wrapped up within the confines of a 90-minute film. Issues like racism. And whether or not it is okay to give a second head to an ape. This is a film that you won't just watch and forget about. It will inevitably lead to further discussion, even passionate debate. The Thing With Two Heads is a film that will require you to use your own head, and perhaps the heads of those you are watching with. That's a lot of head, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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