The Head – West Germany, 1959

‘It just won’t lay down and stay dead’

The Head is a 1959 West German science fiction horror thriller written and directed by Russian-born Victor Trivas and produced by Wolf C. Hartwig (Horrors of Spider IslandDead Sexy, Bloody Moon). The movie stars Michel Simon, Horst Frank and Paul Dahlke.

The original title, Die Nackte und der Satan, translates as “The Naked and the Devil”.

Trans-Lux released the film in the US in 1961. In the UK, it was cut by the BBFC for an ‘X’ certificate and released in 1964 by S F Films on a double-bill with Playgirls and the Vampire.

Professor Abel (Michel Simon) has invented Serum Z, which he has used to keep a dog’s severed head alive. His mad assistant, Doctor Ood (Horst Frank) then uses the serum to keep Simon’s own head alive after a failed heart transplant.

Meanwhile, Ood also plans to transplant the head of a hunchbacked nurse onto the body of an alcoholic stripper…

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The Head remains one of the better entries in the decapitated body genre […] The Germanic influence makes this film most entertaining and the image of Michel Simon’s disembodied head begging to be disconnected from its life-giving fluids is a guilty pleasure worth reliving from time to time.” Christopher Dietrich, DVD Drive-In

“Overall, The Head is rather forgettable. It probably would have left a stronger impression had Horst Franck taken a more over the top approach. Yes, the subdued approach he took was a solid choice, but there really wasn’t anything else to give the movie personality.” Christopher Beaumont, Critical Outcast

“The image of Michel Simon’s disembodied head combined with the landscape of expressionistic surroundings courtesy of Hermann Warm invest Trivas’s film with a genuinely bizarre encounter of the German era past and present Euro horror.” David Del Valle, kinoeye

“Although obviously not endowed with a large budget, and hardly the most original or well paced script, The Head remains enjoyable thanks to great looking sets and soundtrack, and a superb lead performance from Horst Frank.” Timothy Young, Mondo Esoterica

“Filmed in a landscape composed of dead trees, dark passageways, a scary cavernous house in the woods with a strange futuristic look, and a menacing looking operating room, the Euro horror film sets up a hellish Germanic expressionistic atmosphere. There’s trashy fun to be had…” Dennis Schwartz, Ozus’ World Movie Reviews

“Its dark cinematography mixes, Noir, Expressionism, and exploitation. Atonal music and weird sounds pervade the background. Very little gore is actually shown, but the idea of gore is omnipresent. You feel like you’ve stepped into an underworld. Its villain – a grim selfish scientist with arched eyebrows who manipulates everyone around him – is loathsome.”David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“A genuinely bizarre case of medical Science Fiction by Trivas … The scenes with Simon … reduced to his extraordinary head are collectors’ items.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction

Main cast:

  • Michel Simon
  • Horst Frank – The Dead Don’t Die; The Cat o’ Nine Tails; So Sweet, So Perverse
  • Paul Dahlke
  • Karin Kernke
  • Helmut Schmid
  • Dieter Eppler – Castle of the Walking Dead; Slaughter of the Vampires; The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle
  • Kurt Müller-Graf
  • Christiane Maybach

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