HEAD, THE (Die Nackte und der Satan)
(director/writer: Victor Trivas; screenwriter: book by Jacques Mage; cinematographer: Georg Krause; editor: Friedl Buckow-Schier; music: Willy Maltes/Jacque Lasry; cast: Horst Frank (Dr. Ood), Karin Kernke (Irene), Helmut Schmid (Lab Assistant Bert), Paul Dahlke (Crime Commissioner), Dietter Eppler (Paul Lerner), Kurt Muller Graf (Dr. Walter Burke), Christiane Maybach (Lilly), Michel Simon (Prof. Abel), Otto Storr (Frank, The Bartender); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wolfgang Hartwig; Alpha Video; 1959-West German-dubbed in English)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Victor Trivas directs and scripts a highly entertaining bizarre Gothic horror tale about a mad scientist. This cheapie B-movie filmed in black-and-white is dubbed into English in a clunky manner. It is based on the book by Jacques Mage, and was made in Germany. The literal translation from the German title “Die Nackte und der Satan”is “The Nude and the Devil.”
The elderly genius innovative scientist Professor Abel (Michel Simon) experimented in removing a dog’s head and keeping only its head alive, an experiment his assistant Dr. Walter Burke (Graf) believes is unethical because it exceeds the bounds of science. The professor is experimenting on animals to keep body parts alive, as he believes curiosity is the way to knowledge and advancing mankind (hinting at some kind of Faustian pact with the Devil). Walter’s cousin is a hunchbacked nurse named Irene Sanders (Karin Kernke), who Professor Abel promised an operation to correct her back but Walter considers the operation daring and disapproves.
Professor Abel believes he doesn’t have long to live because of his weak heart and calls for a genius scientist from a different area, Dr. Ood (Horst Frank), to perform an untested transplant novel experimental operation. The creepy Ood, a citizen of the world, eerily tells the prof he got his name as a child from the name of the shipwrecked boat, the S. S. Ood, where his parents died. The operation calls for the transplanting of a car accident’s heart while still alive into Abel’s body, but before it can be accomplished the involuntary donor dies. When Walter sees that Ood will operate anyway, he considers this madness but before he can prevent it Ood stabs him to death with a large pair of surgical scissors. Walter is declared missing, but has been buried in the woods in back of the house by Ood. Abel’s only other helper is a slightly retarded lab assistant, due to a brain operation performed by Abel, named Bert (Helmut Schmid), whose final orders from Abel were to obey Ood no matter how strange the operation procedure might be. This gives Ood the opportunity to perform the dog decapitation procedure on Abel while undisturbed. He succeeds in keeping Abel’s dismembered head alive by wires, machines, and a special formula called “Serum Z.” It’s a wildly gross idea, as the film takes on the look of a nightmare as Abel converses without a body while locked in the secret lab.
The imposingly stark sets were designed by the artist Herman Warm, who is best known for his masterful work on “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”
A parallel story of a bitchy and voluptuous strip-teaser named Lily (Christiane Maybach), who is the featured dancer in the Tam-Tam club and is the girlfriend and working model of the club’s portrait artist and sculptor Paul Lerner (Dietter Eppler). His father is the respected Judge Lerner, who doesn’t approve of his art work or why he rejected law school for such a low-brow line of work.
It turns out Ood knows Lilly as Stella, someone who poisoned her former hubby and on whom Ood performed a miraculous plastic surgery job to change her appearance, even though he went under a different name and didn’t have doctor’s credentials. It also turns out that Ood received a novel brain operation from his mentor Dr. Hartman, that made him a genius doctor. Ood keeps busy by keeping Abel’s head alive against his will and tricking Lilly into ditching Paul and then murdering her and interchanging her body with Irene’s head.
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 Eurohorror film sets up a hellish Germanic expressionistic atmosphere. There’s trashy fun to be had in all this Faustian retelling of the legend as a madman, a stripper, a retard, a womanizing artist and a hunchback all battle for survival of the most unfit.
REVIEWED ON 2/11/2004 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/