THE LIVING HEAD
(1965), B/W, 75 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Presented by Young America Productions
Produced at Soundlab, Coral Gables, Fla.
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Manuel San Fernando
Voices: Bill Rogers
THE LIVING HEAD is terrific. It is both creepy and goofy, in a winning combination of those elements. It boasts high production values, especially in the opening prologue, in which hundreds of extras, dressed in authentic period garb, adorn the magnificent ruins of an Aztec temple.
It also has lots of fun horror movie icons, like blinking eyeball rings and some groovy cheap gore. When the high priest rips the heart out of his sacrifice, the effect is startling, to say the least.
Following a flash-forward to the present time, (using the same time-passage montage as used in THE BRAINIAC!), we follow Professor Mueller and his cohorts, some of the most reckless archeologists ever unleashed from university, as they basically wreck the sacred temple of Acatl, and of course incure the wrath of the title noggin.
Back in Mexico City, Martha (the always-lovely Ana Luisa Peluffo) learns to her horror that she is the descendent of the beautiful Aztec Princess Xochiquetzal, and scientists start dropping like flies.
Enter Police Inspector Holliday (Abel Salazar, looking like Danny Thomas playing Inspector Clouseau) to solve the case.
The sight of Martha walking around in her negligee, hypnotized, carrying Acatl’s head around on a dinner tray, is simply precious.
Also fun are the instances where victims’ hearts are cut out, and the missing organs are later found, oozing blood, resting next to a smirking Headzo.
Another fun scene: chicken-shit Professor Meuller lifts off Acatl’s protective mask, and is shocked, not at the gruesome visage of the undead warrior, but at a cheap plastic spider which shimmies its way across the floor, yanked by a string!
The finale is absurdly protracted, with Holliday taking forever to reach the room where Robert, knife hovering for what seems like hours, is about to stab the Professor.
Presumably filmed in 1963, THE LIVING HEAD could conceivably have been influenced by Joseph Green’s incredible 1962 decapitation opus, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE, as there are more than several passing references here to Green’s snarling, articulate death-poem. Just imagine; two horror-head classics in as many years! Ah, the glory days!
German Robles is spiffy as Meuller, skeptical to the point of idiocy, in quite a departure from his sinister turns as the ego-fueled gentleman vampire, Nostradamus.
The title noggin is a bizarre creation, with its sneaky half-open eyes, lounge lizard mustache and bald eagle protective helmet, looking vaguely sinister, yet predominately ornamental, like something a streetsweeper might find discarded in the gutter the day after Carnival!
Though the plot is simplistic to a fault, adhering to a common period suspense formula (ruminating at length on the patently obvious), THE LIVING HEAD is just dripping with atmosphere, and due to the odd premise, evocative production design by Robert Silva, and a mournful, majestic score by Gustav Cesar Carrion, the film comes across as balancing a perfect combination of creepy and goofy that simply identifies the era. And Murray/Guberman’s dubbing here is top-notch, full of obscure witticism, cryptic insights and marvelously obtuse sentence fragments.
You could see the film’s protracted finale as the victory of Modern Agnosticism/Science (Holliday’s coldly logical gun) over the impetus of Ancient Justice/Religion (Xiho’s sacred, bloodletting knife), or perhaps the ascendancy of conformity-breeding Mass Communication as it overthrows the Oral Tradition of the storyteller in antiquity.
Regardless, THE LIVING HEAD takes gothic horror, scientific nonsense, and some fantastic touches straight out of old pulp fiction, and creates a virtually avant-garde genre mutant thats a true cult film legend and a great “head” film (Sorry).
This marvelous cult film treasure must have been a hoot, on a double-bill with the creepy THE WITCH’S MIRROR, at the local flea pit.
-Rob Craig, kgordonmurray.com
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!