DVD The Man With The Severed Head
Arrowdrome Films is a self-described “fleapit selected library of cult films; violent, horrific, sleazy and exploitative,” and its latest release is apparently of no exception. Also known as Crimson, The Man With The Severed Head is a Eurociné entry starring Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy (once dubbed the ‘Boris Karloff of Spain’), and features a tale of gangster rivalry amongst a bizarre operation to save a man’s life.
When a jewellery heist goes wrong, Jack Surnett (Naschy) finds himself with a bullet in his head and not long left to live. When his gang, led by a man named Henry (Olivier Mathot), consult a doctor on how to save him, the only option is to attempt a risky operation, transplanting Surnett’s head onto a new body. With no one particularly willing to donate theirs, they come up with a scheme to use the leader of a rival gang member, known as ‘The Sadist’.
The operation seems to be a complete success, but it soon becomes clear that all is not well with Surnett. He starts complaining of headaches and shows developing signs of paranoia – both which cultivate into bouts of homicidal rage. But dealing with Surnett isn’t the only problem Henry and his gang have – ‘the Sadists’ old gang members have found out what happened to their old boss, and are on the lookout for revenge…
With a premise like that, it’s a shame that The Man With The Severed Head is not even half as fun as it sounds. Immediately, from the film’s opening sequence and its lead into the main crux, it soon becomes clear that the makers of this film weren’t entirely sure whether they wanted to make. Its overall premise seems to suggest that The Man With The Severed Head is a horror film, especially given the science fiction-esque operation that is its main focus point. However, the end result is far more akin to the crime/gangster genre. Paul Naschy may be the big name behind the film, but this certainly isn’t his finest hour – exploration of Surnett’s psychic trauma and subsequent bouts of violence are kept to a minimum, and instead what the film is mostly comprised of is his bland and uninteresting associates running around trying to save him. Finally, far too much of the focus is spent on ‘the Sadist’ and his gang, who are nothing more than glorified background characters – spending the majority of their screen time skulking around or playing cards.
The violence, gore and nudity that the genre is known for is almost non-existent.
Interspaced amongst the ’important’ scenes are some bizarre dance montages, including a five-minute interpretative dance show that puts you under the illusion that it’s setting up something, but, in reality, has absolutely little do to with the scene’s premise and nothing at all to do with where the scene actually goes. Despite these odd quirks, and the very slow setup, there remains a faint hope that the film might eventually be going somewhere interesting. Unfortunately, this never happens, and what’s left is a film that becomes progressively more boring, which not only ends abruptly, but also leaves you completely unsatisfied.
Despite its place in the Eurociné genre and as an exploitation film, there is actually very little in The Man With The Severed Head to earn it this place. Sure, the voices are badly and obviously dubbed over the film, and the production values are minimal (despite being made in 1976, it could easily pass for a film made a decade earlier), but the violence, gore and nudity that the genre is known for is almost non-existent. The big moments of decapitation by train, torture and even the brain transplant operation itself all take place off-camera. There are also no signs of nudity within the film, with all the actresses (or their body doubles) showing very little skin.
Also included with this DVD are additional ‘erotic’ scenes. These additional scenes are nothing more than a few poorly done soft-core porn sequences which would have felt just as out of place in the film as they do as an extra feature.
Despite this film’s suggestive title and wacky premise, there is actually very little going on in The Man With The Severed Head. Instead of fully embracing the ridiculousness of its plot, it instead attempts to be semi-serious, with the end result being a bland and ultimately boring film. There is plenty of build-up, but absolutely no payoff, and barely any of the over the top conventions Eurociné is known for. Not even one to file under the ‘so bad it’s good’ category.
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