The Man with Two Heads – USA, 1971

‘So terrifying …she will hold you and hold you and hold you!’

The Man with Two Heads is a 1971 [released 1972] American horror film written, photographed and directed by Andy Milligan, loosely based on the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. It stars Denis DeMarne, Julia Stratton and Gay Feld.

Review:

On receiving the cadaver of a hanged murderer, respected Doctor Jekyll goes about his experiments to isolate and eradicate the evil part of a person’s mind.

Electing the inject himself with the serum he creates, he falls victim to a comedy of errors, as his assistant first drops the vial of antidote on the floor, smashing it to pieces, then smudges the equation for the formula in the doctor’s notes.

Madness begins to overcome Jekyll, who reveals his evil twin, Danny Blood, to an unsuspecting London, in particular a number of prostitutes. Will he be able to conquer his inner demons and return to his old self?

The writing is almost literally on the wall instantly, as the onscreen credits immediately salute one “Robert Louis Stephenson” for the inspiring original text: either a dodge to avoid ramifications or a genuinely hopeless misspelling of “Stevenson”.

The source material is tampered with very little, until the second half of the film which shows the emergence of his alter-ego, Blood, as a sex-crazed deviant – more overt, yet still far less successful than the 1931 film version (still the definitive reading).

The film is one of several Milligan filmed in London and, as such, avoids any glaringly jarring faux-English images that were clearly lensed in America. Marginally less successful is the Victorian period setting which, despite the requisite fog, buckles, pub singalong and gin-swilling tarts, never quite steers clear of feeling rather like church hall amateur dramatics.

There though lies the rub – for all the reputation Milligan’s films have for appalling acting, the performances in The Man with Two Heads is actually perfectly serviceable. No-one fluffs their lines and Denis DeMarne, trusted with both Jekyll and, naturally, Blood, is perfectly serviceable in the role. His later regular appearances on British television programmes posits him exactly where he is  – an actor at the beginning of his career dealing with material politely deemed “thin”.

The film is hampered by Milligan’s regular flaws: a murderous overuse of stock music drowning out the actors’ dialogue; poor sound editing and recording, meaning everything seems to have a slight echo.

Blood’s extravagant eyebrows and perma-grimace are as far as special effects go, but most likely for the best. Jekyll’s early assertion that he has already tested his serum on gorillas and horses does rather raise the question of how many evil horses there are. However, the inevitable flogging and S&M scenes are ghoulishly portrayed, with some terrific demeaning lines such as:

“There’s nothing a man likes better than to come home to a cigar, a beautiful wife and his dog – only you’re not so beautiful and I don’t have a dog… You’ll be my doggy, eh? Nice doggy, nice doggy. Go, on bark! Bark!”

Milligan fans will be pleased to see the faces of Berwick Kaler and Gerald Jacuzzo, among others, keeping at least some of his repertory intact. Initially due to be titled Dr. Jekyll and Mr Blood, the title was changed at the last minute by producer, William Mishkin, in a bid to cash-in on The Thing with Two Heads and The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant, both of which had just been commercially successful for American International Pictures (AIP).

The biggest disappointment, given the standard of acting versus his usual catastrophes, is that the Jekyll and Hyde story had already been overdone, leaving this as an oddity in the cycle of films and a wasted opportunity for Milligan to tell an original story.

Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia

Other reviews:

The Man With Two Heads openly expounds Milligan’s dark view of male human nature. This may be yet another reason for many people’s dislike of his work; whatever its other qualities, it’s a bit too grim to be taken as disposable entertainment. It leaves a sour taste. Milligan had a genuine talent for filmmaking, but the ends to which he used it are discomfiting.” Kenneth George Godwin, Cagey Films

” …more of Milligan’s familiar claustrophobia, with nearly every scene shot in small rooms with tight close-ups, rendering the actual location of the shooting a moot point. It’s a stressful, high-strung film steeped in cruelty and the peculiar misogyny that oozes out of every Milligan vehicle…” Fred Beldin, All Movie

“Once again Milligan’s ambition exceeds his talent as he attempts to make a period piece set in 1835 with a budget that wouldn’t cover catering costs for one meal on a Hollywood studio production.” TV Guide

Choice dialogue:

Dr. William Jekyll: “I did not say the evil in a man’s soul. You see I do not believe in a soul. I believe in facts. I believe in what I can see and touch, what is real.”

Danny Blood: “You’re a cheap little slut, you know that, don’t you? You shouldn’t be allowed on the face of this earth. You’re scum! You’re the defecation of the slums of London!”

Dr. William Jekyll / Danny Blood: “All women should be in bed. To be used!”

Main cast:

  • Denis DeMarne … Dr. William Jekyll / Danny Blood – The Day of the Triffids (1981)
  • Julia Stratton … April Connors
  • Gay Feld … Mary Ann Marsden
  • Jaqueline Lawrence … Carla Jekyll
  • Gerald Jacuzzo … John Murphy – Guru, the Mad Monk; Torture Dungeon
  • Berwick Kaler … Jack Smithers – The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!; The Body Beneath; Bloodthirsty Butchers
  • Jennifer Sommerfield … Victoria Crenshaw
  • Laurence Davies … Inspector Wolfe
  • Raymond Cross … Constable

Filming locations:

Hampstead, London, England

Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

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