Friday, 7 October 2011

The Man With The Severed Head

Here we have it folks, the first review on the Mondo Squallido blog. To celebrate the birth of the new blog, I thought it would be only fair to review an even more amazing film. It seems fitting that my first review would be of a film that is the first of many films from the new line by Arrow. The guys who gave us the diverse Arrow Films label and the amazing Arrow Video sub label. This my friends is the first release from their new venture, Arrowdrome. How friggin' amazing is that name!? Already you should be drooling. I know I was when I heard the name a few months back. Before I get on with the review, let me tell you a little bit about Arrowdrome.
Arrowdrome is essentially a sub label that provides the fans and newbies a like a source of affordable, collectable and a diverse range of cult films ranging from the trashy to the downright scary. A lot of the films being released are already available by Arrow through their influential and popular Arrow Video label both in blu ray and DVD formats. However, once a film already released on DVD via Arrow Video appears on the Arrowdrome label, the Arrow Video release will be discontinued. So you better go out and get your greasy mits on those titles before some arse puts them on Ebay charging ludicrous amounts (psst.... especially the special DVD edition of Battle Royale). Besides that, the titles are cheap, well presented and provide people new to these sorts of films an easy way of owning some great cult classics. The way I see it, it's like Arrow but with Shameless prices!
I won't go in to too much detail now about what you get in this edition of Man With The Severed Brain but as you can clearly see Arrow are treating you again to some goodies.You get the disc (obviously Pete, come on), a nice booklet and reversible artwork so the standard, treats from the lovely Arrow people. Like I said, more detail later on the review. Speaking of which, isn't it about time I actually talked about the movie!?
The film opens up with a nice gang of criminals taking part in the lovely of activity of robbing a jewelery store. However, it all goes pear shaped when due to well placed idiocy (oh the film world, we do love you) one of the criminals sets off an alarm while trying to steal a lovely pearl necklace. The gang tries to escape but disaster strikes when Paul Naschy's character gets shot in the head. Realizing that they can't exactly take him to a hospital they do the next best thing and seek help from a doctor friend of theirs who is somewhat indebted to them.
After some rather funny dialogue between henchman of the year and the rather sympathetic, pathetic drunk doctor (as pictured above) we find out that Naschy's injuries are much too severe for the doctor to preform any surgery himself without proper medical help from a hospital. After some brilliantly dubbed conversation (we'll get to that later) the doctor suggests that the gang seek the help of his hilariously named friend (especially in the French audio option) Professor Teets who just so happens to be an expert on the human brain and again is just so conveniently in the middle of brain transplant experiments and research (again, got to love the film industry).
We are then introduced to Professor Teets (who by the way, is one of the coolest looking cats ever). The doctor (whose name I forgot to mention before is Dr. Ritter) tells his professor friend of his problem. We find out that Teets can't use his hands and that his wife does all the practical work while he uses his genius and guides her through their experiments. Apparently, you also have to always wear black leather gloves if your hands don't work... so now you know. After some gentle and then not so gentle persuasion from the doctor and head of the gang, the professor and his wife agree to help. However, they need a fresh corpse to dissect the brain from and funnily enough they know who exactly to use.

They decide they want to use the brain of a rival gang member by the name of "The Sadist". We are then introduced to the lovely sounding character in a club while one of the weirdest and seemingly misplaced scenes I've seen for a while is played out. Basically, it's a psychedelic stage show involving two cavemen and a woman which isn't really odd. What's odd is that during the scene the woman just disappears into thin air... not due to bad editing but apparently as part of the show... it's hard to explain but worth witnessing. The next few scenes involves "The Sadist" doing his thing and being a typical gang member. Now, I won't go into too much detail how they kill him because it plays out pretty well. He basically leaves the club, gets seduced by the token babe of the rival gang and then shot. Simple. However, the way they decapitate him... in fact no, it ruin it by telling you. All I will say is idiocy and trains equals a very creative and unintentionally funny decapitation.

So we get back to the main story and the operation is preformed in an actually, beautifully shot form. We don't really see much but it's still quite effective and one of the better parts of the film which is actually just a simply shot, point and shoot affair. After a while the rival gang gets wind that "The Sadist" is dead and go on the attack. Meanwhile there are complications with the operation. It seems that Paul Naschy has developed some of the impulses "The Sadist" would have and slowly breaks down into a psychotic mess.
Not much really happens after this. The gangs attack each other. People get killed one by one. The only real thing that happens is the somewhat carnal violence of Paul Naschy's character and to tell you the truth, he is terribly unused and and the pay off is somewhat overwhelming to say the least. The film ends with pretty much everyone dying including Paul Naschy who gets shot the hell up by the police who are maybe just a little too late to the party. Overall, this film isn't too bad but it's not exactly great either. The main draw for the film is Paul Naschy and he only seems to have a tiny amount of things to do. The story is rather bland and nonsensical in places. There seems to be a theme of "well, we gotta resort to plan b" going on throughout. The genius of the film for me was the absurdity and unintentional hilarity. Don't even try to watch this with the English dub if you want to take this film seriously. The French audio is your best bet apart from Teets which sounds hilarious. This to me feels like a bad Jess Franco film... I mean the ones where they are just boring and not "so bad they're good". The ironic thing is the production collective behind this film involves Franco, go figure.
The film may be somewhat lacking but it's still watchable. The best part of the film is the edition itself. Not only is this presented well in both packaging but picture but you also get some really nice special features. You get a really loving and heartfelt tribute to Paul Naschy including clips from his better known films and anecdotes from talking heads such as directors and the editor of Fangoria magazine. You also get a trailer which is a must for any DVD release in my opinion. Last but my no means least you get the additional erotic scenes. Oh boy are these entertaining! If they where included in the film they would be as pointless as Mattei's porn scenes for Franco's 99 Women. They are just hilariously out of context and hilariously acted but I have to say... they are the best shot things about the film, which is funny in itself.
Initially I picked this title up because it was the first Arrowdrome release. Even though the film itself isn't very good, this edition is a welcomed addition to anyone's collection. Arrow have done an amazing job with this release. That combined with the price tag really means there is no excuse for you not to have this in the collection. You will laugh at the sheer absurdity of the film. The over the top story which seems 30 years out of fashion, the stupidity of the characters, the terrible English dubbing and of course the comical hanky panky scenes. I am happy to have this in the collection, great job Arrow!

Peter Davies

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