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  Man with the Severed Head, The Brain Man
Year: 1973
Director: Juan Fortuny
Stars: Jacinto Molina, Silvia Solar, Oliver Mathot, Evelyne Scott, Claude Boisson, Gilda Arancio, Pierre Biet, Monique Gérard, Alain Hardy, Victor Israel, Richard Kolin, Antonia Lotito, Roberto Mauri, César Ojinaga, Carlos Otero, Ricardo Palmerola, Jaume Picas
Genre: Horror, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jack Surnett (Jacinto Molina) is the leader of a criminal gang who specialise in jewel theft, and today have broken into a jewellers' to help themselves to the contents of the safe. That's the idea, anyway, but just as they are performing the delicate operation of opening it, one of their number, Karl (Victor Israel) allows his greed to get the better of him and lifts a pearl necklace, setting off the alarm in the process. The gang makes a run for it, bundling into their getaway car and speeding off, but the cops are lying in wait for them and set up a roadblock on a country lane, forcing the gang off the road and through a field, though not before the police get a shot at them, hitting Surnett in the head. The do escape, but their boss is in dire need of medical attention...

So what better than a brain transplant? A what? That was what you were expected to accept in what was sold as a horror film from the erstwhile Paul Naschy stable, the one man horror movie industry from Spain of the nineteen-seventies and -eighties, though in the process of watching it you would find it was less a lurid shocker and more a lurid thriller, complete with car chases and shootouts, apparently more influenced by the Italian police flicks than it was Molina's beloved classic chillers. Fair enough, a change of pace could be welcome, and there were certainly amusing lunacies dotted around the plot, but if you wanted to watch the star wreaking his accustomed havoc then you would be sorely let down.

That was down to Molina only appearing in a small handful of scenes, and most of them in the second half as he spent most of the film in a coma, only waking up when he had his brain transplanted. Now, there's a problem with that point that you may have noticed, namely if Surnett had somebody else's brain in his noggin he wouldn't be the same person, he'd have the donor's personality in his body. The filmmakers get around this by having the gangster awaken after the operation as himself, but wrestling mentally with the personality of the man who lost his head, unpromisingly called The Sadist (Roberto Mauri) which really should have alerted his henchmen to the notion that perhaps he wasn't the most eligible donor, though maybe harking back to James Whale's Frankenstein.

Got to get those classic horror references in there somewhere, after all, though this was more a forties mad science movie if you were looking for whatever may have guided the screenwriters (who included director Juan Fortuny) in the realm of Molina's more usual genre. What you were left with was a curious hybrid where the hoods would be guntoting, bickering thugs strongarming those physically weaker into doing their bidding, such as brilliant surgeon Professor Teets (Ricardo Palmerola) who has lost the use of his hands so relies on guiding his wife to perform his operations under his instructions, but mixed in with bizarre sequences such as having Karl and Paul (Claude Boisson) trying to figure out the best way of separating The Sadist's bonce from his body.

The method they use is obvious, er, putting his unconscious form on a railway track and waiting for the next train along to do their job for them; as you can see, believable medical detail escaped the movie more often than not, though that lunacy could be the source of some entertainment for trash aficionados. It was a pity, then, that most of the movie lacked the big personality of Molina to anchor it for more often than not the interest was lacking as he was off screen, and when he did wake up he was doing his accustomed struggling with his character's darker side business, only in severely cut down fashion, relegated to a couple of sequences where he menaces women. Throwing in a dance performance in a nightclub did little to alleviate the listlessness of what was beginning to drag well before the halfway mark, so you began to seek the more absurd elements in the hope they might brighten up the experience, though such bits as a moll being tortured with cigarette burns suggested Surnett wasn't the only one with sadism issues. Music by Daniel White.

Aka: Las ratas no duermen de noche, Crimson
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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