Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie Memories

Sometimes you have to reach out to your old friends when you are reminded of great times of the past. Today was such a day for me.

"The Thing With Two Heads" was on television.

If you like your movies bad, or at least campy, you've probably heard of this 1972 classic. Ray Milland plays the proverbial slightly mad scientist who is dying. His way to achieve immortality of sorts is to transplant his head on to someone else's body.

The catch is that the professor is also a racist, so he is surprised after the operation to find that his head has been placed on the body of former football tackle Rosey Grier. It seems that Grier had been charged with a murder that he did not commit, and was on death row.

Grier was big enough so that Milland could hide behind him and put his head on his shoulder, thus creating the "illusion," at least for those willing to play along, that a thing with two heads had been created. The two of them argue as they go through the consequences of the operation. Spoiler alert -- the good doctor decides to do another operation himself to separate his head from Grier's body. At the end, Milland's head is hooked up to some sort of machine, with the voice demanding another body. Grier and his girlfriend drive off into the night singing, of all things, "O Happy Day."

There are two particularly memorable parts of the movie. One is when the two-headed creature looks up Grier's girlfriend. After the initial reaction, she comes up with the memorable line, "Do you have two of anything else?"

Then, when Milland attempts to take control of the body, Grier winds up punching himself in the jaw and knocking himself out. It's quite a right cross, and an unmatched moment in cinema history.

My friend Glenn once threw a Halloween party, and dressed up as "The Thing With Two Heads." He put on one of those Styrofoam heads used by wig-sellers, and put on some hair and coloring. It was rather conceptual for those who had never seen the movie, which is practically everyone, but I liked it a lot.

Glenn almost made one mistake. He realized he needed to go to the grocery store for supplies, so off he went ... while dressed in character before the party. Glenn went shopping with an African American's head on his shoulder in an urban neighborhood, realizing that he had a chance to perish right there in a Tops if someone didn't get the joke. Luckily, everyone did or was simply used to odd behavior on Halloween.

We have a television station in the Buffalo area that shows movies most of the time, and "The Thing With Two Heads" came on at noon today. In these days of cable movie channels and Netflix, it's kind of fun to have a film like this come on over the air again.

I called Glenn today and asked how fast he could get back to Buffalo to see the end of the movie, complete with the knockout punch. It was a little distant for him, but he agreed that the thought of hundreds of thousands of Western New Yorkers watching this movie together was a pleasing one.

He also suggested that such a movie would be a good entry for my upcoming book, "Things to Do in Buffalo When You Have a Weekday Afternoon Off."

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