1970s Forgotten Insane Horror Comedy Inspired Greatest Modern-Day Horror Classic

By Robert Scucci | Published

The thing with two heads
  • This influential horror comedy from the 1970s is problematic and incredibly unique.
  • The Thing with Two Heads is a 1972 blaxploitation film in which a man agrees to an insane operation in which his head is grafted onto another man’s body.
  • Along with being lampooned for decades, The Thing with Two Heads proved a big inspiration for Jordan Peele’s Get Out.

It’s not too often that a horror-comedy so widely referenced in pop-culture isn’t available to view through streaming, but 1972’s The Thing With Two Heads is one of those films. Falling into the blaxploitation science fiction comedy genre, this Rosey Grier-starring film takes a critical look at post Civil rights movement race relations without taking itself too seriously. Centering on a medical experiment gone wrong, The Thing With Two Heads can be seen as a precursor to Jordan Peele’s Get Out, as it toys heavily with how bigoted individuals use the subjects of their racism for their own personal benefit.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

the thing with two heads

The Thing With Two Heads opens by introducing us to Dr. Maxwell Kirshner (Ray Milland), a highly respected but terminally ill transplant surgeon on the brink of death. Having successfully transplanted a second head onto a gorilla, he wants to begin human trials by having his own head transplanted onto a donor body. Hoping to make a full recovery, the plan is to remove the donor’s head so he can claim the body as his own.

Be Careful What You Wish For

the thing with two heads

The only problem is that Dr. Kirshner is an extremely racist individual, and the only willing donor is a black death-row inmate named Jack Moss. Jack, who is trying to avoid his imminent electric chair execution, volunteers because he needs more time to prove his innocence. Needless to say, Dr. Kirshner is overcome with rage when he wakes up and finds out that he’s attached to a black man despite the fact that the procedure was a resounding success that ultimately saved his life.

Knowing that it’s only a matter of time before his head will be removed from his own body, Jack escapes from the basement medical facility and hides out at his wife’s house. As The Thing With Two Heads approaches its third act, matters get complicated as Dr. Kirshner gains a substantial amount of control over Jack’s body.

Decades Of Parodies

Given the problematic nature of The Thing With Two Heads, critics didn’t have anything nice to say about it, and it’s one of those films that currently sits in the trenches with a zero percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. But there’s no denying its legacy, as it has been parodied in the modern media landscape a number of times.

In 2013, The Simpsons borrowed heavily from The Thing With Two Heads in one of the shorts found in Treehouse of Horror XXIV, entitled “Dead and Shoulders.” Though it’s not a beat-for-beat recreation of the film, its obvious where the writers found their inspiration. The Venture Bros. also made a blatant reference to the film when Dragoon shows up to a Halloween party wearing blackface in “A Very Venture Halloween.”

Get Out

get out jordan peele movie

Most notably, Jordan Peele‘s Get Out boasts a similar premise in which an affluent white family transplants the brains of wealthy white people into other people’s bodies. Popular criticism of Get Out points to The Thing With Two Heads as having a very similar theme in which those who think they’re racially superior still need to rely on those who they’re prejudiced against to reach an elevated form of being.

A Unique, If Not Well Loved, Movie

the thing with two heads

The Thing With Two Heads is a unique exercise in exploring race relations in the 1970s. Though it’s not currently available for streaming, you can purchase a copy on Blu-ray for home viewing. Despite its off-the-wall premise, The Thing With Two Heads is still worthy of a watch because of its influence on pop-culture that’s still apparent today.