Also known as: The Black Door (working title), The Head That Wouldn’t Die (alternate)
Release Date: February 25th, 1962 (West Germany)
Directed by: Joseph Green
Written by: Rex Carlton, Joseph Green
Music by: Abe Baker, Tony Restaino
Cast: Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, Eddie Carmel
Sterling Productions, American International Pictures, 82 Minutes
“Nothing is unbelievable if you have the nerve to operate.” – Dr. Bill Cortner
In the long list of movies featured in episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, this one has the distinction of being the first episode to feature Mike Nelson as its star. He replaced Joel Hodgson, who left after the previous episode Mitchell. It is also a hard episode to track down for some reason, as it wasn’t streaming on Hulu or Amazon Video, where I watch most of the old MST3K episodes these days.
This film was completed in 1959 under the title The Black Door. However, it didn’t actually get released in the U.S. until it was paired with Invasion of the Star Creatures, as a double bill.
The plot follows a mad scientist that does crazy experiments. He keeps body parts alive while separated from the body. He has some hulking, deformed brute that he keeps in a closet, as well as the living yet severed head of a woman named Jan Compton. Eventually, he abducts a model ex-girlfriend with the plans of chopping off her scarred head and replacing it with the severed head of Jan’s. Jan protests and the doctor covers her mouth with tape. The brute then attacks the mad scientist, bites a chunk out of him that kills him and in the battle, accidentally sets everything on fire. The brute carries the abducted girl to safety though, so at least she’s not burnt to a crisp. Jan on the other hand, isn’t so lucky.
The story is bizarre and insane but that’s not uncommon for AIP pictures. It’s pretty standard fare, actually. However, this was a film definitely worthy of getting riffed on MST3K. The plot is dumb, the effects are terrible and even by the low standards that AIP was famous for, even this was probably below their normal tripe.
While I love movies like this, this one is pretty boring and mostly uneventful, from top to bottom. And it’s not like the cooler stuff that happens is all that unique. Everything in this film has been done and done significantly better. But it is sort of a proto Re-Animator and I still enjoy it enough to revisit it periodically. Still, I can’t in any way give it a decent rating.
And truthfully, I can’t deny the fact that it has to be put through the Cinespiria Shitmoter. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).”
Pairs well with: Really, almost anything from the late 1950s and early 1960s that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.