Crimson, The Man With The Severed Head (1976)
Directed by: Juan Fortuny
Written by: H.L. Rostaine, Juan Fortuny, Marius Lesoeur
Starring: Carlos Otero, Claude Boisson, Evelyne Scott, Gilda Arancio, Olivier Mathot, Paul Naschy, Roberto Mauri, Silvia Solar, Víctor Israel
aka THE MAN WITH THE SEVERED HEAD
Directed by Juan Fortuny
French dubbing with English subtitles
When a jewellery shop vault heist goes wrong, gangsters Henry, Karl, Surnett and Paul are chased by the police. Amidst a shootout, Surnett is shot in the head and his pals hurriedly rush him back to their hideout where they enlist the help of drunken doctor Ritter. With Ritter having limited supplies and equipment available to him, he’s at a loss in how he can save Surnett but the gangsters won’t allow their best man to die. Unable to go to a hospital, Ritter suggests they visit an old professor friend of his who’s experiments with brain transplants on animals might well save Surnett’s life. Dropping in on his friend, Ritter discovers that the Professor no longer conducts experiments with his own hands due to a lab accident but his wife does the physical handiwork for him. With threats against their young daughter, the reluctant Professor and his wife Ana have no choice but to help save Surnett’s life but to do so, they’ll need a fresh human head…
CRIMSON, also known as the more fitting title THE MAN WITH THE SEVERED HEAD, is a Euro crime-cum-horror movie that sees a group of gangsters foiled by one of their own’s selfish greed, resulting in essentially the death of their strongest member and all the while coming away empty handed. Gangster Henry and Surnett’s girlfriend Ingrid are so horrified by Surnett’s critical injury that death isn’t an option and that his survival, despite the risks of mental instability, is paramount. First however, they’ll be needing a head and it’s not surprising that any of the gangsters are willing to give up theirs. Doctor Ritter, however, has details of someone who’s a perfect match, someone who Surnett hated more than anyone else on this Earth – The Sadist. The perverse nightclub owner appears to be the perfect fit but in selecting him as their victim, Henry and co have unwittingly brought death to their own door as The Sadist’s men aren’t one to take the loss of their boss lightly.
Though a repetitive, dragging film in many respects, CRIMSON is quite an entertaining one mostly due to its subject matter. The Doc, the Professor, his wife Ana and Henry really elevate the film whilst Paul Naschy as injured Surnett plays the brooding gangster with a quiet menace. The film has many angles to attack and just as you think it’s about to get going, it slips into mediocrity again with Karl running around like a bumbling fool, Henry shouting the orders and a bandaged Surnett complaining about his life. The only thing that breaks this movie up, be it warranted or not, are the sex scenes which vary from consensual and humorous (Paul’s wiggle) to disturbing rape. In many instances, it just seems an excuse to spice the plodding story up a bit but with some better writing and plot development they could have utilised the fantastic characters of Professor and Ana a lot better, as these two are without a doubt the strongest characters. It would have been great to have seen Surnett’s conflict of personalities evolve once out in the world again, having The Sadist’s lustings slowly overpower him once he’s restablished into his gangster role, out in the open, where it would’ve been harder to contain him. Instead, he never leaves the confines of the Professor’s estate and thus the threat of the Sadist persona never really feels as much of a threat as it could be.
As with most budget films of the generation, CRIMSON isn’t afraid of injecting a little humour whether intentional or not. Karl attempting to wake up the drunken Doc Ritter with a vase full of flowers, whose contents appear to be drier than the Sahara, raises a giggle, especially given Karl’s already comical appearance. The rape scene towards the end of the movie, involving Ana, is more of a laugh due to filmmaking errors as it appears actress Silvia Solar might not have been keen to perform nude scenes. Close-ups of a naked body, not wide angle shots as previously used, suggests a body double was used in place of Solar for Surnett to hunger over. This especially becomes apparent when the film repeatedly cuts to Solar’s face where we catch her wearing a ripped-open blouse despite Ana being completely nude a second earlier. As the scene ends, her attire appears to have buttoned itself up completely. Now that’s what I call a magic wardrobe!
One of the better 70’s Euro sleaze horrors out there, CRIMSON has a lot of potential with its crime-fuelled and sci-fi plot but unfortunately never really capitalises on it leaving the viewer a little underwhelmed.