A horror film among horror films. It features everything a horror film needs to be great: from the paranoid and panicking violins to the sans-serif fonts. It even features buckets of blood, blonde strippers, brunette strippers, animated corpses and a few gratuitous boob shots. Well, as gratuitous as they came in the sixties. It even features suitable metaphors which provide social critique of the "chains we can believe in" society. The film is in black and white - like most of life, if you just do your homework and check your premises properly.
- Jan Compton (Virginia Leith, who makes a delectable corpse) is decapitated in a car accident. Her husband to be, surgeon Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) was playing his Decapitated albums too loud and didn't pay attention to the road.
- Dr Cortner is a mad scientist ala Lady Frankenstein who manages to keep Jan's head alive. I promise, no more Jan gave head in the car jokes.
- Jan (or Jan in the pan, as she is affectionately known by fans of this film) goes through an existential crisis. I mean the poor girl thought she was going shopping and here she ends up without a body. I'm sure living without breasts she could cope with, but no nails to manicure? No wonder she starts hating Dr Cortner.
- Dr Cortner decides to look for the body of the girl of his dreams for the girl of his dreams in the cat house. I'm sure it must've been a real catharsis for the poor guy, deciding to buy a body when he needed a body for Jan in the pan's sparkling personality. Besides, how is Jan in the pan going to stop him from having a night out with the boys? Well, Jan has her mysterious waves. Make that mysterious ways.
It is alarming how, for its time, this film capitalised on the fears of the general public for the medical profession. Remember that this film was produced before the first heart transplant was even performed, yet it deals with swapping bodies - or swapping heads, depending on which way you look at it. I guess your perspective depends on whose head it is.
Regardless, with the expected technological singularity, there are a few groups who are beginning to ponder the impact of such a radical change on our concepts of what it means to be human. They fall under the blanket term transhumanists. One of the transhumanist movements is the Extropy movement. Jan in the pan would do well to pay mind to some of their ideas.
The principles of Extropy
- Perpetual Progress: seeking more intelligence, more efficiency, more wisdom, more than being content with a shoddy pad, a big screen TV and free basic health care. Growth in healthy directions as opposed to the decline of civilisation from nations paranoid of communism into nations paranoid of capitalism.
- Self-Transformation: improving oneself, through technology if necessary. Being experimental and proactive in your evolution as a person.
- Practical Optimism: sticking to rational approaches means you can be optimistic about the results.
- Intelligent Technology: because ultimately the industrial revolution was about improving life. To transcend our reliance on nature is divine and technology enables us to do so. Intelligent technology more so. Imagine never having a car accident because cars are intelligent enough to drive you home safely.
- Open Society: meaning supporting social orders which facilitate freedom. This means deregulation, decentralisation of power and free information flow. Hackers like Gary McKinnon will no longer be deported to stand trial in foreign countries for taking his constitutional right of access to information seriously.
- Self-Direction: meaning you determine your own happiness and you do what makes you happy without being coerced into any dubious overseas wars.
- Rational Thinking: meaning you approach any ism with the necessary questions, an ability to work with probabilities and that you focus on innovation of new ideas instead of on the implementation of old dogma.
Of course, this all seems like ponies and rainbows, and in fact it is. I do think for Jan's sake, she should have considered these options before buying into the ideology that she is the ultimate horror. Everyone agrees with Bobby from pointlessbanter that Glitter is the ultimate horror. However, I'm also thankful that Jan did not follow the road less travelled to this fountain of knowledge, because that would make a far more boring film.
One of my favourite horror films of all time and fortunately also one you can download free of charge! Yes, it is legal.
Bruce Brighton, Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, Bonnie Sharie, Paula Maurice