Director: George P. Breakston & Kenneth G. Crane
Starring: Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton and Tetsu Nakamura
After featuring a lot of movies from the 1940′s in my look at some of the films of George Zucco, I thought it would be good to mix it up a bit and move into the next decade for the following film. So, after doing a little poking around I came across this 1959 gem called The Manster. In case you haven’t guessed yet, its about a man who turns into a monster (hence the combination of the two words). It’s a bizarre and cheesy little horror flick which does not quite have the cult following it probably deserves. Let me put it simply: it involves a man with a second head growing out of his shoulder rampaging throughout Tokyo. I don’t care how inexpertly its done, this is pure cheese at its finest. And, in the film’s defense, it doesn’t do it too shabbily, though aside from the second head the film could have done with an injection of imagination. As the first film to feature a two-headed monster man, it deserves more than a little credit.
The plot is pretty simple. An American reporter in Japan gets his last story before returning to the United States and a “desk job in New York.” He is to interview a reclusive Japanese scientist in his mountaintop laboratory to discover what kind of experiments the doctor is up to. Of course, the reporter becomes one such experiment himself as the doctor spikes his scotch with some chemicals designed to mutate the human form as part of an experiment to… Well, that’s not 100% clear, but from what I gathered the doctor is trying to prove that not only cosmic rays are responsible for evolutionary change, but it can be done chemically as well. (Hey, before you laugh its better than some of the “science” they teach in schools these days.) The doctor has already tried it on “Volunteers” including his wife and another man. His wife is left looking like someone from The Goonies and the man is turned into a furry man-bear before being gassed and incinerated by the doctor. So, logically, he tries again with his new and “perfect” specimen. His experiment works and the reporter (Larry) is slowly transformed into a boozing, womanizing, hammy delinquent that snarls and yells at people and inanimate objects. He initiates an affair with the doctor’s female assistant in a fit of adulterous frenzy and berates his meek wife Linda “for being overbearing,” accusing her of “Tying him down,” even though he has spent an inordinate amount of time traveling the world without her as a reporter. Rather than telling him to go take his (now) hair-covered monster hand and forget about their marriage, she follows him around like a sad, but loyal puppy.
That is until the second head sprouts. But before that little treat happens, Larry is, typically, enraged to find a human eyeball growing out of his shoulder. As his animal rage increases, he kills a Buddhist monk and a pair of young women before finally going to house of the psychiatrist Larry’s boss tried to set him up with and murdering him too. It is here that he sprouts his second, furry miniature monkey head and the entire Tokyo police force are put on his tail. Despite this, the police still can’t catch him as he murders a number of police officers. The Manster nearly kills Linda, but of course she still loves him. The Police can only blunder to the film’s conclusion where the second head splits off from Larry to form a
man in a gorilla suit monster. The monster tips the woman Larry had an affair with into a volcano, then falls in after her in a neat little bit of clean-up bound to make Larry happy. Linda is reunited with Larry and the police are left confused about who to charge for all the murders.
A genuinely bizarre movie, but very interesting. Is it great? No, but anyone who loves bizarre horror films and old b-movies will appreciate The Manster‘s strange monster. One of the better monster flicks I’ve watched for the blog, so I’ll give it a 4/5 and recommend that if you have an evening to spare you check it out if it sounds like something that might interest you. Cheesy horror fun! Extra props to the movie for having the audacity to allow an actor to run around for 25 minutes in the film with a plaster head sticking out of his coat.