The Manster

Year Of Release: 1959
Running Time: 72 Minutes
DVD Released By: Retromedia
Directed By: George P. Breakston, Kenneth G. Crane
Writing Credits: George P. Breakston, William J. Sheldon
Filming Location: Japan

Starring: Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura, Terri Zimmem, Norman Van Hawley, Jerry Ito, Toyoko Takechi, Kenzo Kuroki, Alan Tarlton, Shinpei Takagi, George Wyman, Fujie Satsuki

Tagline: Half-Man, Half-Monster!

Alternate Titles:
Doktor Satan (Greece)
Nightmare
Soto no satsujinki (Japan - Theatrical Title)
The Split (Japan - English Theatrical Title)
The Two-Headed Monster

Interesting Bits of Trivia:
Sam Raimi payed tribute to this film in his film Army of Darkness when Ash swallowed one of his little dopplegangers and then developed an eye on his shoulder, then a second head, and finally, split into "Good Ash" and "Bad Ash".  The story was also spoofed in the 1989 film, How to Get Ahead in Advertising.  Peter Dyneley was a British actor, but played an American in this film, with an American accent.  He also used an American accent when he voiced the character of Jeff Tracy in Thunderbirds.  His wife in this film is played by Jane Hylton, who also happened to be his wife offscreen as well.




Cast Of Characters
Larry Stanford: This guy is a reporter from the World Press sent to do a story on Dr. Suzuki's work.  When Dr. Suzuki asks him how old he is, he says 35.  The actor playing him, Peter Dyneley, was actually 38 when this was made, but truth be told, he looks like he's about 45.  The reason for that is probably two-fold.  First, he smokes way too much.  Second, he drinks like a freakin' fish.  I can't tell you how many scenes there were in this film where this guy was downing something or other, whether it be native hooch, high quality scotch or sake in little cups.  Anyway, after he's slipped a mickey by Dr. Suzuki, the good doctor injects him with this enzyme that's supposed to simulate the mutations caused by the cosmic rays that bombard the Earth every thousand years or so.  Once the changes began, he started slutting himself around and downing tons of alcohol...tons more that is.  Then he told his wife to take a hike, and as things progressed, eventually he started killing people right and left.  That was all before he even grew the second head!  After he grew that, things got really nasty.

Dr. Robert Suzuki: This guy at least had the decency to try out his serum on his relatives before he started testing it on total strangers.  First his wife (although she doesn't really count because she used it on herself when he refused), and then his brother, who actually volunteered to take it.  Unfortunately, both of them turned into monsters and had to be disposed of.  Funny, he doesn't really look like a bad guy, does he?  He's not really I guess.  Lacking in ethics maybe, but not really all that bad of a guy.  He does like his sake and his women though.  He ain't no nerdy scientist, this guy.  No sir.  He's a playa!  He be rollin', they be hatin'.  True dat...true dat.

Linda Stanford: Ok seriously, this chick is creepy. This is Larry's wife, and the first time we see her in the film she's talking to Larry on the phone from New York in this heavy, breathy sort of a stalker type voice.  She's sitting in front of a three way mirror on her make-up table, so you see four of her, which made it even creepier.  Eventually, she flies over to Japan to see Larry, but it's too late.  He's already changing and has hooked up with the lovely Tara.  She sticks around to see if she can win him back, because she doesn't know what's going on with him, and almost gets herself killed...twice!  The first time Larry tried to choke her out with his non-hairy hand, and the second time, she was in his apartment one night and when she pulled the curtain aside and there he was...now transformed into a beastly creature of full on, two-headed awesomeness!  Now I have to give her credit as an actress.  She threw a seriously awesome freakout scream that dripped with pure terror, and then promptly fainted like a dead deer.  The look on her face was priceless though.  She really wasn't in the movie all that much, and for all the importance she had to the story, I'm not sure why she was even in it at all.
Tara: She's Dr. Suzuki's assistant.  She's smart, attractive and as Larry found out once he started changing, absolutely irresistable.  She's sent to spend time with Larry so she can keep an eye on his progress and to make sure that nothing bad happens.  Unfortunately for her, during the early period where his changes were only mental, she fell in love with him, and he with her.  Even in his changed state, he doesn't kill her when he has the chance.  Instead, he knocks her out and carries her up the hill to where the volcano is becoming active.  She did her best to try to make sure Larry had a fighting chance at the end, but unfortunately, once Larry and the monster that grew out of him split apart into two separate entities, the monster has other plans for her.
Ian Matthews: This guy's sort of a doofus.  He's Larry's editor in chief I guess at the World Press, but all he ever seems to do is to stick his nose into Larry's personal business.  He does console Linda after Larry dumps her.  No, not that way; the 1950's way where you actually consoled someone rather than trying to take advantage of their sorrow to get in their pants.  There's not really much else to say about him, so I'll leave you with this doofy picture of him and move on. 
Police Superintendant Aida: This guy looks like a creep...in this picture.  He actually looks pretty normal in the rest of the movie, but I liked this shot of him so I figured I'd use it.  The funny thing is, in this shot he looks more like a bored mob enforcer than a cop.  Anyway, this is the guy who's investigating the murders that have been going on around town.  We first see him after Dr. Jennsen is murdered, though it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Larry hated the doctor so much.  I mean really, how the hell many N's do you need in a name anyway?  Jeez, that's enough to drive anyone to kill!  Again, not much else to say about him.  He's a competent cop, but doesn't have a really huge part in the film and doesn't show up until Dr. Jennsen is killed toward the end.
Dr. H. B. Jennsen: This guy was a psychiatrist and a good friend of Ian's.  Ian brought him to meet Larry to see if he could figure out what was wrong with him, but Larry wouldn't have any of that psychobabble crap in his apartment, so after storming out, he showed up at Dr. Jennsen's apartment later on, proceeded to grow a second head...and then killed him.  I know, I know...whoopie!  What do you want me to do?  His character was boring.  I could make up this big story about how he runs an encounter group for alcoholic Japanese department store Santas, but that'd just be silly.
Monster: They say that two heads are better than one, but in this case, I think they'd have to make an exception, especially when one looks like a funky wolf-man, one looks like an overgrown shrunken head, both have a mouth full of teeth that point in all different directions and probably have breath that could knock flies out of the air.  At the end of the film, they split apart into two separate beings and Larry goes back to normal while the monster looks like something you'd see on an alien planet in the original Star Trek.  Pretty cool huh?



Screen Shots

A little bit lower and she'll be able to lick her own eyeball.


Larry: "What the hell is this stuff?  It tastes like used motor oil and pee."


Dr. Suzuki: "Awww, I was hoping you wouldn't be able to taste the motor oil."


"So this geisha walks into a bar and says, 'OUCH!'  Get it?  She walked into a bar...'Ouch?'  Hahahahaha, I kill me!  Thank you, I'll be here all week.  Don't forget to tip your waitresses."

 

Reviewer's Note: I used to have this running joke about Japanese teeth magic, but now I see that I was wrong.  Wrong...to totally ignore the eyebrows!  Holy crap, this guy looks like a Japanese Eugene Levy!

Geisha: "See, I just press right here..."

Larry: "Wait, what?" *klunk*

"Awww mom, really, I'm a good boy.  That's just an old wives tale..."

Well no wonder the monster's so ticked off.  What the hell kind of a view is that?
All it ever gets to see is the ceiling and the hair growing out of Larry's ears!




Best Quote

"Still, look what I've given to science.  It's all in this notebook, the whole case history...except for one detail...the formula for the enzyme.  I don't want this experiment repeated...ever!"

- Dr. Suzuki was having regrets about the experiments and expressed that to Tara toward the end of the film. - (Reviewer's Note: Then why the hell did you do it in the first place?  Jeez, at least leave the formula behind so we can make some money off it selling freaks to carnival sideshows.  Sheesh!)




Video Clip
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The Manster
Dr. Suzuki tricks Larry into getting close enough so that he can inject him with a serum that he hopes will cause Larry to split into two separate beings.  Naturally, Larry didn't take too kindly to that.



Summary and Conclusion

Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura) has been experimenting with an enzyme that's supposed to duplicate the mutation effects caused by bursts of cosmic rays that bombard the Earth every thousand years.  So far, his track record hasn't been good.  His wife Emiko was the first to take the enzyme, and now she's locked in a cage in his basement, a hideously deformed monster that will never again see the light of day.  His brother Genji volunteered to take it next, with similarly bad results.  Genji turned into a violent, hairy beast and Dr. Suzuki had no choice but to kill him and dispose of his body in the fires of the volcano that fed his lab's basement furnace and provided his power.

Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley) is a reporter for the World Press on assignment in Tokyo.  His latest story is about Dr. Suzuki's work, which he thinks, and is led to believe, has been limited to only botanical research on mushrooms and the like.  After a long journey to the mountain lab and some pleasant conversation with Dr. Suzuki and his assistant Tara, the doctor slips Larry a mickey in his drink and then, fresh out of volunteers, proceeds to inject his enzyme into Larry.  After that, Larry starts to change.  A once happily married man, Larry starts to learn the joys of drinking and womanizing in Japanese bath houses with Dr. Suzuki, who goes with him, not only to enjoy himself, but to observe the progress and the effects of the enzyme as well.

Soon, about the same time that he starts going out with Dr. Suzuki's assistant Tara, who's also observing, Larry starts to notice that something's wrong, and over the next several days, it becomes progressively worse.  First, his hand starts to shake and claw up, and he develops an itch on his shoulder. His behavior becomes more aggravated.  Eventually, he notices that where his shoulder was itching, a patch of scarred looking skin is developing, and suddenly his right hand has become hairy, with claw like fingernails.  Eventually, the patch of scarred skin becomes an eye, and as Larry sinks deeper and deeper into the effects of the mutation, he starts killing people and eventually grows a second monstrous head, which his own head becomes hairy and he takes on an appearance not unlike The Wolf Man from the classic film of the same name.

After killing a noted Psychiatrist, Larry heads back to the mountain lab, where Dr. Suzuki has altered the enzyme in hopes that, once injected with it, Larry will split into two different creatures, though the results will be unpredictable. It was hoped though, that the beast would separate from the man and that Larry would return to normal.  Dr. Suzuki did manage to inject him, which leads up to a rather interesting separation of the two, in an exciting climax on the top of a volcano that's starting to go through an active phase.

This film I suppose, in its own way, is rather famous in certain circles. It's certainly famous enough to have been paid tribute to in other films, and yet, it's not one that you hear all that much about. In the realm of classic b-movies, this film has, at least from what I can tell, gone largely unnoticed and, if not for the DVD releases from Retromedia and Alpha, may have eventually become forgotten all together, buried under the mountains of other modern and classic film releases that have come about since the advent of the DVD.

This film has many great aspects to it, but there were a few things that kept me from giving it a five bee rating.  First, the dialog could have used a little work.  There were a couple of spots where Dr. Suzuki could have gone off on longer monologues, full of deep meaning about man's evolution and his work in general, but sadly, he's usually cut off before ge gets the chance.  He had also apparently taken Tara from...somewhere very unpleasant that she doesn't want to ever have to go back to, but they never say what it was.  Was it a whore house?  Was it an orphanage?  Was she living on the streets?  Who knows?  They were deliberately vague on that point, and I don't know why, but it annoyed me a little.  It's like, if it was important enough to hint at, then at least bring it out at some point in the story.  It was mentioned more than once without ever revealing where she came from that was so horrible.

I found the whole thing with Larry and his wife a bit boring to be perfectly honest.  She was incredibly annoying and that whole part of the story felt like little more than a distraction that was used as filler.  If they had left her out completely and simply written him in as a bachelor, the story would have worked just as well.  I suppose its purpose was to show how much his true nature had changed by having him dump the wife that he loved, but still, there were other ways that could have been done.

Where this movie really shined was with the monster make-up.  Dr. Suzuki's brother Genji turned into a creature that was very similar to what developed in Larry and eventually separated from him.  It looked like kind of a monster you'd see on some planet somewhere in the original Star Trek.  Sort of ape-like, and yet, more humanoid than that, but not human at all.  Dr. Suzuki's wife Emiko, who you can see in the first screen shot above, basically looked like her face was melting off her head and had some really bizarre looking teeth and wild hair.  The effect of seeing her in that cell in his basement was almost terrifying to be honest, though I couldn't tell you exactly why.  Then you have the two-headed Larry monster, which was just awesome.  Why?  Because the second head wasn't just a stupid looking dummy head.  It was actually somewhat animated, which made it a seriously creepy sight to behold.  They weren't shy about showing him like that either, as some films so annoyingly are.  He was running around killing women, killing doctors, killing cops.  Basically, anyone he felt like killing, he killed, and they showed him doing it.  Well, not directly most of the time, but I mean you saw him in full make up going after them, fighting with cops, etc....  This went miles toward making the film a more fun and enjoyable experience for the viewer.  There's nothing I hate more than watching a b-monster movie where the monster gets a minimal amount of screen time.

Tetsu Nakamura's portrayal of Dr. Suzuki also played a large part in what made this such a great movie.  He had an easy style about him, and what he lacked in ethics, he made up for with his style and easy going manner.  Despite the things he had done, he was actually rather likeable, which is a strange thing to see in any film.  Peter Dyneley didn't manage to make his character likeable, though it would be too much to say that he wasn't, at least at the beginning.  After he came under the influence of the enzyme and the changes it was causing in him mentally, he turned into a sleazy ass, and that's when he really started bringing out the more interesting, and even fun aspects of the character, especially with his drinking and womanizing, and eventually the disrespect he showed his wife when he broke up with her, which I actually found rather amusing because she was such an annoying character.  Jayne Hylton, his real life wife, played his wife Linda in the film, and I can't help but wonder if he wasn't having a bit more fun with the way he was verbally, and eventually physically abusing her because of it.  It's probably a lot easier to do those sorts of things with someone you're married to than with someone you just met when they started filming, but that's just speculation on my part.  Seriously though, I'm surprised he didn't go deaf from that scream she let out when she saw him with the two heads.  Hell, I'm just sitting here watching it and it almost deafened me.  He was standing right in front of her!

So, in the final conclusion, I have to say that this film actually surprised me in a way with how good it was. If not for the few problems with the loose and unnecessary aspects of the story, it would have gotten five bees. This really is a great film, and I highly recommend it to any fan of classic b-monster movies.  I really wish I could give it five, but sadly, because of a few problems, I'm forced to give this film the slightly reduced rating of...

B-Movie Central's Rating: 4½ Bees

 

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