From the DVD case: An American reporter is sent to interview a Tokyo-based scientist. The scientist goes completely mad, and while experimenting with mutations, he turns the reporter into a two headed monster called The Manster, half-man and half-monster. The ending is truly bizarre. (1962, b&w)
Mark says: The Manster. Even the title sounds like a joke. This American/Japanese production is just as silly as the title suggests, though it does have a few eerie moments and one unforgetable scene.
Satoshi Nakamura (The Human Vapour, Mothra) plays Dr. Robert Suzuki, a Japanese scientist who attempts to speed up evolution to create an entirely new species of man. We learn early on that two of Dr. Suzuki’s experiments have failed miserably. His first experiment on his wife, Emiko (Toyoko Takechi), resulted in half of her face practically drooping off. This is actually a disturbing sight, especially in combination with her constant groaning and screaming. Emiko, reduced to the status of a grotesque beast, is kept in a cage in the doctor’s lab.
The movie begins with Suzuki’s second failure. His brother is transformed into a murderous ape-like creature after an injection, and Dr. Suzuki is forced to kill him to stop his bloody rampage.
Apparently, Dr. Suzuki feels the third time is a charm. When American reporter, Larry Stanford, played by British actor, Peter Dyneley (House of Mystery), arrives to interview him, Dr. Suzuki secretly injects Larry with his new and improved serum. The movie, already bizarre, takes an even more absurd twist after Larry’s injection.
Larry is rather likable before the injection. He is anxious to return to New York and, after years of globe-trotting, is looking forward to finally settling down with his wife, Linda, played by Jane Hylton (Circus of Horrors, House of Mystery). However, post-injection Larry is nothing but a cad.
Dr. Suzuki introduces Larry to a world of geisha, hard drinking, and sensual delights. Larry, undoubtedly affected by the serum, embraces the new lifestyle. He is particularly spellbound by Dr. Suzuki’s attractive assistant, Tara (Terri Zimmern). It doesn’t take long for Larry to forget about his wife in New York and he neglects to catch his return flight to the states.
The Manster is essentially a Jekyll and Hyde story, though we see very little of the “good Larry” after the serum has been administered. As Larry sinks further into debauchery, he begins to notice physical changes. First, he experiences a lack of control of his right hand, which eventually becomes a hairy deformity. Furthermore, he suffers a constant irritation on his right shoulder, which he can’t seem to stop rubbing.
The scene everyone remembers is one in which Larry rips away his shirt to reveal an extra eyeball growing from his shoulder (see image above). It’s a strangely surreal and nightmarish image that leaves a strong impression in the mind. People who saw The Manster in their youth often remember nothing else about the movie (including its title), which is probably for the better.
Everything after the eyeball scene is anti-climatic. Larry becomes a murderous maniac (even stooping so low as to kill a Buddhist temple priest) and the extra eyeball eventually develops into a second head. That’s right; Larry becomes a two-headed monster. Have you ever seen a respectable two-headed monster movie? Me neither. The Manster is no exception. Larry’s second head is completely unconvincing. It sits lifeless on his shoulder like the rubber atrocity that it is.
The film’s climax features Japanese police chasing Larry back to Dr. Suzuki’s lab (which just happens to be near the rim of an active volcano). Larry kills the scientist who brought such calamity to his life. Then, in a strangely captivating and laughable scene, Larry’s body splits into two separate entities. Larry is returned to normal, while his “evil half” becomes an ape-like creature similar to the beast at the beginning of our tale. The evil ape tosses Dr. Suzuki’s assistant, Tara, into the volcano, and Larry, now apparently in control of his senses, pushes his nefarious half into the volcano after her.
The film ends on a philosophical note as Linda (Larry’s wife), and Larry’s editor, Ian (Norman Van Hawley), discuss the good and evil in all men. Linda asserts that Larry is not responsible for the murders, while Ian speculates that it will be an “interesting legal case.” The final message seems to be that we need to have faith in the good of all men.
The Manster, though featuring a few powerful images, is an absurd and stupid movie. It is not without its kitsch appeal, but I can’t imagine anyone except hardcore B-movie fans finding this film of any interest. Even those who may recall the movie fondly from childhood (undoubtedly because of the scene with the extra eyeball) will most likely be disappointed when reviewing it as an adult.
Directed by George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane (Monster from Green Hell).
Scene to watch for: There is only one scene to mention here: Larry examines his shoulder to discover that extra eyeball staring up at him.
Line to listen for: “Have faith, Linda. Have faith in the good that’s still in Larry — and in all men.”
Trivia: Larry and Linda Sanford were played by real life husband and wife Peter Dyneley and Jane Hylton. The two often appeared in plays and movies together.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! out of 5.