Director: George P. Breakston, Kenneth G. Crane
Satrring: Peter Dyleny, Tetsu Nakamura, Jane Hylton
The opening scene features a pair of Japanese women frolicking in a bath house as another is inside, fixing her makeup. Unbeknownst to this poor unfortunate, a monstrous ape like presence approaches. Seen in shadow, the beast attacks and rips at the beauty until her blood splashes onto a door. Thus begins the credit sequence of this surprisingly lurid and trashy 1959 shocker.
The story is about American journalist, Larry Stanford (played by British/Canadian actor Peter Dylany) who while on assignment in Japan, schedules an interview with the brilliant, yet eccentric Japanese scientist Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura) who lives high up on a volcano mountain. The good doctor turns out to be something a mild mannered quack who has been experimenting on family members. His brother has been transformed into an ape like creature (presumably the same one from the pre credits sequence, but this was never made clear). After apologizing to his newly mutated kin (!) Suzuki shoots him dead and throws the carcas into an infurmary. We then see his wife; a hideous looking mutant thing that the doc. keeps locked up in a cage. Ain't love grand? When Larry shows up for the expected interview, he is unknowingly given a serum that eventually (after some admittedly unnecessary plot and character exposition) turns him into a crazed maniac who spawns a second beastly head. After a few murders and some considerable carnage, the "Manster" returns to the lab and kills Suzuki. Making his way up the volcano, Larry 's beast head "Splits" from him and reveals itself to be another of the now deceased doc's simian nasties. This sets up a Jekyll and Hyde style smackdown finale.
For the most part, The Manster is great fun. There's a very unhealthy atmosphere pervading this picture with some surprising sexual overtones (Larry is seduced in no uncertain way by Suzuki's secretary and as part of the subplot, is willing to forsake his marriage for a bit of fun) and some pretty intense violence to match. It sort of ends up feeling like forbidden fruit for the kiddies.
The makeup effects like much of the rest of the film, run hot and cold. When on the lamb from the police, it is quite obvious that Larry's second cranium is a goofy looking rubber prop. However in the (too few) closeups, the monstrous head is terrifyingly realistic. The most memorable scene in the film of course, is when a screaming (both in pain and terror) Larry first discovers a pre head eyeball on his shoulder. It is an iconic moment and one which influenced many a horror director, most notably Sam Raimi who lifted the sequence wholesale for Army of Darkness.
Overall, The Manster is a mixed bag where the good stuff outweighs the bad. It's a fun, goofy, yet decidedly creepy schlockathon that could have been even more had it been afforded a bigger budget and tighter script.
*** / ****