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The Manster

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The Manster (1959) starring Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura, Terri Zimmern
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The Manster (1959) starring Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura, Terri Zimmern

The Manster is a low-budget horror movie, based in Japan. The stereotypical amoral mad scientist, Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura) starts off the movie by destroying a hideously mutated creature, that used to be human. In fact, its his own brother, setting the doctor’s character for the audience. Putting scientific advancement above human relationships, a point that gets reinforced later in the film.

Larry and the mad scientist

But before we get too embroiled with the mad doctor, we’re introduced to Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley).  He’s an American foreign correspondent who has been working in Japan for several years, putting a strain on his marriage.  And so his final assignment is to interview the reclusive, genius Japanese scientist: Dr. Suzuki. Yes, that Dr. Suzuki. Making his way to the doctor’s mountaintop, volcanic laboratory, he interviews the doctor.  Dr. Suzuki cheerfully discusses his belief that evolution was caused by sporadic cosmic rays in the atmosphere.  Further, he claims that he has discovered a chemical method for producing evolutionary change. So, of course, he serves Larry a drugged drink. While Larry’s passed out he injects him with a mad scientist concoction in the shoulder …  Because, for some reason, he’s decided that Larry’s the perfect specimen for his experiments. Which he explains to his beautiful assistant, Tara (Terri Zimmern).

Larry gone wild

When Larry awakes, seemingly none the use for the wear,  Dr. Suzuki easily convinces him to stay in Japan.  To experience boozing around, cavorting with beautiful women — and easily forgetting about his wife. In fact, that’s the glaring problem with the movie.  Although the audience is supposed to feel sorry for Larry, who’s slowly changed from a loving husband to a heartless monster, it spends almost no time on developing his character before his transformation.  And the audience doesn’t feel any bond with him, and so doesn’t feel very sorry for him.

Changes more than skin deep

Larry’s personality swiftly begins changing, and his friend and editor Ian Matthews (Norman Van Hawley) tries to intervene, to no effect.  Larry’s wife, Linda (Jane Hylton) arrives to beg him to save their marriage. But he brushes her off to continue cavorting with Tara.  But Tara’s having second thoughts, actually having developed feelings for Larry. She tries to convince Dr. Suzuki to change his mind – to no effect. And soon, Larry’s changes are more than skin-deep, and he finds an eye growing out of his shoulder …  And then one hand changes, almost werewolf-like: furry, and clawed. But Larry’s still in denial, and is soon walking the street, committing murders.  And not even being aware of them at first.

Things come to a head

Larry’s monstrous mutation mutates more, resulting in a monstrous second head. Larry, using what little sense he has left, tries to get back to Dr. Suzuki and get his help for a cure. In the meantime, although Tara’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears, Dr. Suzuki kills another of his test subjects — his own wife. Which appears to soften him somewhat, and he thinks he may know how to help Larry.

Final confrontation

Larry arrives at the laboratory, and in his insane state murders the insane Dr. Suzuki. He sets fire to the laboratory, while Tara flees. Giving a whole new meaning to “split personality,” Larry literally splits in two (thanks to the deceased Dr. Suzuki). Larry and his furry, murderous, monstrous alter ego. The two tangle, and in the brouhaha the monster throws Tara into the volcano. With Larry pushing it in a moment after. At the conclusion, Linda, Ian, and the police arrive; while the police take Larry into custody, Larry’s friend and wife wonder how liable Larry is for his actions.

Trivia for The Manster

  • Sam Raimi‘s Army of Darkness pays homage to this film. When Ash has swallowed one of his little doppelgangers he grows an eye on his right shoulder, which results in him splitting into two beings; Good Ash and Evil Ash.
  • The actors playing the married couple, Larry and Linda, were married in real life
  • Also known as Nightmare, The Two-Headed Monster, and Doktor Satan

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