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  Manster, The Heads Up
Year: 1959
Director: George P. Breakston, Kenneth G. Crane
Stars: Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Testsu Nakamura, Terri Zimmern, Norman Van Hawley, Jerry Ito, Toyoko Takechi, Kenzi Kuroki, Alan Tarlton, Shinpei Takagi, George Wyman
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: There's a hairy man-creature on the rampage, and it has murdered three women, but nobody can track it down. This is because it regularly takes refuge with the scientist who created it, Dr Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura), a man who believes he is making great progress with his research into advancing the physical properties of the human race. But he feels this time his experiment has gone too far, so when the killer returns to the lab, the doctor blasts him with steam and pushes him into a volcano which doubles as his furnace...

Like you do. Or not, as The Manster was allowed the reputation of being one of the wackiest of the mad scientist movies of the nineteen-fifties, a status it didn't consistently live up to in practice, but certainly had a handful of scenes which were sufficiently "out there" to make it worth a look for vintage fright flick fans. What made this a shade more interesting than others was its provenance as a co-production between the United States and Japan, perhaps a hands across the water gesture in its day, although what an American journalist barging his way through Tokyo in monstrous fashion said about international relations was anyone's guess.

It was mostly filmed in English, and had a point of intrigue for fans of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds series as that journalist, Larry Stanford, was played by Peter Dyneley. You may not recognise his face, but his voice was obviously that of Jeff Tracy, leader of International Rescue, although you would never get Jeff indulging in the sort of nonsense that Larry does here, and just as well, for when he visits Dr Suzuki for an interview he gets a dose of some mysterious serum, completely unwittingly, thanks to the Doc slipping something in his drink. Then the barmy boffin persuades him to take the waters at a spa with his beautiful assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern in her only film).

Not realising he is getting set up, Larry thinks he's having a fine old time - but what's that crick in his neck about? And why has his right hand turned into a hairy claw? How is he going to explain this to his wife Linda (Jane Hylton, who became the second Mrs Dyneley after they met here)? Their marriage is going through a rough patch and she means to save it, but Larry is acting increasingly erratically, and it's all the scientist's fault (though he disappears from the action for long periods). Soon enough arrives the scene everyone recalls, where he has a good look at the mark on his neck - and discovers an eye staring back at him! And not long after that, the eye has grown into a second head, sort of an evil apeman thing which represents the duality of man.

Or something, maybe it's just your basic monster movie with few pretensions, but if it's the nuttier scenes which stick in the mind it is possible to feel sorry for Larry, because he basically has no idea what is happening to him, and starts to lash out in his confusion which concerns all around him. Nobody links him to the fresh spate of murders, even though it's him doing them, but the actual culprit is Suzuki considering his frankly impenetrable drive to make people into monsters (including his wife, kept mutated in a cage!). The Manster gained fresh recognition when it was homaged in two films, first How to Get Ahead in Advertising where Richard E. Grant grows a second head, and second Army of Darkness, where Bruce Campbell suffers the same fate as Larry does here as he splits into an evil and good version of himself. Of course, every two headed human shocker owed a debt to this, not that there were loads, but here was the first film to really pick up the concept and run with it. Music by Hirooki Ogawa.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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