Manster, The

Tagged: Film

American-Japanese film (1959). Lopert Pictures/Shaw-Breakston Enterprises/United Artists of Japan. Directed by George P Breakston and Kenneth G Crane, starring Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura, Terri Zimmern, Norman Van Hawley, Jerry Ito. Written by George P Breakston, based on a story by William J Sheldon. 72 minutes. Black and white.

Larry Stanford (Dyneley), an American journalist temporarily working in Japan, interviews a Japanese Scientist, Robert Suzuki (Nakamura), who has been secretly conducting experiments that turn people into horrible Monsters. Convinced that Stanford would be the ideal subject for his next experiment, Suzuki persuades him to linger in Japan by offering him the company of his beautiful girlfriend, Tara (Zimmern), who introduces him to the seductive pleasures of Japanese life while Suzuki secretly injects Stanford with chemicals that first create an eye on his shoulder, and later a small second head. The transformed Stanford also develops the urge to periodically kill people, leading to a manhunt led by Police Superintendent Aida (Ito). Stanford's colleague Ian Matthews (Hawley) and Stanford's wife Linda (Hylton), who has come to Japan to retrieve her husband, try to persuade Stanford to give up his dissolute ways and return to America, but to no avail. Finally, Stanford splits into two beings, himself and a humanoid monster, and when the monster is killed, it seems that Stanford will be able to resume his former life.

While in most respects a poorly made and justifiably obscure Monster Movie, The Manster in nonetheless interesting because the development of Stanford's monstrous personality is clearly linked, in a manner that is surprisingly frank for its era, to his embrace of the sexual adventures offered by the alluring Tara. In the major film versions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1932, 1941), the aristocratic Jekyll is symbolically drawn to London's lower class in order to revel in its sinful pastimes as Hyde; here, an upright citizen's transformation into a monster results from crossing cultural barriers, not class barriers, as the prim companionship offered by Stanford's American wife cannot compete with the eroticism of Tara's Japan. It is also odd that the film imposes an incongruous happy ending on its story, with the implication that Stanford, having appreciated the attractive decadence of Japan, will be content to return to bland domesticity in the company of his wife. The film later inspired two better-known (but not better) films that also featured two-headed men, The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972), though these lack any provocative undercurrents. [GW]

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