Japanese/American Chiller With A Mid-Life Crisis Afflicted
Two- Headed Monster Rampaging Through Mid-Century Tokyo !!
"Half Man....Half Monster...!"
American newspaper man Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley THUNDERBIRDS) is on long term assignment in Tokyo and looking forward to finally being able to go home and be reunited with his patiently waiting wife Linda (Jane Hylton - and actual wife of Dyneley), when he's handed a final assignment to go interview reclusive scientist Dr. Suzuki (Tetsu Nakanura from MOTHRA and THE LAST DINOSAUR).
Upon arriving at the doctor's laboratory (serendipitously as we'll see located next to a large volcano), the doctor explains that he's working the effect of periodic cosmic rays from outer space and their effect in mutating life on earth. The Dr. confers to his beautiful Eurasian assistant Tara (Terri Zimmern) that he feels that Larry would be the "perfect specimen" for his future experiments.
Earlier in a pre-credit sequence we were shown the effects of his experiments with a huge hairy beast rampaging through a geisha house (complete with blood splashed across the title card) before the critter is summarily tossed in a handy doorway to the volcano by Dr. Suzuki. In addition he keeps a woman with a horribly disfigured face (a still that was a favorite in FAMOUS MONSTERS & various horror movie books) locked in a cage in his laboratory. It's never really explained what the Doctor's purpose is with these experiments (but what the heck, he makes monsters) and seeing how his two past failed experiments are his brother and wife respectively he falls fairly comfortably into the "mad doctor" category (in addition his lab contains large mutated look plants) .
The film while seeming to present the hero as as unwilling recipient of his monstrous tendencies much like Larry Talbot in Universal's Wolfman movies (with the the "curse" here being a medical experiment) it's interesting that the THE MANSTER's main protagonist (once again named Larry) is presented not as sympathetic character but as pretty much a jerk (in fact a really big jerk). THE MANSTER also shows post WWII America's part fascination and still lingering dread of Eastern cultures with the all-American wife waiting at home in her pearls and apron while her husband is seduced by the exotic allure of Japan. For a low budget monster movie there's some quite frankly adult themes lurking around here including Larry's in your face infidelity and the not to subtle references to Tara's past employment as a prostitute servicing the American occupation forces.
Clocking in at barely 72 min. the film's sometimes ludicrous & no logic plot gets bogged down in the middle with some police procedural and investigation along with Linda's agonizing over Larry's infidelity. It's does reward however with a total bat-shit crazy finale involving an exploding volcano, the ultimate "split" personality (in a scene which truly needs to be seen to be believed) and a mind numbing WTF soliloquy to Tara from Dr. Suzuki (in which he compares themselves to Pierre and Madame Louise Curie ?!) as he realizes the error of his ways.
Released with the film noir like title of THE SPLIT in England, THE MANSTER came stateside in 1962 where its was co-featured (in a really bizarre dbl. feature) with THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DR. FAUSTUS, the re-tilted/re-edited version of Georges Franju's LES YEUX SANS VISAGE (EYES WITHOUT A FACE) - "A Ghastly Elegance That Suggests Tennessee Williams !".
The above screen-caps are from the Retromedia DVD