Friday, 12 May 2017

THE MANSTER












d. George Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane (1962)

Regular readers may have noticed that many of the films written about here are concerned with transformation, mainly of the uncontrolled and uncontrollable sort: people shrink or grow; they die but stay alive; they become bestial and unhinged or taken over, mostly at the gnarled hands of bad science, pure evil or alien conquest. Is that the worst thing, do you think? To become other, to turn into someone or something that you can't manage, and to know it is happening, to feel yourself slipping further and further into the void. Is it a metaphor for the human condition? Does transformation evoke old age, illness, death? Yes, in these films transformation is death, and can only be cured by more death including, ultimately, your own. I need some Propranolol.

In The Manster, jaded US foreign correspondent Larry Stanford is on his last assignment in Japan when he meets genius geneticist, Dr. Suzuki. Suzuki is interested in 'the beginnings of life' and seems nice enough despite keeping his brother and wife in the basement, having turned them into a hairy white ape and a disfigured hag respectively. While Larry has a Mickey Finn induced nap, Suzuki injects him in the neck with a serum designed to turn the hapless journalist into an entirely new life form.

In time honoured fashion, the first Larry knows about it is when he notices he has a very hairy hand. Next, he is startled to discover an eyeball embedded in his shoulder. After a few out of character homicidal rampages, an additional head emerges from him, malevolent and wizened, resembling a fairground coconut with comedy teeth. Head two is murderously angry with everything and everybody, not least Larry, who he wants to get away from as quickly as possible, ultimately leading to a violent split between host and parasite. 

As Larry reverts to human form, his erstwhile spare head and body conveniently having fallen into a live volcano, there is barely a second to wonder if Larry will pay for his crimes before the film's abrupt end. Let's hope the Japanese police are prepared to blame it all on the psychopathic man monkey and let Larry go home.  

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