Monday, April 11, 2016

The Manster - 1959

I might not include this one if it wasn't for the Sci Fi boxset.  Not because it doesn't deserve it - it does for sure.  But because this one is pretty well known in terms of 50's monster movies.  Probably because, as I hope to get across in this review, it's really good.  It's a good, fun film, a great definition of 50's monster movies, and a fast paced cheap flick fit for friends.

The Manster is a altogether too-rare American monster-film that was filmed in Japan.  Sure, there were a few others, but it's too annoying to find out what they were.  Some things are still hard to google, what can I say?  Being shot in Japan in the 50's, you would expect it to have some Asian charm to it, and it is chock full of it.  Also pretty surprising was the fact there are a couple likable Asian characters, and they are in rather large roles sometimes.  In one scene that legitimately made me laugh out loud, the main character Larry is seen participating in a traditional Japanese dance, wearing kimono and everything!

It's a classic mad scientist plot of course.  Mad scientist Robert Suzuki, a likable fellow played by Japanese actor Tetsu Nakamura, is experimenting with a mutating serum.  He has one victim already, a woman who was deformed by the serum.

She is later explained to be Suzuki's wife, who requested to have the serum tested on her.  Point is, Suzuki has since perfected the serum, and after drugging Larry, he injects it into his shoulder.  Larry soon starts exhibiting strange behavior.  He decides not to return to the US where his wife is waiting for him, rather he starts drinking a lot, flirting with other women, and hanging out with Suzuki all the time.  He is quick to get real uppity about it too, launching into anger at the slightest provocation, and mouthing off to anyone for any reason.  

Suzuki's mysterious assistant, the lovely and ambiguously ethnic Tara is baiting Larry to stay in Japan by seducing him, and all the while reporting back to Suzuki.  Soon she grows a conscience though, and is done with this whole thing.  It's about that time Larry's transformation leads him to his first kill, a priest at a Buddhist temple.  His behavior has reached a crescendo, and just like that, the big reveal is made as Larry looks in the mirror at the spot where Suzuki first injected him...

Full of decent acting, great pacing, and silly little goings-on, it's no wonder this is a classic.  It's errors are there, too, however.  I found that I really liked having Larry as the main character, but once he goes full evil, Larry mostly disappears and we instead follow Suzuki, Larry's wife Linda, and Larry's friend Ian.  They are not as defined characters, and not nearly as fun to watch.  Also, they chose to have Larry transform even further after this.  It seems the eye above is the beginning of a full being growing out of Larry's shoulder, and for a while that means Larry has two heads:
It made sense in the 50's but now all I could think was that I wished they had not done this.  But, take it for what it is, a genuine 50's monster flick with its good and its bad (and it's so-bad-it's-good).

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