"The Manster" was a cheap black and white US coproduction through United Artists, which was required to do a certain quota in Japan, US distribution by Lopert Pictures, a specialist in foreign titles, in fact the bottom of a double bill with the superior yet far more sober French entry "The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus." As outrageous as the idea of a two headed monster can be, this qualifies as the first and certainly better than 1971's "The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant" (played straight) or 1972's "The Thing with 2 Heads" (a farce), and a more adult approach as well, a specifically American slant on Asian culture, filled with gorgeous geisha girls and pleasure palaces. Lest one believe it's a modern fantasy of exotica we're also dealt a decidedly old fashioned mad scientist, Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura), seeking to prove who knows what (something about evolution and cosmic rays) by experimenting on his own wife and brother before the welcome arrival of foreign correspondent Joel McCrea, actually Peter Dyneley as Larry Stanford, come to do an article on Suzuki's work. Never one to decline a drink, Stanford downs a mickey and promptly receives an injection in the right shoulder, initiating a change from devoted husband eager to return to his lonely wife Linda (Jane Hylton, "Circus of Horrors") to debauched alcoholic unwilling to go back to work, graduating to murder after his hand grows into a hairy claw (once bandaged, he claims it was burned). Enjoying the company of Suzuki's beautiful assistant (Terri Zimmern in her only film), Stanford promptly rejects poor Linda then feels excruciating pain on that darn shoulder, whipping off his shirt to reveal a huge eyeball staring back! The suggestion of a psychiatrist is enough to cause the eye to emerge into an entire head with permanent scowl and sharp teeth, and when Stanford stalks the doctor in his office both heads can be seen gnashing their sharp fangs (a genuinely chilling effect). More victims follow and a lengthy police chase before the afflicted manster ends up back at Dr. Suzuki's mountain lair, easily dispatching his adversary before carrying off the girl as his prize. Only in the last few moments do we finally get what the alternate title promised ("The Split"), as the monster tears itself away from the reporter's body into a hairy beast (conveniently done behind a tree, the only way they could pull off the impossible), both it and the girl taking a dive into the volcano leaving Stanford to wonder how any man would literally be beside himself! To the uninitiated it may be disappointing that the eye doesn't appear on the shoulder until the 45 minute mark, and the climactic battle between man and monster doesn't even last 90 seconds; otherwise it's literally an eye opening creature feature filmed in English that actually proves that two heads are indeed better than one. The acting isn't terribly good (Peter Dyneley and Jane Hylton truly husband and wife in real life) but Tetsu Nakamura makes for an entertaining mad medico, using his occasional pseudonym Setoshi Nakamura (actually his real name), a Canadian-born actor fluent in both English and Japanese who played small parts in numerous Toho pictures like "The Mysterians," "The H-Man," "The Human Vapor," "Mothra," "Atragon," "Latitude Zero," and "Yog - Monster from Space." As if two heads were needed to direct this movie there are two directors listed - George P. Breakston was a former child actor who became a globetrotting filmmaker in later years, previously at the helm for "The White Huntress" (shot on location in Kenya), while Kenneth G. Crane was a veteran editor who performed double duty as director/editor on three other occasions, including John Carradine's "Half Human" (Hollywood scenes only) and the Jim Davis snoozefest "Monster from Green Hell." It's not great art but loads more fun than it should be, and delivered more than a few nightmares to impressionable youngsters viewing on television. Toho's "The H-Man" would depict the underworld in an adult and sensuous manner but this little opus is uniquely bizarre.
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