So the next movie in the Pure Terror DVD set I’ve been slogging my way through is The Manster from 1959. This is a most enlightening film and can serve as an educational piece to help educate young independent filmmakers in order to achieve some lofty goals with their films they may have once thought unattainable. Never since Birdemic: Shock and Terror or The Room have I seen a movie that offers such a wealth of education on the true artistic craft of cinematic style. Let’s dive in, shall we…
1. You can have your film take place in a foreign locale without actually traveling there.
It can be costly to travel overseas and shoot your movie – but you don’t have to. The Manster takes place in Japan but it wasn’t shot there – why spend all that money on travel and foreign expenses when you can just drop a matte painting of Mt. Fuji in the background of EVERY FUCKING shot. If Mt. Fuji is in every single shot then people will know that your movie is in Japan because Mt. Fuji is in Japan. People won’t wonder why it is the exact same perspective of the mountain from any angle in Japan. Nope. Just drop in a photo of Mt. Fuji and BAM! Instant Japan. If anything, audiences can make a drinking game of it – a drink for everytime Mt. Fuji shows up in a shot guarantees that nobody will finish this movie sober.
But what if you don’t speak the language of this foreign country? That’s okay because you don’t have to give dialogue to those foreigners. Who wants to bother with subtitles anyway? Just have a bunch of Americans in the country on business – in this case a newspaper reporter named Larry (Peter Dyneley) with his co-workers and family. Have one bi-lingual Japanese person and THAT’S IT. oh, there’s Japanese people here to create the illusion that its Japan but they never speak. Heck, the newspaper headlines are even in English – I assume the whole country just bows to Larry’s whims and provides English for him because, after all, he is the hero. Which brings me to my next point.
2. If your main character is an asshole he can be made redeemable if all the others around him are worse.
At the start of The Manster Larry is interviewing a Japanese doctor, Doctor Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura). Before any character development can happen, the doctor drugs Larry and gives him some serum that will gradually turn him into the titular character. The bulk of the film follows Larry’s metamorphosis from Good Larry to Evil Larry – Manster Larry if you will. However we never get to see or hear about Good Larry, all we ever see for the entire movie is Evil Larry who is an unlikable, womanizing prick. How are we supposed to feel impassioned about this hateful man? Easy – make everyone else in the movie even more despicable.
Take Dr. Suzuki for instance? What kind of 4chan lurking troll just drugs random people for the lulz? Larry is not his first victim either – this hateful prick of a doctor gave an experimental batch to his wife who is now a mutated crazy woman he keeps chained up in the basement. Eventually he just shoots her in the face. WHO DOES THIS?! I mean, there’s a certain kind of understanding one develops for your run-of-the-mill Bela Lugosi style of Mad Scientist who’s building an army of atomic supermen because his contemporaries in Hungary laughed at him. Dr. Suzuki isn’t trying to prove anything however, he’s not trying to develop a new medicine to save humanity. Dr. Suzuki is just using science to fuck people up simply because he can.
He’s not the only one like this either. As Larry is Honey Badgering around Japan, drinking all the sake he can and picking up on all the non-speaking Japanese women he starts a sort of drunken romance with Suzuki’s assistant Tara. She knows he’s married but hey, Mrs Stanford isn’t here… yet. Laura Stanford shows up and confronts Larry, trying to force him into a decision: “Me or the girlfriend.” She tries to argue her case and we really get to see what a hateful, controlling woman this bitch is. A key line of dialogue:
Larry: I asked you many times to come with me on a foreign assignment.
Laura: But I thought you would eventually stop and we can settle down.
3. Who cares about the duality of man – two headed monsters are AWESOME
Why have your typical Jekyll and Hyde monster when you can have the same monster and just tack on an extra fake head to make him even MORE threatening. It doesn’t have to fit the plot or make sense – people just like two headed freaks. Now Evil Larry is fighting (and winning) in a battle against Good Larry. The second head develops as Evil Larry develops into his own person. Now this could be an interesting statement and means to explore the duality of man – Evil Larry and Good Larry are splitting into their own personalities. Well, not really – BOTH heads are evil Larry. What’s the point of having a two headed monster when they both have the same mindset? Ah, who cares – its two heads and that’s enough. This two headed duality of man would later be pathetically explored in The Incredible Two Headed Transplant and then payed amazing homage in Army of Darkness. Your shitty movie doesn’t have to make sense – its just got to be cool enough for someone else to rip off.
4. You can have all the rape you want and still get a PG rating if it’s all metaphorical
Yeah, this movie’s about as subtle as a riot squad. Evil Larry is the personification of the baser elements of a man’s personality. The key element of that personality is SEX. He’s devolved to a monkey for God’s sake! On top of that his victims are mostly women. Sure it all happens off screen, this is during the era of the Hayes Code after all, but we all know what’s really going on – rape. It is not in man’s nature to go on killing rampages but it IS in his nature to stick his dick into anything warm and soft and this movie does very little to hide that fact. Take for instance the bath scene. Larry happens to share a bath with Tara early in the film, just when he’s first starting to develop into The Manster. Sure there is no nudity and both of them attempt to be modest about this, but he can’t take his eyes off of her. Does a man ogle a woman the way Larry does here because he happens to admire the way her skin tone brings out the color of her eyes? NO, its all about sex.
Oh, and I don’t really need to mention the scene where Larry drunkenly stumbles off with a harem of Japanese women talking about “I love to smooch all of you.” There’s more sex in this movie than in a porno and its all safely hidden away from the kiddies under the veil of metaphor. I’m glad I didn’t watch this movie with my daughter because even a six-year old could see through this. As poor as everything in this movie is one has got to give props to director George P. Breakston for at least attempting to create a metaphor. Sure he failed miserably but the honest effort shows and luckily the censors in 1959 really were that dense to not pick up on any of it.
5. No matter how bad your film is it can always be made better when a minor character shoves the message down the audience’s throat
The movie works itself into a big mess. Evil Larry and Good Larry split off into two separate people and have a fight, volcanoes are erupting all over the place (No need to explain that) and finally Evil Manster Larry and Tara plummet into the volcano. As Larry is being taken away on an ambulance and a police officer (oddly, an American police officer) explains how they’ll have to arrest him for procedure, a minor character does everything short of breaking the fourth wall in order to put it all into perspective for the audience. The viewer shouldn’t be allowed to think for themselves, not when you can have the main characters best friend wrap it all up into a tidy little monologue. He discusses everything that went on the movie, opening the debate to whether Larry should be held accountable for his actions or not. After all, every man has two sides to him, a good side and an evil side. Should a person truly be responsible for succumbing to the natural instincts of their evil self. Sure the movie was competent enough in making this abundantly clear throughout its 72 minute runtime. As I said in the previous point – subtlety is not its strong point. But thank God for blatant characters like Ian the best friend or that doctor at the end of The Amazing Transparent Man to sum things all up for us. Who goes to the movies to be enlightened anyway?
6. No matter how one tries to dress it up, The Manster is still a shitty movie.
As if you couldn’t tell, everything above has been obvious sarcasm. There’s really nothing here that anyone can take away from this movie in a serious manner. The Manster is a cheap and lazily made B-movie just trying to cash in on its sensational subject matter and gullible audiences who will just eat up anything. It seems that not much has changed in film making from 1959 and the current Michael Bay driven emptiness filling theaters today. I didn’t much care for this movie, I found its lack of subtlety to be downright insulting, the characters were all empty and hateful people and the plot was lame and predictable. Huge chunks of this movie are just lazily stolen from The Wolfman and Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde which are two movies that explored these same themes SO much better than this stupid flick I did like the two-headed manster in all its schlocky glory however, but that’s not exactly complimentary. Overall, The Manster is a cult classic that one should check out only if they really have nothing better to do.
Next up on this DVD set is Blood Sabbath which sounds like an imitation giallo film about the usual withcraft stuff. All I know about it is that Dyanne Thorne stars in it and that’s enough for me. The woman who starred as Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS could play as Captain America for all I care and I’d still watch it.