British theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George Breakston
Kenneth G. Crane
|Produced by||George Breakston|
|Written by||George Breakston|
|Music by||Hirooki Ogawa|
|Edited by||Kenneth G. Crane|
|Distributed by||United Artists (Japan, UK)
Lopert Pictures Corporation (USA)
|Country||United States, filmed in Japan|
The Manster (双頭の殺人鬼?, Sôtô no Satsujinki) is an American tokusatsu, a 1959 horror film shot entirely in Japan with Japanese talent behind the camera, and starring British actors Peter Dyneley and Jane Hylton. The film was notable for its creative use of special effects. The film is also known as The Split in the United Kingdom, Doktor Satan in Greece, and sometimes informally referred to as The Two-Headed Monster.
American foreign news correspondent Larry Stanford (Peter Dyneley) has been working out of Japan for the last few years to the detriment of his marriage. His last assignment before returning to his wife in the United States is an interview with the renowned but reclusive scientist Dr. Robert Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura), who lives and works aside a volcanic mountain, from the heat of which he powers his laboratory. During the brief interview, Dr. Suzuki amiably discusses his work on evolution caused by sporadic cosmic rays in the atmosphere, and professes that he has discovered a method for producing evolutionary change chemically.
Suzuki serves Larry a drugged libation, causing him to fall into a deep sleep. Announcing to Tara (Terri Zimmern), his attractive Eurasian assistant, that Larry is the perfect candidate for his latest evolutionary experiments, he injects an unknown substance into Larry's shoulder. Upon waking, Larry is oblivious to the true situation and accepts Suzuki's invitation to spend the next week vacationing with him around Japan.
Over the next few days, Tara functions as a seductive distraction for Larry and Suzuki plies him with mineral baths and copious amounts of alcohol, while waiting for something to happen to him - or within him. When Larry begins to notice pain in his shoulder, this signals that this "something" is beginning to occur. Meanwhile, Larry's wife (played by Dyneley's actual spouse Jane Hylton) arrives in Japan to bring him back home with her. But when confronted by her, Larry refuses to leave his new life of women and carousing, and, distraught, she seeks out his editor and friend, Ian Matthews, for advice and help.
Meanwhile, after a few more drinks that night, Larry examines his increasingly painful shoulder and discovers a large eyeball growing out of it. Becoming aloof and solitary, Larry wanders Tokyo late at night. He murders a woman on the street, a Buddhist monk, and a psychiatrist sent by Matthews to talk with him, while slowly changing form, culminating in his growing a second head out of the shoulder on which only the eye had been. Seeking a cure, Larry climbs the volcano to Dr. Suzuki's laboratory where Suzuki has just informed Tara that Larry has become "an entirely new species" and beyond remedy.
Entering the building, Larry kills Suzuki and destroys his lab by releasing the controlled volcanic gasses and fiery steam used by Suzuki, as Tara flees. Larry pursues her to the lip of the volcano, which is beginning to erupt. There, he splits into two completely separate entities, one looking just like the original Larry, the other a bestially hirsute humanoid male. This monstrous second being grabs Tara and throws her into the volcano, as Larry rallies and pushes the monster in after her. Larry's wife and the police arrive. Larry, still in a weakened state, is carried away on a stretcher as a platoon of policemen swarm through Suzuki's home, taking charge.
[Originally, the movie ended with Linda and Matthews descending from the volcano, discussing the legal and moral implications of Larry's actions committed while under the influence of Suzuki's drug and the splitting process, and the good that has been restored in Larry with the completion of the split and death of his monstrous "other half". For the U.S. release, however, this lengthy anticlimax was cut out; it was returned to prints syndicated to cable television in the late 1980s.]]
- Peter Dyneley as Larry Stanford
- Jane Hylton as Linda Stanford
- Tetsu Nakamura as Dr. Robert Suzuki
- Terri Zimmern as Tara
- Norman Van Hawley as Ian Matthews
- Jerry Ito as Police Supt. Aida
- Alan Tarlton as Dr. H.B. Jennsen
- Toyoko Takechi as Mother Emiko Suzuki
- Kenzo Kuroki as Brother Genji Suzuki
- Shinpei Takagi as Temple Priest
- George Wyman as Monster
Postmodern critical reactions
Recently, film critic Richard Scheib gave the film a qualified positive review, writing, "This American-Japanese co-production is an interestingly obscure film, one whose reputation as a B movie has preceded its actual availability on video or tv. It is of course a venture into the schlock movie theme of the two-headed transplant. But The Manster is one entry that, when seen, proves a whole lot more entertaining than other variants on the theme such as the terrible The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971) and the deliberately silly The Thing with Two Heads (1972). It all comes with a luridly entertaining torridness. There’s the wonderful schlock moment where Peter Dyneley takes off his shirt to reveal an eye on his shoulder or later when the head first pops up during the attack on the psychiatrist."
Allmovie Guide film critic Hal Erickson, also wrote a positive note, writing, "Manster is a favorite among campy horror aficionados and for good reason as it is both unintentionally funny and genuinely creepy...Wait till you see the climax, with the hero battling himself on the edge of a live volcano."
Film critic Matthew M. Foster gave the film a quasi-positive review, writing, "The Manster is a dark, erotic film with some memorable moments. It is jam-packed with despair and corruption. With a few extra dollars, a bit of recasting, and a changed ending, it could be a great monster movie. Luckily, this is a film where the good stays with you and the mistakes are easily forgotten."
Otis, Dmidtrui. "Transformation Predated: The Manster Reappraised." In: Cinemuerte Magazine (Vancouver, B.C.), Kier-La Janisse, Vol. 10, 2001, Pg. 40.