This movie review will appear in the upcoming Unsung Horrors, edited by Eric McNaughton. I have a few more reviews in the book, but there are dozens upon dozens of reviews, written by We Belong Dead magazine contributors, sharing their passions for those neglected horror movies you should know about. If you loved the now sold out 70s Monster Memories, written by the same wild bunch of fanatics, you'll love Unsung Horrors.
Watch out! The Manster and his mad companion Dr. Faustus are terrorizing (your city). This thrill show will be the shock experience of your life. Suspense like Hitchcock! Mood like Tennessee Williams! See The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus and The Manster at the Bijou Theatre, NOW! (15 second radio spot copy from the Lopert Pictures Corporation Double Bill Pressbook, The Master Suspense Thrill Show! for The Manster and The Horror Chamber of Doctor Faustus)
Okay, so what if Psychotronic described reporter Larry Stanford’s (played by Peter Dyneley) unwelcomed second head as a “carved coconut”? And so what if Bill Warren doesn’t much care for the movie in his so-big-it-could-give-you-a-hernia-reading-it book, Keep Watching the Skies! (He flatly states it “stunk.”) And, well, yes, there’s that dreadful, awfully written monologue given by Matthews (Norman Van Hawley), Stanford’s newspaper boss, who, after the movie should have ended, reflects with “who really did all these things” and “he was just an average joe” musings. Groan.
And I suppose we can’t easily ignore the stagey acting by Larry’s wife in every scene she’s in (played by Jane Hylton, Dyneley’s real-life wife), but especially when she ruins a perfectly good close-up by telling the Police Superintendent (Jerry Ito of Mothra and Message from Space) “when you find him, will you remember something has happened to him, something he can’t control.”
Sure, you bet. Something that makes him kill again and again and grow hair in the worst places, like some Dr. Jekyll strung along for an acid ride with Mr. Hyde. Only this time he’s dressed in a trench coat splattered with blood and has a homicidal second head calling the shots while his first one downs quite a few of the more intoxicating kind.
But let’s ignore all of that and examine the reasons you should see this movie.
The Manster, Half Man-Half Monster (also titled The Split in Britain) was released to U.S. theaters in 1962, on a double bill with The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus (which the so-darn-picky Bill Warren found “evocative” and “poetic”). A science fiction movie with horror overtone, The Manster is a low budget, noir-ish looking schlock propelled by a crazed Japanese scientist meddling with nature-flavored tokusatsu body horror.
Certainly any monsterkid worth his electrodes will vividly remember the impact of seeing that horror’s result: first, the unblinking eye peering up from Stanford’s shoulder; soon after followed by that homicidal, hairy, coconut-head sprouting from the same spot. You can bet monsterkids everywhere reacted to this in either of two ways, of course: (1) wishing for an eye to pop up on their shoulders, too, so they could bring it to show-and-tell at school (Munsters and Addams Family chit-chat could only go so far, you know); or (2), for the more squeamish among them, clapping hands to their mouths, hoping that the screams they promised they’d never make hadn’t awakened their sleeping parents who had warned, in no uncertain terms, to NOT stay up late and watch THOSE movies on television.
Yes, The Manster is one of THOSE movies that epitomizes 1950s horror.
There’s a secluded scientist (Tetsu Nakamura) in his mountain-side laboratory--built over a volcano’s heat vents!--experimenting on people without a moral compass to guide him, creating mutations and misery through his experiments in evolution; there’s the world-weary reporter anxious to leave Tokyo and get back to his wife in the U.S. (or maybe not so anxious, actually), who gets caught up in more than just a quick story as he meets that mad scientist; there’s the usually ineffectual authority figures holding press meetings to watch body counts rise; and there are those budget special effects the director and cinematographer wisely kept in the dark most of the time. Aside from the bouncy balloon effect of the second head on Stanford’s shoulder when he runs, he still presents a terrifying image when standing still, limned against darkness, both heads snarling with beastly evil as they prepare to kill. There’s a whiff of noir atmosphere, but only a whiff as the police close in.
An English language co-production between United Artists and United Artists of Japan, with American and Japanese actors, The Manster impresses with its troubled, rough-edged reporter, its eventually remorseful scientist (okay, sure, he shoots his mutated wife and pushes his brother into a heat vent, but he’s sad about it afterwards), and its brutish premise of man and monster at odds with each other in one body.
There’s even an evocative and eerily poetic scene (in your face, Bill Warren!), showing Stanford as he follows priests to a temple where he’s attracted to another priest praying inside. It’s nighttime. The second head isn’t showing yet but its murderous desires are. Stanford enters the temple, sweating, irritable, looking for help but he doesn’t realize it. He tries talking to the priest with useless small talk. The priest stops praying and looks at him. Not understanding what Stanford is saying, and not really caring to, the priest goes back to his chanting. Wrong thing to do. Stanford becomes more agitated and the squat Oni statue, with glaring, angry eyes, is making him crazier by the second. He glances around the room at the dozens of other statues staring at him. Sweat starts pouring. The Oni’s stare pushes him over the edge. Our view moves to the cold, lifeless statues. Off screen, the chanting suddenly stops, replaced by a gurgling scream. This scene is always neglected by critics in their terse reviews. Shame on them.
The characterization of the leading man, Stanford, the reporter who’s worn out and not as clean and pressed as the trench coat he wears, is not your typical leading man role for a 1960s movie, either. Peter Dyneley, a British actor playing an American (he voiced Jeff Tracy in Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6), presents an atypical character as Stuart Galbraith notes in his Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films:
By 1962, characters in nearly every science fiction film made in the United States and even Japan were standard, perfunctory “types”: stoic, by-the-book military men, dedicated scientists, etc. Peter Dyneley’s Larry Stanford was different—a tired family man, looking ready to retire, harboring a deep resentment against his wife and frustration regarding his career which only become exposed while in his monster state.
Stanford’s atypical character isn’t the only one. Scientists in the 1950s and 1960s were usually on the up and up. Except for the occasional rogue conducting experiments not included in a Gilbert Chemistry Set (I was a Teenage Frankenstein and I was a Teenage Werewolf for instance), men of science were stalwart defenders of earth and humanity. Dr. Suzuki, our mountainside-secluded scientist with jail-like cells in his laboratory and a dwindling family tree? Not so much. He does manage to come around toward the end, just when everyone is about dead. Seeing Stanford in so much distress, he injects him with a final dose intended to split man from monster.
But will Stanford survive? Will he split from his stifling wife? And are mountainside laboratories built on volcanic heat vents a good idea? You be the judge. The Manster is waiting for you.
Information sources used for this article include: The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon, et al., 1st edition, 1983; Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties by Bill Warren, 2nd printing, 2010; and Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films by Stuart Galbraith IV, 1994. And of course, IMDb and Wikipedia, too.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! and maybe Lurch1125, who posted this vintage Collegeville costume on eBay. What this needed was a more exciting box to come in, but the costume looks pretty nifty, don't you think? I forget which Phil Seuling comic convention it was back in the 1970s, but there was this scrawny, nerdy, guy who had this weird, slowly building in pitch, laugh he'd do in imitation of the Shadow's trademark sardonic and mocking laughter. For the real deal you need to listen to the old Shadow radio shows with Orson Welles.
Pesdudewelch on eBay had these Eveready Flashlight Monster Faces listed on eBay. Nice incentive to buy a magnet flashlight, especially for monsterkids. My favorite is the skull. Just another sign of how strong the monster craze was in the 1960s.
Mikestaxidermy listed this Collegeville Halloween Hobo costume on eBay. I see a lot of political correctness and social sensitivity statements and didactics on the Internet regarding the use of a "homeless" person personification for holiday dress up to panhandle candy and party with, but that's part of today's sensibilities and how we perceive things. I tried to find information on the historical background to understand why the Hobo costume has been around for generations. So far I have only found a lot of opinion and repetition of opinion.
From old photographs, one can see it was in the repertoire of self-made costumers at the very beginning of Halloween's celebration. Perhaps panhandling has something to do with it: hobos would ride the train rails and go from town to town, living a life unfettered by convenient conventions and questionable propriety, and maybe ask for a hand-out now and then. But what do you think? Are hobo costumes still relevant today and acceptable?
I love westerns, grew up with them on television and in the movies. Grew up with Buster Crabbe, too. He portrayed Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, in those serials that inspired Indiana Jones and breathtaking cinema. So...here you go, pardner.
You may call it a B movie, but any film starring Boris Karloff is aces with me. The Man They Could Not Hang was one of 20 titles included in the Son of Shock movie package for television broadcast in 1958.
Here's an evocative Halloween 1946 paper advert for Dessart Brothers. Note the quaint spelling of "Hallowe'en." Note also this ad is from the March 1946 issue of Playthings, the trade magazine. I repeat, March. So...some may complain Halloween shows up too early in the stores now, but maybe not early enough? Playthings magazine is still published.
She was petite, she was pretty, she was sweet and, oh yes, she was fan-friendly. Noel Neill will always be the Lois Lane I will remember from my youth.
Her association with Superman started in the first two Superman serials: Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs Superman (1950). The man of steel in these two serials was Kirk Alyn (who died in 1999). Jimmy Olsen was played by Tommy Bond (who died in 2005) - a grown up Butch from the little rascals.
When the TV series The Adventures of Superman began its 6 year run in 1952, she wasn't able to repeat her earlier screen role for the show's first season or its unforgettable pilot: Superman and the Mole-Men (1951). She did appear in Invasion USA (1952) along with Phyllis Coates, who did play Lois Lane for the first 26 episodes of the series, although they shared no scenes together in Invasion. When the second season was ready to be filmed, Coates had already committed to another series, allowing Noel Neill to return as Lois.
Watching the reruns over and over, one could glimpse Phyllis Coates' Lois as more plucky, but for the most part, Noel Neill was and is Lois Lane to fans. When the TV series abruptly ended in 1958 because of the death of star George Reeves, she felt another actor should have been cast and the series continued. That was not to be. John Hamilton as Perry White, who often said "Great Caesar's Ghost!" and "Don't call me Chief!" when flummoxed by Jimmy Olsen, also died that year. Jack Larson, another fan favorite as Jimmy Olsen, who often said "Yes, Chief!" and "Golly Mr Kent!"), died in 2015. For a while, Noel Neill lived in a real town in Illinois named Metropolis (the "official home of Superman"). There is a statue of Lois Lane there in her likeness.
After the television series ended she didn't appear on screen for the next 20 years. In 1978, Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill made uncredited cameo appearances in Superman starring Christopher Reeves. She also appeared in the 1980s Superboy television series, and in the 1990s in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. She did a credited appearance in 2006's Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh.
My only encounter with her was about 8 years ago at a Chiller Convention. She was petite, pretty, sweet, and very fan-friendly.
Zombos Note: I was at that Chiller Convention also, and was about to walk into the room where Noel Neill was signing, but something else came up and I missed my chance. I probably would have bumped into Professor Kinema, though we didn't know each other at the time.
With its mystery and suspense building, The Maze can be seen as a transitional movie between the supernatural horror of the 1940s to the scientific and alien horrors of the 1950s. The shock makeup is not quite up to par, not even by 1950s standards. But a little gem of horror it remains. I know YouTube had a 3D copy for view, but you need a big screen to appreciate the depth. This and Night Monster would make an excellent double bill viewing for a midnight show (your home or in the theater ;) Here's the comic reader version: Download The Maze Pressbook
The pro-zine Magick Theatre, put out by Raymond Young, was always a long reading experience as it was packed with content. In this issue there are interviews with Forrest J. Ackerman (Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine), Arthur C. Pierce (The Human Duplicators, Women of the Prehistoric Planet, Beyond the Time Barrier), and Bruno Vesota (Jeffrey Hall: Criminologist, Dementia, Invasion of the Star Creatures). Susan Cabot (The Wasp Woman) is remembered and Review O Rama provides critiques for your viewing pleasure, with the Movie Noose Reel providing the low-down on remakes, half-bakes, and well-dones. And still more to enjoy and bring back memories. Here's the comic reader version: Download Magick Theatre 8
Here is the 1958 re-release pressbook for Walt Disney's Peter Pan animated movie. Lots of merchandising (the Disney pressbooks are filled to the brim with it) and a wonderful coloring page for Peter make this a good pressbook promotion to movie theaters. Here is the comic book reader version: Download Peter Pan R58 Pressbook
1950s Halloween Candy Filled Black Cat store display box, seen on eBay. And only 5 cents each. Back then. It reminds me of the small store my sister and I would stop at on the way back from school. Very narrow, a hole in the wall really; there was a counter, nice old guy in back of that counter, and lots and lots of sugar-overloading wax candy, pretzel sticks, and Joyva Ring Jells for a few cents. Funny how you can remember the simpler things as you get older, but not the really important things like when he folded up shop and was no longer there. I should have paid more attention to things disappearing.