#TerrorTuesday: The Manster (1959)

It’s often said that two heads are better than one (hehe ;)), but I’d wager that the unfortunate victim in The Manster would strongly disagree.

Also known as The Split, The Manster is a peculiar tale of DEAD & shoulders. ¬†It concerns an American foreign news correspondent who has been working out of Japan for the last few years. His final ass-ignment in Japan is to interview a reclusive scientist who, like all great scientists, lives atop a volcanic mountain. Needing a guinea pig for his unholy experiments, the bad doctor drugs the hapless reporter and injects him with a serum that causes a second head to sprout from his shoulder. I suppose that’s one way to grow on someone. ūüėČ

What’s truly impressive about The Manster is that it’s one of those rare films that manages to be both unintentionally goofy and genuinely creepy at the same time. The film was shot in Black-and-White and makes excellent use of shadows to heighten the lurid atmosphere. While The Manster himself is a wonderfully silly thing, the sequence in which the reporter rips off his shirt to reveal an eye growing out of his shoulder is honestly nightmarish. It’s a gloriously gut-wrenching effect, especially for a low-budget fright fest from the late ’50s.
The Manster¬†was the first film to play around with the theme of the two-headed man-made monster. Other examples of this heady trope include The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971) and The Thing with Two Heads (1972). ¬†The Simpsons parodied this idea in their second Treehouse of Horror special and again in the 2013 edition, making two segments for two heads. Sam Raimi directly referenced The Manster in an infamous scene in Army of Darkness, even going as far as to include the “shoulder eye” gag. I guess you could say that The Manster was a-HEAD of its time. (*insert Cryptkeeper cackle here* :))
For two heads of terror, check out The Manster below:

#MonsterMovieMonday: “It Came from the Malt Shop” Double Feature in Shock-o-Rama!


“Today we are concerned with juvenile delinquency ‚Äď its causes ‚Äď and its effects. We are especially concerned when this delinquency boils over into our schools.The scenes and incidents depicted here are fictional. However, we believe that public awareness is a first step towards a remedy for any problem.‚ÄĚ

The previous quote comes from the opening text of 1955’s The Blackboard Jungle.¬†That film features very little in the way of fangs and gore, but it does highlight one of the primary fears of the 1950s: teenagers.

Ho-rrible, ain’t they? The adults of the time thought so.¬† There was a widespread fear of juvenile delinquency, with “experts” claiming that post-WWII children were lazy, spoiled, reckless, disrespectful, violent, and just plain rude. Because of this, teenagers and youth culture were demonized and maligned to an extreme. Horror, being the genre that deals the most with society’s fear and anxiety, took this growing issue to the logical next step and made literal monsters of teenagers.


With the success of I Was a Teenage Werewolf in the summer of 1957, a horde of¬†adolescent abominations invaded cinemas for the next few years. The next two teen terror tales to take the theaters were I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula, both films being part of a double feature in the November of 1957. While we couldn’t possibly top the drive-in eXXXperience, we are presenting the gruesome twosome here in this very post!
The monsters in both features are among the very best of ’50s schlock. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein‘s tit-ular ghoul looks very much like an apple sculpture shrunken head, and the teen vampire in Blood of Dracula looks like a creation from Dick Smith’s Do It Yourself Monster Make-Up. Both are utterly fantastic.

While Teenage Frankenstein is the clear winner here, both deliver on the teen thrills and chills. ¬†My only complaint with Blood of Dracula is the title. How does the same studio behind the other two I Was a Teenage… miss out on the opportunity to call their vampire film I Was a Teenage Dracula?! Perhaps if they had done that, we’d be listening to Cramps song with that title…

For all you Hepcats and Kittens out there, here’s the double feature:

 

#WaybackWednesday: The “Invasion Will Be Televised” Edition

1953’s¬†War of the Worlds¬†is, without a doubt, one of the seminal science fiction films of the 1950s. It has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress, won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, spawned countless imitators, and gave MST3K’s Dr. Clayton Forrester his name(clearly, the ultimate ho-nor ;)). Even after 63 years in Earth time, the film is still one of the greatest achievements in Sci-Fi cinema. There have been many adaptations of the H.G. Wells story, but the 1953 one towers above them all. Heck, I still get chills every time I watch this scene:

At the end of the 1953 film, the seemingly indestructible aliens perish. The narrator informs the audience on what has happened:

“The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Once they had breathed our air, germs, which no longer affect us, began to kill them. The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things, which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth.”

But what if that wasn’t the end? What if the aliens weren’t killed, but had slipped into a state of suspended animation? We didn’t really defeat them the first time, so what could possibly do to stop them? Unfortunately for Mankind, these grim speculative questions became a horrifying reality…

In 1988, the invasion continued with a TV series of the same name. The series was indeed a direct follow-up to the 1953 film, utilizing the same war machine designs and other familiar elements. However, these Martians are far more brutal than the originals ever were. These extraterrestrial devils gouge out eyes, pierce checks, and graphically burst out of human disguises. For a show from the ’80s, this was pretty gnarly stuff.

The producer of the original film, George Pal, actually started developing a War of the Worlds TV series back in the ’70s, but passed away before it came to be. Personally, I think the first season of this show is an excellent continuation, even if it’s a tad more gruesome than its predecessor. (That’s a plus in my book, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup o’tea. ;))¬†The second season changed the formula for the worse, but I still recommend the first to my fellow Earthlings.

Watch the pilot below and witness the War of the Worlds:

#MonsterMovieMonday: Hypno-Creature Double Feature Shock Show a Go-Go!

‚ÄúHypnotized! Reincarnated as a monster from hell!‚ÄĚ

I want to give you the opportunity to experience the sensation of hypnosis… to cross the dark, mysterious threshold of your own unconscious mind. And now, if you dare, look into the endless spiral…

Now that you your mind is completely open to suggestion, I want you to picture a film,,, a monster movie from the 1950s. This picture you are now imagining concerns a conniving hypnotist¬†whose ghastly experiments in hypnotic regression transform a fetching young woman into a prehistoric humanoid sea monster. By no means is it perfect, but it’s the sort of chiller-diller that’ll satisfy your appetite for the bizarre. The creature in your mind is a truly gruesome thing that was created by monster suit master¬†Paul Blaisdell, known for his unearthly designs. Blaisdell’s beast is a crustacean nightmare: a large, scaly thing with protruding spikes, wicked claws… and ample bosom. Is this all clear in your mind?

Good, When I snap my fingers, you will awaken to discover that this film is indeed real. It is perhaps strange, but it is no mere product of your suggestible¬†mind. My friend, do you dare come face-to-face with the hideous monster you thought you had imagine. Well, if you are the brave sort, I recommend you click on the box below and subject your nerves to 1956’s The She-Creature!

The film that figured prominently in our last experiment was later remade for television as a, um, interesting film called Creature of Destruction. Schlockmeister Larry Buchanan helmed this fish story about, well, a conniving hypnotist¬†whose ghastly experiments in hypnotic regression transforms a fetching young woman into a prehistoric humanoid sea monster. It certainly gets points for being faithful…

Creature of Destruction never reaches the same heights that The She-Creature did,¬†but it’s worth a watch. If you’re like me and you just want to see a monster with ping pong ball eyes and some weird beach party musical bits, you’ll probably get a crypt-kick out of this creature number. ¬†For added greatness, former Blue Cap Scotty Mckay sings a hot number about Batman that certainly wasn’t in The She-Creature!

Click on the box below for some grand déjà vu:

And now it’s time for me to leave you and your minds, Keep it creepy, creeps!

#TBT: The “Thank You, Jack H. Harris” Edition

If there’s one film that never fails to make me smile, it’s 1958’s The Blob. It’s a perfect monster movie and a beautiful portrait of the ’50s¬†as we want¬†to remember them. That’s why it breaks my heart to report that producer Jack H. Harris has passed away. The Blob was his first film as a producer and it certainly was a strong way to start. Made for $130,000 and grossing more than $3 million, The Blob was an instant success. ¬†¬†Since then, Mr. Harris has kept The Blob alive and pulsating with a sequel (which he co-wrote), a 1988 remake, and a 1991 re-dubbed version of the original. Outside of The Blob, he produced 4D Man, Dinosaurus!, Equinox, Eyes of Laura Mars, Schlock, Master of Horror,¬†and Dark Star. In 2014, he became the oldest person to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In honor of Mr. Harris, we’d like to share with you the trailers for all of the Blob movies. Like the film itself, the trailer for the first movie is pure bliss for monster movie lovers. It also made a prominent appearance in Grease. The trailer can be seen during the drive-in sequence. While the first is my favorite, all three trailers are good fun. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with The Blob.

Rest in peace, Mr. Harris.

Happy Birthday, Forbidden Planet!

 

On this day in 1956, audiences went beyond the stars and took a trip to Forbidden Planet!At a time when sci-fi films were largely seen as bottom-billed cheapies, Forbidden Planet was given a large budget and a literate script inspired by¬†no less than William Shakespeare. Armed with spectacular sights¬†and¬†intellectual concepts, Forbidden Planet struck a mighty blow against the¬†notion that science fiction films are inferior cinema. The critical success of the picture forced Hollywood to concede that a well-funded¬†science fiction¬†adventure could be successful, paving the way for¬†more big-budget sci-fi fare in the future.¬†Without¬†Forbidden Planet, we almost certainly wouldn’t have a Star Trek today, and the world would indeed be a darker place.

.Looking past its influence on the genre, Forbidden Planet is sheer perfection. Every single scene looks like it was ripped from the covers of the best pulp magazines. Despite being over a half-century old, this film still has the power to inspire true wonder and make wide-eyed children of us all. If you’ve ever had a taste for ray guns, robots, fantastic worlds, and monsters, this film was made for you. Those searching for something more profound will also have much admire in Forbidden Planet. Without wrecking the surprises, the film takes a Freudian concept and¬†mold it¬†into¬†one of the most terrifying monsters of the ’50s. The identity of the creature is so darn clever, I urge you to seek out the film for yourself to truly appreciate its awesome power.

The cast is quite good. Leslie Nielsen (yes, that Leslie Nielsen) is a surprisingly credible captain and was almost certainly an inspiration on Captain Kirk. Anne Francis is incredibly likable, while Walter Pidgeon is powerful as an intellectual plagued by his demons. Everyone is excellent, but there is one star that truly shines: newcomer Robby the Robot. His handsome features and deliberately cold delivering make him a true standout in a film filled with great talent. The talented young actor paved the way for Robo-Americans in motion pictures. His credits include The Invisible Boy, The Addams Family, Columbo, Gremlins, and Lost in Space. Oh, Robby… you truly are the King of Hollywood!

Happy Birthday, Forbidden Planet! You’ll always be out of this world!