#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. 😉

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:

Comic Book Review: Army of Darkness: Shop Till You Drop Dead

(Submitted for your New Comic Book Day reading pleasure by Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks, you Groovy Guy, you!!  😉 xoxo)

“Grab the keys to the Oldsmobile and break out the boomstick ’cause Ash is back! The wisecracking everyman with a chin of steel comes face to face with something worse than Deadite possession: Unemployment.” (Dynamite)

Just as the Ashes 2 Ashes story picked up right where the movie adaptation left off, Shop Till You Drop Dead carries over the ramifications from Ashes 2 Ashes. Specifically Ash is called into his boss’s office, where he is informed that he will have to pay for the damages caused to the S-Mart store in his last battle with the Deadites. He will reimburse the store by forfeiting a paycheck for several years, until the hefty bill is paid off. In a rare occurrence, the consequences of our protagonist’s actions are dealt with and have consequences. Writer James Kuhoric does in a horror book what most superhero books fail, ignore or, are too fearful of doing. Prior to the craziness recommencing, we get a little taste of Ash’s normal work life dynamic. In these areas of the story, there seems to be a nod to the Archie comic books happening. Sheila and Mindy are both vying for Ash’s romantic attentions, while fellow employee’s look on in shock and amazement, curiously wondering how too beautiful women could be attracted to such a scatterbrained, arrogant individual. This absolutely mimics the love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica, and how their peers in Riverdale react to it. The Necronomicon returns in this book, after Ash’s boss, while on vacation, finds it on a resort in Egypt buried in the sand. Firstly, I like the continuity detail to the last story. Remember at the end of last issue, the book was buried in the sands of ancient Egypt. Secondly, the Necronomicon, I’d imagine, is like a mystical STD. No matter how much you treat certain STD’s they don’t go away. Just as, it appears no matter how many times this book is destroyed, it keeps coming back. The crazy action picks up when most customers in the S-Mart are revealed to be Deadites. Here’s where this book has to be careful. The scenes of the Deadite attack on the S-Mart are extremely similar to scenes from the movie adaptation. We have mini Deadite Ashes again, one of his colleagues loses a hand to a Deadite bite. Ash finds a chainsaw, attaches it to his coworkers hand and has him join the fight. It’s as if the writer said; “Well this worked before and everyone liked it, so let’s do it again!” The most intriguing aspect of this fight, is the fact that it takes place in the S-Mart, which provides our hero plenty of foreign convenience store objects to use in his arsenal. Another unique moment of this story is the time travel portion. Instead of going back into the past, Ash is thrown 500 years into the future. The Deadites are still plaguing humanity and the Necronomicon is still this mythologies McGuffin. Although, it is a digital computer program, which makes sense that far into the future. Hell, books are going digital now, imagine what’ll happen 500 years from now. Also, in the future, Ash’s battles with the Deadites have gone down in the annals of history. This ties in nicely with his trip to the past, where he was a part of the prophecy and his battles with Deadites were foretold. In both the past and future, the people Ash meets find it preposterous when he tells him he is that warrior battling the Deadites. That commonality between past and future, along with Ash’s attempts to justify his claims are hilarious. Once Ash gets back to the present, his defeat of the Deadites is rather predictable to be honest. However, the last act is redeemed by the Easter egg at books end, which hints at the arrival of an evil, robotic Deadite Ash from the future to present day Detroit.

While the writer changed for this story, art was still handled by Nick Bradshaw, with an assist by Sanford Greene on the third issue. It seems to me that with every issue Nick Bradshaw tries to top himself with the bloody violence and gore. Seeing a Deadite get shot in the face and back of the head, caused some epic levels of blood spatter and grotesque facial disfigurement. The page where Ash finds the chainsaw stuck in that fake log, and the store display is lit up and he pulls the chainsaw out of the display, had a nod and hint of the Sword in the Stone to it. The overt sexiness with which Mindy and Sheila were drawn was of the charts. It had me wondering when we’ll get an Ash Vs the Evil Dead porn parody. Or has there been one and I somehow missed it? The scene in the cellar of the S-Mart, was the most traditional looking horror locale in the whole book. The coloring gave it an appropriate atmosphere. The Deadite possessed furnace looked pretty badass, but reminded me of that scene in Home Alone. You know the one I’m talking about. The art in issue 3 was even more cartoonish and stylized then Nick Bradshaw, so I’m not too hot on Sanford Greene’s work overall. However, there are two aspects I enjoyed. First was the metallic look of the future. It matched perfectly with a society that was 100% reliant on technology for everything. Secondly, the imagery of Ash fighting with a futuristic computerized Deadite version of himself looked like a mashup of Tron Legacy and Mega Man.

This book wasn’t as good as the Army of Darkness Movie adaptation or Ashes 2 Ashes. It relied too much on sticking to the tropes of the series and felt more like déjà vu then a new story. Having said that, this book was a hell of a lot of fun. It’s so crazy and violent and funny, I’m willing to forgive them resting on their laurels. So long as it doesn’t keep happening over and over. This definitely is still a must read for fans of the series.

Comic Book Review: “Army of Darkness” Movie Adaptation

(Big thanks to Prince Adam for this…Sorry I didn’t quite get it posted in time for the Starz premiere, but acts of pure genius take time, y’know??? 😉 xoxo)

“Adapted from the screenplay by Sam and Ivan Raimi. Adapted and illustrated by John Bolton. This trade paperback presents the complete adaptation of the Army of Darkness feature film! Featuring 88 pages of non-stop Ash action”

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When the description says complete adaptation of the feature film, they really mean it. It’s pretty much all here. The book does move at a brisk pace, but not because the story’s been dramatically edited, but rather because the story hits the ground running and never allows you a chance, want, or need to put it down. All the major moments from the film are all covered and handled faithfully. We have Ash’s discovery of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, and his subsequent transportation to 1300 A.D. We see his time as a slave, and his ultimate emergence as a hero when he escapes the pit, and battles the deadite and survive. The battle at the windmill with the mini mirror versions of himself is intact, and affirmed itself as one of my favourite moments of the book, just as it was in the film. And then of course, the third act battle with his evil doppelganger Anti-Ash and his undead army, For me, this adaptation because even though I’ve seen it, the change in mediums from film to comic, makes it fresh and exciting. And if you haven’t seen any of the Evil Dead films, and somehow stumble upon this comic book/graphic novel, you will be fascinated. It’s probably one of the darkest, weirdest sci-fi/horror stories I’ve ever read, while also being the most humorous. Speaking of humor, a lot of it comes from the thought bubbles. When Ash is monologing in his mind, it seems as if he’s recounting the story we are seeing, presumable to a co-work like in the film. Most of the humorous dialogue can be found here. There’s one crack about horses, that I’m sure wouldn’t make PETA laugh, but hearing the line in Bruce Campbell’s voice, certainly made me chuckle. You can’t help but love the character of Ash, he’s the everyman. He’s brash, tells it like it is, has a penchant for violence, and will kick ass when he needs to, and likes to kick back with some beers. If you think of it, he’s like the horror genre’s Stone Cold Steve Austin in a way. Even though he stays in the past long enough to help vanquish his Deadite clone and the Army of Darkness, and even though he begins to fall for Sheila, it never feels like one of those forced or clichéd moments. Ash’s personality is never compromised to placate Hollywood stereotypes. I loved that the book chose to use the films intended ending, rather than the one featured in the theatrical cut of the film. Ash drinking too much potion, and oversleeping, and waking up in what looks like a post apocalyptic London. This ending works because it is more in line with Ash being a bit aloof, and it makes sense that he’d drink too much of the potion, causing him to oversleep, thus waking up in the wrong time. It also offers plenty of story potential that I hope the comic books delve into.

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John Bolton not only adapted the film’s screenplay from a writing standpoint, he also drew the adaptation. Being both writer and artist on a book is demanding work, so Mr. Bolton gets an extra tip of the hat from me. What I like about the art is that the characters bare a very strong resemblance to their live action counterparts. It’s not as true to life, or detailed as Alex Ross art, but virtually no one can live up to that standard. But the resemblance to Bruce Campbell helped because I was hearing his voice when I read the dialogue. It definitely made for a more immersive experience. Two scenes that were drawn absolutely perfectly were the battle with the Deadite in the pit, and Ash Vs the Mini-Mirror versions of himself. This is a fine example of transplanting screen to page. I think these two pages are the closest you can get to transferring the actual film cells to the printed page. As far as a favourite single page, that would have to be the third page where Evil Ash has his deadites bring Sheila to a baron location, and we see him sitting on a makeshift throne in the middle of nowhere. This page visual hits the point home that Evil Ash is the King of the dead. Also, for anyone else who read it, was there a little bit of nip slip when Evil Ash was forcefully groping Sheila, or were my eyes playing a trick on me? Every time I see something set in a medieval period, my mind always drifts to Game of Thrones, and I fell into that trap again, until Ash’s tricked out Oldsmobile Delta 88 comes crashing through the castle door. You’d think without the sounds or musical score of a film that, the juxtaposition of that imagery would feel awkward or seem out of place maybe? Nope, it’s just a badass action sequence. The only problem I had art wise, was what seemed to be an almost Instagram like filter on the page. I would assume this is a colorists decision, and at times the grainy look of it took away from the detail of the art. Secondly, the blood and gore in this book seemed to be predominantly take place in the first issue of the three issue arc and was pretty sparse the rest of the way. Maybe it’s just the way the screenplay had to be split into comic book form, but I remember the film featuring more blood and gore.

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If you’ve seen this movie or any movie in the Evil Dead trilogy, this graphic novel, will elicit positive memories for you. Don’t be surprised if you are in the mood to have a marathon viewing of the entire trilogy. A newbie to the franchise will definitely get everything they need to get hooked on the series, and be left wanting more. Either way, this book is a great primer to get you ready for Ash Vs Evil Dead which brings the series to live action television on Starz, premiering which premiered on Halloween (and was awesome 😉  -D.P. ;)).