THE MANSTER (1959) Blu-ray
Directors: George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Made during the golden age of United Artists horror and sci-fi, THE MANSTER is a schlocky two-headed monster picture that pre-dates other more popular ones by more than a decade (THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT, THE THING WITH TWO HEADS). Shot in English in Japan as a U.S./Japan co-production, viewing this one late at night is a great way to kill 72 minutes, and now it's on Blu-ray!.

THE MANSTER concerns American journalist Larry Stanford (British-born Peter Dyneley, CHATO’S LAND) who visits a reclusive scientist, Dr. Robert Suzuki (Japanese sci-fi film regular Tetsu Nakamura, LATITUDE ZERO, THE LAST DINOSAUR) for an interview in Japan. The scientist seduces Stanford with booze and bathing geisha girls, and he's soon ignoring his wife, his job and all other responsibilities, turning his attentions to Suzuki's lovely assistant (Terri Zimmern). Suzuki, who already transformed his late brother into a murderous ape-like creature, actually has intentions on using the American as a guinea pig, injecting him with a serum that causes an eye to grow from his shoulder. Soon, the eye grows into an ugly head, and a two-headed monster in a Columbo raincoat is terrorizing Japan.

THE MANSTER is a memorable piece of monster movie trash, as many kids saw this on TV in the 1960s and 1970s when it aired as part of a UA package of scare flicks (clips from it later turned up in the innovative 1982 compilation flick, IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD). Seeing a guy with a blinking eye on his shoulder, then a ghastly second head, then an actual body split (the second head becomes a furry ape) made this pretty unforgettable. Shot entirely in Japan, the film is talky at times, but the last few minutes are totally insane. There's also the added bonus of Suzuki's horrifying (and very loud!) mutant wife (a sagging, protruding fleshy eye socket: nasty!) being kept in a laboratory cage. British actress Jane Hylton (CIRCUS OF HORRORS) plays the American's wife and Jerry Ito from MOTHRA plays a police superintendent.

A public domain favorite that was once given a legitimate laserdisc release (as part of a UA horror box set), THE MANSTER was released by numerous budget DVD labels over the years. Scream Factory has now licensed the film from MGM, and are delivering it on Blu-ray in a widescreen format for the first time on home video. The film is presented 1080p HD in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, with the overall image looking impressive. The source print is in fairly nice shape, with only few white specks that pop up every now and then. Detail is properly sharp, contrast and black levels are very good, and there’s a light, tight level of grain present throughout. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is clear with no noticeable problems. No trailer is included (it famously played on a 1962 double bill with HORROR CHAMBER OF DR. FAUSTUS aka EYES WITHOUT A FACE), but there is a still gallery not only showcasing that theatrical pairing, but also when the film played under its alternate title, THE SPLIT. (George R. Reis)