Terror Is a Man (1959)

Terror is a Man PosterFor those of you who can’t get enough of those silly stories about mad scientists who somehow think that giving plastic surgery to large non-biped animals is going to turn those animals into people, we have this Filipino version of H.G. Wells’ story, The Island of Dr. Moreau. This version isn’t as flamboyant as the more popular Charles Laughton version (Island Of Lost Souls), chiefly because there is no one here poured into a white ice cream suit like the tubby Moreau was in that version.

However, for those of you who demand action of the portly kind and think that every Moreau-style movie needs a beefy element, there is a particularly horrific scene where the doctor’s assistant, Walter, comes out of a house with his shirt unbuttoned and his beer belly hanging out.

It isn’t often that I gasp during a movie anymore, but I’m man enough to admit that I felt a sharp intake of breath as I got a gander at that quarter ton of fun rumbling off into the jungle, no doubt in search of some Ho-Ho flavored jackfruit.

Like all versions of Moreau (if you’re going to steal from the best, why change anything at all?), this one starts off with some scruffy shipwreck survivor. His name is William Fitzgerald and his boat blew up and he was the only survivor. He’s a petroleum engineer, so he’s obviously well-qualified to help out the mad doctor who inhabits the island.

Dr. Charles Girard is vaguely Latin and is pretty much just a regular old scientist who is really into his work and ignores his pretty wife. Her name is Frances and she’s a bit miffed because he’s spending all this time on his experiments, but really what pisses her off is that she had to spend two years on this hot island with Walter, requiring lots of what could be called “shirt optional – grotesquely distended belly mandatory” lab days.

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Once Fitzgerald is rescued by Girard and Walter, we begin to learn a little bit about the situation on the island. Fitzgerald wonders about when a boat will show up so that he can go back to the States.

Oh, there’s not any boat coming, says Girard. Okay, then we should probably radio the shore and have them send someone, okay? You know, we just don’t have any radios at the moment. Sorry.

Even though it looks like Fitzgerald is going to have go the old message in bottle routine, he doesn’t seem too upset with the prospect of spending the rest of his days on this island.

Around this time, Walter announces to Girard that some beast is on the loose. This is the first inkling we have that this is going to be a Dr. Moreau situation. It’s made clear that having the beast on the loose is a bad thing and we learn that the beast has killed several people.

Now, this animal stalks the night and puts a big scare into the villagers by eating one of them or something, causing them to take off in their boats and desert the island. I found this interesting since Girard said they were 1000 miles off the coast of Peru. I’m not real familiar with the geography of the area, but I’m assuming that there’s probably not a whole lot of places to go.

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Also, couldn’t Girard have told Fitzgerald to get one of these villages to give him a lift in their canoes to where ever? If he’s conducting secret experiments and playing God, wouldn’t he want to get rid of the outsider as soon as possible?

Fitzgerald is rapidly assigned a servant boy named Tiago who provides him with breakfast, a good shave, and a clean set of clothes. Tiago also provides him with a good luck charm that doesn’t have much to do with anything except it’s an easy way to foreshadow the problems to come. You know – man-beast on the loose, mad scientist playing God, lard ass assistant trying to rape blonde hussy – that sort of thing.

Fitzgerald runs into Girard and his buddies in the jungle and they tell him to watch it because there’s a freshly dug pit they’ve rigged up to catch the beast that’s on the loose. Girard is a bit vague as to what sort of animal he’s trying to trap and Fitzgerald offers to help, but instead ends up hanging out with Mrs. Girard.

Later he ends up hanging out on her lips when she’s lolling around on the beach and bemoaning the fact that her husband would rather mount a expedition to trap the creature rather than her. As you can imagine, Fitzgerald completely understands her feelings as well as her voluptuous figure and they immediately fall in love.

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Fitzgerald, having nothing better to do (until his date with the scientist’s wife later that night) decides to pitch in and see if he can’t play a little part in creating life.

I wasn’t sure exactly where Fitzgerald was coming from. He was ready to help out the guy, then started snooping around and found out that Girard was going to be using a panther and turn it into a man, then had one of those “important” discussions with Girard about how man shouldn’t try and create life, but should just sit back and let nature take its course, then he was all about helping Girard out again. He just didn’t seem to have strong convictions either way. I guess when you’re shipwrecked on an island with a mad scientist and his busty blonde wife, it pays to be a bit pragmatic.

The performances here were solid enough, with the character of Girard being a cut above the usual ego-maniac freak. He wasn’t a complete jerk like Laughton’s Moreau, but then he didn’t have the same motivations or sexual orientation issues that Moreau had.

The tropical locales let this effort stand out from the usual low budget mad-scientist affair and you’d wish they would have taken better advantage of their shooting location and featured it more prominently. An okay film, but it suffers quite a bit from the shoddy print Madacy used for its DVD release of the film.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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