Film

Don’t Open That Door! #21: 'Man Beast' (1956)

Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: things get bestial in Man Beast


Man Beast

Director: Jerry Warren
Cast: Asa Maynor, George Skaff, Tom Maruzzi, Lloyd Nelson, Wong Sing
US release date: 1956-12-05

Alternative titles: That Abominable Abominable Snowman Movie; You Ain't Seen Nothin', Yeti

POSITIVES:

It's short (only 63 minutes).

Touch if mystery as to why Connie needs to find her brother so badly.

Cool alpine location.

One genuinely startling/shocking moment.

NEGATIVES:

Lotsa time spent walking around… and around… and around…

When your first Positive is "It's short," that kinda tells you all you need to know.

SYNOPSIS: Odd-looking Connie visits the Himalayas, a bitterly cold region of the world for which she has prepared by wearing a sleeveless dress. She's searching for her brother Jim, a scientist who disappeared while working with "famous anthropologist" Dr. Ericson, who is himself researching the Yeti—a curious and vicious breed of beast-men living in the mountains. Connie, who appears to sport a few Yeti genes herself from certain angles, goes clomping off with her companion Trevor, heading for high altitudes with alpine-savvy Steve, despite his warning that every expedition into the mountains has lost at least one member under mysterious circumstances. Well, "mysterious" to the apparently oxygen-deprived researchers, if not to you or me.


Surviving bad hats and a landslide of viciously dropped pieces of styrofoam, our intrepid heroes push on. (This woman must really love her brother.) Tempers flare, but this proves to be the least of their problems. Who knew that Trevor was such a whiner? Once they catch up with Ericson (you can tell he’s a scientist by his thick glasses and Sigmund Freud goatee), he tells Connie that brother Jim is up at the camp, a day or so away. Connie can't wait to see him. Are you getting that same queasy feeling I'm getting? Good.

When they get to the camp, it's—surprise!—trashed and deserted, with no sign of Jim or anyone else. On top of that, the guide (an inscrutible Asian man who's been glowering in a sinister fashion throughout) disappears. Oh dear. Showing further good judgment, the group splits up, with Connie and Trevor staying behind at camp while Ericson and Steve go off to search of the others, flaunting their "alpine smarts" by sitting down in snowdrifts and smoking cigarettes in the thinnest atmosphere on the planet. Shockingly, this does little to get them out of their current jam. When the even-stranger-looking-than-Connie Mr. Varga shows up back at the camp—he was Jim's guide, apparently—it leaves only Jim missing.

At this point we see a lot more pictures of people walking through the snow, and then climbing through the snow, and then walking across the snow at night. Then we see more of this. And then a HORRIBLE SECRET IS REVEALED. Then there's some conversation and ANOTHER HORRIBLE SECRET IS REVEALED. And after that there's more conversation—and more walking around in the mountains—but not too much. There is a bit of a fight, though, and some people get hurt, or worse. After all, mountain climbing can be dangerous.

Best lines of dialogue in the movie: "He may be getting a touch of the altitude. It affects some people."

What gets ruined: Some scientists (by report); a whiner; a brother (we assume); a guy who looks like Lenin; an abominable, hairy critter; another critter, arguably even more abominable although (somewhat) less hairy.

Keep an eye out for: leiderhosen; shorts; silly hats with feathers.

Did you notice? The sound effects when Steve is getting smacked around at the end of the movie are truly bizarre. Like two pieces of bamboo being whacked, or something.

Somehow their careers survived—or did they? Virginia Maynor aka Asa Maynor (Connie) debuted in this movie; her career went on to include such highlights as Born Reckless (1958) and The Girl in Lovers' Lane (1959), but fans of column will want to spot her in 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. George Skaff (Varga) would feature in director Jerry Warren's The Incredible Petrified World (1957) as well as 1972 killer-amphibians flick Frogs and 1977's Exorcist III: The Heretic. Neither George Wells Lewis (Dr. Ericson), Wong Sing (inscrutable, but nameless, guide), nor Tom Maruzzi (Steve) ever appeared in any other movie (though Maruzzi wrote a couple). But Lloyd Nelson (Trevor) had a long career of bit parts in films like 1970's M*A*S*H, Sudden Impact (1983) and Pretty Woman (1990). He also appeared in Incredible Petrified World alongside Skaff. Besides Petrified World, producer/director Jerry Warren would go on to make the excruciating Teenage Zombies (1959), which gets my vote as the worst 1950s sci-fi movie, bar none. ("And that," as my mom would declare, "is saying something!")

BOTTOM LINE: Not the worst way to spend an hour of your life, but probably not in anybody's Top 100 Best Ways, either.

NEXT WEEK: The Unearthly aka House of Monsters (1957)

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