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TERROR IS A MAN (directors: Gerardo de Leon/Eddie Romero; screenwriters: from a book by H.G. Wells “The Island of Dr. Moreau”/Harry Paul Harber; cinematographer: Emmanuel I. Rojas; editor: Gervasio Santos; music: Ariston Auelio; cast: Francis Lederer (Dr. Charles Girard), Greta Thyssen (Frances Girard), Oscar Keesee (Walter), Richard Derr (Fitzgerald), Lilio Duran (Selene), Peyton Keesee (Tiago), Flory Carlos (Beast-Man); Runtime: 89; United Artists; 1959-USA/Philippines)
“A dull-witted horror/sci-fier that is inspired by H.G. Wells.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dull-witted horror/sci-fier that is inspired by H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” Derr is a shipwrecked American, the lone survivor from the freighter, stuck on this remote island somewhere one thousand miles off the coast of Peru. He’s rescued and given shelter by the island’s surgeon, Lederer, a transplanted Manhattanite who is here for the last two years with his curvaceous wife Greta Thyssen, his nurse for his cutting-edge lab experiments. Also present is his not so loyal assistant Oscar Keesee.

Lederer captured a panther and hopes to change it into a man, as his aim is to create the perfect human being through his surgical procedures and by injecting a chemical into the brain that enlarges it. So far no dice, as the monster repeatedly escapes captivity in the lab and in the process kills the few islanders who still live here. This causes Thyssen to say whenever she can, “I’m not lonely, I’m frightened.” Most of the native islanders have fled because of the experiments, and after this last escape the only ones left are the friendly houseboy Tiago and the uncommunicative Selene.

Warning: spoilers in the next two paragraphs.

Nothing much happens till the absurd finale. The stupid looking Derr has an affair with Greta, ingratiates himself with the helpful houseboy, Tiago, and asks stupid questions about osteology–a subject this barroom brawler heading back to San Francisco knows nothing about. When the monster escapes, Lederer traps it in a pit and brings it back for another operation, as Oscar tells anyone who would listen–the doc is insane.

The beauty in this story is in how dumb, humorless, and unexciting it is, and how straightforward and serious it is played. When the monster has his fill of the doctor and his surgery he escapes again and goes on a rampage, killing the mean-spirited Oscar who made a pass at Greta during the surgery procedure and the gentle servant Selene. He then kidnaps Greta, King Kong-style, which causes the doc to cajole him to return his piece of ass to him. Instead the monster picks Lederer up and throws him off a cliff, as Derr shoots and wounds him and winds up with doc’s wife. Tiago, for some unexplained reason, gives the monster a boat to escape the island. The next expected boat is two months away, so I guess Greta, Derr, and Tiago will have to find something to do until then without the monster and doc.

I don’t know what the moral of the story is, but if you are in the mood to see a dumb film–look no further. This one is strictly for lovers of horror films.

REVIEWED ON 11/20/2001 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”