Terror is a Man - 1959
Terror is a Man - 1959 - Directed by Gerardo de Leon and Eddie Romero
A variation on The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, Terror is a Man is a Filipino monster movie that is a frequently quite well done despite limited budget and not really a lot of emphasis on the monster in the story. A nightmare story about medical advancement combined with blindness to the results, it is a tale that has been filmed many times since Wells' 1896 story about an island with a mad doctor on it was first published.
Though it bears a resemblance to Charles Laughton's Island of Lost Souls from 1932, the evil and maniacal element of the doctor isn't here on the screen, instead the post-atomic age view of well-meaning scientists who just don't realize the consequences of what they're up to is what informs the portrayal by actor Francis Lederer of researcher Dr. Charles Girard.
Actor Richard Derr plays a survivor of a shipwreck who is washed ashore on the tropical island where the researcher and his wife Frances (Greta Thyssen) live and operate a laboratory where the Doc is trying to transform a panther into a man. This turns out to be a pretty bad idea.
Very good black and white photography and steady pacing help the story move along, but its got a slow build up to the monster (we barely see our panther-man until the end) which means we're treated to a lot of dialogue and melodrama about the malfunctioning relationship between the Doctor and his wife, and that isn't too original since frustrated wives and their mad-doctor husbands has been a constant of horror films since the inception of the cinematic genre. Usually an unexpected interloper (in this case Derr) causes the matter to come to a head, which it does here.
Despite the imitation and familiarity of the plot, its all handled in a professional way with intelligent scripting, and the cast is used visually to good advantage, with Greta Thyssen, Francis Lederer and Richard Derr carefully photographed (especially Thyssen), and the scenery of the Philippines makes for a lot of nice backgrounds.
A certain stately quality pervades the proceedings which combined with the visuals and cast help make this monster movie more unique than it would be otherwise. Though I've indicated there's a lot of duplication here from other, earlier monster movies, Terror is a Man is mostly presented in a style from an era earlier than 1959, separating it from the many exploitation (and much faster paced) Filipino monster movies than came out in the 1960s and into the 1970s. The same holds true for the monster films of the late fifties in general, meaning Terror is a Man is a kind of throwback to a classier low budget monster film, which is a way of saying Terror is a Man is a unique film all its own.
"The original and best Filipino horror film." --The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film
From former screen legends who have faded into obscurity to new revelations about the biggest movie stars, Valderrama unearths the most fascinating little-known tales from the birth of Hollywood through its Golden Age.
Winner of the 2020 Peter C. Rollins Book Award
Longlisted for the 2020 Moving Image Book Award by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation
Named a 2019 Richard Wall Memorial Award Finalist by the Theatre Library Association
Original Page January 21, 2021 | Updated May 25, 2021