TERROR IS A MAN
Some folks claim this 1959 film, which combines elements of FRANKENSTEIN and THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, is a horror classic. I disagree, but will concede that TERROR IS A MAN is above average, especially in the filmography of its producer, the schlock movie legend Eddie Romero.
The Filipino Edgar F. “Eddie” Romero (1924-2013) produced, wrote and/or directed close to a hundred films in a variety of genres, but it’s the many schlocky horror movies he churned out for which he’s best remembered. The Gerry de Leon directed TERROR IS A MAN was one of the first of Romero’s horror excursions, and perhaps the best.
The film was a success, albeit only during its 1965 rerelease (as BLOOD CREATURE). That release came complete with a William Castle-esque gimmick involving a ringing bell, as outlined in a pre-movie textual “WARNING” from “The Management” (included on the DVD) stating the film “has a scene so shocking that it is necessary to forewarn you,” and furthermore, “We suggest that the squeamish and faint-hearted close their eyes at the sound of the bell and reopen them when the bell rings again.”
TERROR IS A MAN led to a string of MOREAU inspired cheapies: BRIDES OF BLOOD, MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (both 1968), BEAST OF BLOOD/BLOOD DEVILS (1970) and THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972), none of which managed to replicate even a fraction of the initial film’s power.
On a secluded island a boat washes up containing one William Fitzgerald, the only survivor of a maritime disaster. He’s taken into the compound of Dr. Charles Girard, who is performing unholy experiments on a panther in an attempt at making it more human, together with his equally amoral sidekick Walter and seductive servant Selene. Girard’s virtuous wife Francis opposes the experiments, and with good reason: the creature has escaped its confines, and has taken to killing the locals.
This causes the native islanders to desert the island in mass. That, however, doesn’t deter the doctor from recapturing the panther-man and continuing his experimentation.
In the meantime Fitzgerald initiates a romance with Francis, and grows increasingly suspicious of her husband. Upon catching Fitzgerald looking through his papers one night Girard finally gives him a full accounting of his activities, and even allows Fitzgerald to observe one of the surgery sessions.
The following night Walter attempts to rape Francis in the surgery room, agitating the panther-man considerably. It breaks free of its confines once again, and this time the results are very severe.
This film is flawed in many aspects, from the overlong and repetitive shots of Fitzgerald wandering around the island compound to the romantic business between Fitzgerald and Francis, which falls flat. The same is true of the dialogue-driven minutiae of Girard’s experiments, which includes a lot of excess chatter about “brain expansion” and the precepts of evolution. Furthermore, the sight of the panther-man, which in standard horror movie parlance is saved until the final ten minutes, isn’t terribly impressive (being a guy wearing a cheap-looking mask).
Yet TERROR IS A MAN, unlike the majority of Eddie Romero’s subsequent productions, doesn’t descend completely into camp. The crisp and atmospheric black and white photography is a prime reason for that, as are the decent (if far from award worthy) performances of Francis Lederer as Dr. Girard and Richard Derr as Fitzgerald, who bring a fair amount of conviction to the proceedings.
The film was put together with a fair amount of carefully wrought skill, which is evident particularly in the tightly edited climax, eerily lit by flickering lights. It’s just too bad that climax also includes the crummy guy-in-a-mask reveal mentioned above, and an equally unimpressive dummy being thrown off a cliff.
TERROR IS A MAN (BLOOD CREATURE)
Independent-International Pictures Corp.
Director: “Gerry de Leon” (Gerardo de Leon)
Producers: Kane W. Lynn, Edgar F. Romero
Screenplay: Harry Paul Harber
Cinematography: Emmanuel I. Rojas
Editing: Gervacio Santos
Cast: Francis Lederer, Greta Thyssen, Richard Derr, Oscar Keesee, Lila Duran, Peyton Keesee, Flory Carlos