MEMORIES OF THE MANSTER! Actress Terri Zimmern Shares Her Recollections of the Enduring, Made-in-Japan Cult Classic!

Actress Terri Zimmern in the clutches of The Manster.

The Manster (1959) remains a beloved cult classic and has been a staple of late-night television for decades. Very little information has since come out about its production, and interviews with the cast and crew have proven to be scarce. One of the film’s most memorable characters is the sympathetic lab assistant, Tara, who works under the guidance of Dr. Suzuki (Tetsu Nakamura). She was played by Terri Zimmern, but no one seemed to know any details about this particular actress. Until now.

Terri Zimmern was born in Macau. She lived in Hong Kong for the greater part of her youth until the Second World War when she lived with her extended family in Macau. Naturally, life was difficult for a young girl during the war. When the war ended, Ms. Zimmern moved back to Hong Kong. There, she married and had a daughter. The marriage did not work out, but her daughter became the light of her life. Ms. Zimmern speaks five languages and is always amused when someone wants to know what her accent is. Now in her 80s, Ms. Zimmern remains a beautiful and elegant woman.

In July 2018, Brett Homenick reached out to the family of Ms. Zimmern, who agreed to an interview about The Manster via correspondence. In January 2019, Ms. Zimmern’s answers were received, and our interview is presented below. 

BH: How did you get cast in The Manster?

TZ: The producers were in Hong Kong casting for the movie. A friend of mine had met the producers and recommended me. At the request of my friend, without ever imagining I would be hired as an actress, I met the producers and the directors. I was offered the job, but deferred to my family for advice. Ultimately, I accepted the offer; what harm could it bring, and what fun it could be.

BH: The Manster is also sometimes called The Split. When you shot the movie, what was the title?

TZ: The original name of the film was The Split, but as I recall there was already a film by that name, so it was changed to The Manster.

BH: Due to your role in the film, some fans have wondered whether you might have some Japanese background. For the record, what is your real ancestry?

TZ: I am Eurasian, of Portuguese, Chinese, Scot(ch) and German heritage. My family on both sides go back generations in Hong Kong and Macau.

BH: Two directors are credited on the film, George P. Breakston and Kenneth Crane. Why was this the case? Who would you say was the principal director?

TZ: Mr. Breakston and Mr. Crane were good friends and shared directing the film. They each had their different production experience to draw from.

BH: What kind of direction were you given, and how did you approach your character?

TZ: Not having any acting experience, I relied on the other actors and the directors for advice. I remember Mr. Nakamura was very generous and helped me. Mr. Nakamura was the consummate gentleman. He was very serious about his performance and was very supportive of my effort. Later, when Mr. Nakamura came to Hong Kong for work, we would socialize.

BH: Do you have any memories of working with Peter Dyneley, who starred in the film?

TZ: I do not have many memories of Mr. Dyneley or the other actors. After a day of filming, I did not do a lot of socializing.

BH: The set of the scientist’s underground laboratory is quite impressive, especially with the woman who played his “failed experiment” in the cage. Could you share with us what you recall about it?

TZ: I remember that the underground laboratory set was very impressive to me. The woman in the cage was very good; she took her role very seriously. The laboratory, mountain office, and volcano edge were all built on a stage.

BH: Do you know how the special makeup effects were done (on either the Manster or the woman in the cage)?

TZ: The special effects makeup crew was in a different area from my makeup room. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of the special effects makeup process.

BH: Was all of the movie shot in Japan? Were any scenes shot in the U.S.?

TZ: The entire film was shot in Japan. We filmed in many locations throughout Japan.

BH: What sort of things did you do in Japan when you were not filming?

TZ: When not filming, I spent some time shopping, eating in wonderful restaurants, and going to nightclubs.

BH: What was your opinion about working and living in Japan during production?

TZ: The time I spent in Japan was one of the best times of my life.

Special thanks to Mike Barnum.

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