Full Moon Features: The Man and the Monster (1959)

When selling your soul to the Devil, it pays to be as specific as possible about the terms, otherwise Lucifer will feel duty-bound to screw you over in the most inconvenient and ironic way they can think of. In the Mexican horror film El Hombre y el Monstruo a.k.a. The Man and the Monster, mediocre concert pianist Samuel Magno (Manning in the English-language version) learns this the hard way when he offers up his soul, saying, “I want to play as no one else has ever played,” not realizing how much latitude he’s giving the Great Deceiver. True, Samuel does get to be “the greatest musical genius in the world,” but every time he sits down at the piano and plays, he transforms into a savage beast with hairy claws and a fur-filled face to match. Kinda throws a damper on any concert tours he had lined up in his head while completing his transaction with Satan.

Produced in the early days of the Mexican horror boom of the ’50s and ’60s, The Man and the Monster opens with an unnamed woman crashing her car and seeking help at a run-down mansion to which she’s drawn by the sound of piano music. As she approaches the door from which it is emanating, a raspy voice exhorts her to unlock it, which she does because “The Howling Man” episode of The Twilight Zone wouldn’t be made for another year and therefore couldn’t serve as an object lesson for her. Director Rafael Baledón doesn’t show what becomes of her immediately, though. That’s for the next driver on the scene, press agent Ricardo Souto (Richard Sandro in the English dub), to discover when he investigates the crash and finds the woman lying nearby with claw marks on her face. He, too, goes to the mansion for assistance, but is brusquely turned away by an old woman with a black cat who gives him the silent treatment.

This, as it turns out, is the domineering mother of Samuel (top-billed Enrique Rambal), who is actually the person Richard (Abel Salazar, brother of screenwriter Alfredo Salazar) is in town to see since he’s making arrangements for the debut of Samuel’s protege Laura (Martha Roth). For some reason, the tortured musician hopes this will be the means of his salvation, but his monstrous side has a way of asserting itself, especially when he hears a particularly sinister piece of music. Rambal is convincing as both title characters, since the pathetic Samuel and his aggressive alter ego operate independently of one another, a true split personality. Once his m.o. has been established, though, the action grows repetitive, with only a change of venue to the concert hall to spice things up. There is a nice scene near the end, however, when Samuel has vowed never to play again and is browbeaten into doing so by a girl who regrets being so insistent.