A psychic's girlfriend finds out that a lump on her back is a growing reincarnation of a 400-year-old demonic Native American spirit.A psychic's girlfriend finds out that a lump on her back is a growing reincarnation of a 400-year-old demonic Native American spirit.A psychic's girlfriend finds out that a lump on her back is a growing reincarnation of a 400-year-old demonic Native American spirit.
Based off a novel by hack horror author and sex manual writer Graham Masterton, the movie begins when Susan Strasberg discovers she has a thing in her neck. At first, it appears to be a tumor. As the growth continues to, uh, grow, baffled scientist realizes a fetus is developing inside her neck. Attempts to remove the growth results in disaster. Strasberg's friend Tony Curtis, a phony medium, soon discovers that the tumor is actually the reborn spirit of an ancient, evil Indian shaman. Once the spirit reaches maturity and enters our world, things gets craaaaazy.
"The Manitou" escalates in ridiculousness as it goes on. This is impressive, considering the movie begins with an Indian shaman being reborn through a tumor on a lady's neck. First off, it cast an aging Tony Curtis as a romantic league, in a relationship with the noticeably younger Susan Strasberg. Wearing a succession of unflattering tight shirts, Curtis cons old ladies with chicanery so hackneyed and obvious only a delusional old lady would believe it. The first sign that "The Manitou" will be rife with unintentional hilarity is when one of Curtis' elderly clients begins to chant in ancient languages and float inches above the floor to her death. The second big laugh comes when Curtis' hippy-dippy friends make the top of the villain's head appear. Just the top. When a surgical laser goes ballistics, the audience is far more likely to laugh then scream. Everything in "The Manitou" is pitched at a hysterical level.
About an hour in, "The Manitou" leaps from campy to goofy. A greasy-haired, dark skinned dwarf crawls out of Strasberg's back. The character's attempts to fight him off prove unsuccessful. The reborn shaman summons an evil spirit, which is shown by having an actor in an unconvincing giant lizard costume slither around on the floor. He freezes the entire floor of the hospital, including the present staff. Tony tosses a typewriter at the little person, which melodramatically explodes. (Because everything, even man-made objects, has manitous, you see.) This prompts the Manitou to toss decapitated heads, snow, and wind at the heroes. In its last ten minutes, "The Manitou" completely looses its mind. Curtis and his ethnic Indian friend open a doorway to outer space. Electric energy shoots through the hospital and explodes a doctor while Misquamacus laughs uproariously. A giant eyeball floats behind them, shooting beams of light and asteroids at everyone. The naked Strasberg rises from her bed, shoots lasers out of her hands, and beats the evil back. This is the kind of wacked out, hilarious imagery only seen in seventies B-flicks. God bless 'em.
Despite its unforgettable moments, much of "The Manitou" drags. Really, up until the last half-hour, the film is massively boring. Curtis slums about, disinterested. Strasberg spends most of the story bed-ridden. The sleuthing and studying of American Indian spiritualism mostly amounts to people sitting around and talking. Only Burgess Meredith's amusingly kooky cameo enlivens this portion of the film. Even then, Meredith delivers dialogue about the Indian population that is fairly offensive. Also offensive: The film's resident stereotypical medicine man character who is played by Michael Ansara who was, of course, Syrian. Heck, even the evil Misquamacus is played by an Italian, short actor Felix Silla. Honestly, if you fast-forward until the latter section of the film, you wouldn't be missing much.
There's very little intentionally good about "The Manitou." Lalo Schifrin's score is decent, incorporating traditional tribal music in with his usual action style. Michel Hugo's cinematography is quite lovely. While the digital effects are laughable, the practical effects actually aren't bad. Though the images Girdler presents on screen are absurd, there's no denying the guy had a flare for the dramatic. You're unlikely to forget "The Manitou," or at least parts of it anyway. Bad movie lovers should check it out, for sure.
- Nov 3, 2013