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The Manitou

Directed by William Girdler

Written by William Girdler, Jon Cedar, Thomas Pope

Starring Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara, Susa Strasberg, Stella Stevens

Produced by William Girdler

Rated PG

104 minutes

***

Once again, Anchor Bay goes off to salvage with the 1978 quasi-classic, “The Manitou.” Not surprisingly, Anchor Bay manages to pull off yet another coup.

And this time around, Anchor Bay pulls from the depths a story about a woman with a strange growth on the back of her neck. It expands exponentially, is comprised of flesh and bone—did I mention it has mind control powers?

Yeah, it has mind control powers.

The biggest problem with this is I can’t tell you much more without spoilering like no tomorrow. When you find out what that lump actually turns out to be, and how the woman’s friends and loved ones have to recruit a medicine man from the wilds of South Dakota to fight it, you’ll start questioning your sanity really, really hard. I sure did.

All I can really say with any kind of certainty is man, did they ever make ‘em weird back in the seventies. Opening credit crawls that take three and a half minutes of blank space to complete, old ladies levitating and throwing themselves down stairs, seances that include explosions, an optical laser gone cuckoo bananas, and lots and lots of green lighting effects combine together to form a whole that requires recreational pharmaceuticals to match.

I will say this for them, though…the pacing was surprisingly quick. I was never really tempted to jam on that fast forward button just to find out what was going on. They kept the plot moving at a sufficient pace to really eliminate that restlessness that sometimes occurs in movies. The effects, despite their clear age, weren’t all that terrible either. I think they really had to exercise at least a little subtlety and depend on the story to do most of the work back when effects technology wasn’t so prevalent. These factors combine together to make a pretty decent viewing experience, if you’re willing to overlook some weirdness and some clearly aging material.

And then the ending hits. Ten solid minutes of pure, full-blown “what the hell?” moments. Trust me on this one—if you were questioning your sanity through the preceding time, you’ll be questioning what’s in the air you’re breathing when you get to the last ten minutes.

Even better is a surprise twist that lets us know—this is actually, kinda sorta, in a really limited way, based on a true story. A fifteen year old boy in Tokyo had something similar happen to him in 1969, or so the movie says.

The special features are limited to English closed captioning and trailers for “The Manitou,” “It Waits,” “Superstition,” and “Demon Hunter.” There will also be a television spot for “The Manitou,” and a set of trailers that runs prior to the film includes one for “The Entity.”

All in all, “The Manitou” is another treasure ship brought up from the depths on one of Anchor Bay’s many salvage missions. Aging and weird, much like the crazy old lady down the street with fifty cats and a house full of empty mayonnaise jars, but still entertaining (again like our hypothetical raving geriatric), “The Manitou” will prove to be a solid experience.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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