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Thursday, April 12, 2012

THE MANITOU

Michael Ansara and Tony Curtis confront the Unknown
THE MANITOU (1978). Director: William Girdler.

Fake San Francisco spiritualist Harry Erskine (Tony Curtis) learns that an old girlfriend of his, Karen Tandy (Susan Strasberg), has a little bit of a problem. She has a tumor growing on her back, it's getting larger, and it appears to be a fetus! Erskine discovers that the fetus is the reborn spirit of a nasty Indian medicine man, and enlists the aid of a modern-day equivalent, John Singing Rock (Michael Ansara), to fight the medicine man and the evil gods it conjures. Their only allies are the spirits -- or "manitous" -- of the objects around them. Before long the hospital has become a battle zone as they fight for Karen Tandy's soul amidst corpses turned inside out, frozen, decapitated nurses, and other signs of murder and mayhem. The movie, based on a novel by Graham Masterton, has an interesting cast: Besides the aforementioned actors we've got Ann Sothern (a medium), Stella Stevens, Burgess Meredith (anthropologist Dr, Snow), Lurene Tuttle (a client of Erskine's who takes a tumble) and even Jeanette Nolan. Jon Cedar, who associate-produced and worked on the screenplay, plays Dr. Hughes. Curtis' pants are almost as tight as the ones worn by Robert Conrad in The Wild, Wild West! There are a lot of interesting elements to this movie, and it holds the attention, but somehow it doesn't completely jell. Cedar was also in Girdler's Day of the Animals.

Verdict: Not without interest, but somehow less than the sum of its parts. **1/2.

5 comments:

dj Buddy Beaverhausen said...

Very, very tacky. I thought Tony Curtis could barely disguise his embarrassment.

William said...

I think at that point Curtis was just happy to have a starring role. A far cry from "Sweet Smell of Success," in which he was excellent.

Neil A Russell said...

I always thought they turned Curtis loose to do a lot of ad libbing in this, there's very much of his quick witted personality in the character.
This long after seeing it (in the theater, yes I bought a ticket to this) about all I can remember is his calling the ancient evil "Mixmaster" and wondering then if that was really in the script.
I also thought Michael Ansara's character was a lot of fun considering how serious and deadpan he played it. Which of course was the only characterization Ansara has, but it added to the entertainment.
"Manitou" is pretty much a guilty pleasure movie, but there were episodes of "Night Stalker" that were better.

William said...

Yes, Curtis get saying "mixmaster" instead of Misquemacas -- or something like that -- and it could have been an ad lib. Funny what you said about Ansara, and now that I think about it, very true!

I not only bought a ticket to this, I bought the book (previously). Tried reading it a second time and couldn't do it.

Neil A Russell said...

The 70s were a great era for novel adaptations to film, I remember reading Airport and The Poseidon Adventure and nitpicking the films.
Little did I know how poorly they would do the adaptations a few decades later!