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THE MANITOU (1977) Dir. William Girdler. Written by William Girdler based on a Novel by Graham Masterton. Starring: Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Michael Ansara, Burgess Meredith, Stella Stevens, and Ann Sothern.

You have to understand that when I first saw the Manitou, I had heard nothing about it. It didn't come as a recommendation from an in the know buddy, or an evil algorithm. I just came across it one night on an old VHS tape and buckled in. I wasn't aware it was directed by William Girdler (oh he of Abby and Grizzly infamy) and even if I had, it would not have prepared me for how absolutely batshit crazy things would get by the time the credits rolled, hell by the time the half-hour mark came around. All I knew was that it seemed to have a stellar cast - Tony Curtis, Susan Strasburg, Burgess Meredith - and the premise seemed outrageous but totally freaky. And the first 45 minutes of the film is just that. A San Francisco woman goes to the hospital to have a lump on the back of her neck examined only to discover it's a tumor - bad enough you say - but this tumor contains a fetus, and that dear readers is just the beginning. When Tony Curtis' ruse as Tarot reader to little old ladies turns sour and sends one old biddy levitating down the hallway to her death I knew I had come upon something special. When the fetus in Strasburg's neck turns out to be alive and growing and then is revealed to be the reincarnation of an Indian Witch doctor - The Manitou of the title - I knew I had found my new favorite weirdo movie. Then the seance scene kicked into high gear and my mouth was agape, my soul in tatters - after all, it's the best seance scene this side of Raimi's Drag Me to Hell. Then the little Indian Sorcerer crawled out of Susan Strasburg's back and all bets were off. All of that may sound spoiler-y, but really it's not and certainly does not prepare you for the final half set in a hospital by way of the Stargate sequence in Kubrick's 2001. Have I said too much? Not nearly enough it turns out and that's the ultimate beauty of the Manitou. I could talk about it for days on end and still, you'd have to see it to believe it.

 

 

 

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