The Manitou - Cult Movies Gold - DVD
Written by Jay Creepy   
Friday, 19 April 2019


AKA: The Manitou: Retorno Desde la Quinta Dimension, Indian Demon, El Manitou, Manitu, lo spirito del male, Manitou, Manitou – O Espirito do Mal, lasersturm, O exorkismos, Der Manitou, Gerburt des damons, Super Zombie: Die Geburt des Grauens.

Directed by: William Girdler
Written by: Jon Cedar, William Girdler, Thomas Pope, Graham Masterton
Produced by: William Girdler, Jon Cedar, Scott Siegler, Melvin G Gordy
Cinematography by: Michael Hugo
Editing by: Bub Asman
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Special Effects by: Gene Grigg, Tim Smythe, Thomas R Burman
Cast: Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Michael Ansara, Jon Cedar, Burgess Meredith, Anne Newman Bacal, Jan Heininger, Paul Mantee, Lurene Tuttle, Felix Silla.
Year: 1978
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1hr 38mins

Studios: Mid-America Pictures, Simon Productions, Manitou Productions Ltd., Melvin Simon Productions
Distributor: Cult Movies Gold

If there's one classic horror paperback author who has been blatantly ignored over the years for films adaptations, even though their work is insanely inventive, creepy, and above all, film-able, it's Graham Masterton. A workhorse who dabbles in books on sex and erotica, historical novels and much more aside from the horror genre.

As a teen, Graham’s (and James Herbert's) novels were my go-to choice for a chilling and addictive reads. His early books are so well written, you almost believe in them. He researched well on legends from various parts of the world and created some pretty solid characters and creatures to populate his pages. I could see many of his early quickies like The Djinn, Charnel House, Tengu, The Devils of D-Day, and Night Warriors playing on the big screen even in these modern times of fast edited frantic horrors, because his books are very quick fire and gripping.

Aside from The Manitou, he's had three short stories turned into episodes for the ‘90s TV series, The Hunger. Wow, okay, so Stephen King just has to type a word (well, ten thousand pages worth) and regardless of quality he gets a movie. James Herbert has fared better than Graham over the years. I suppose there's Shaun Hutson, he had Slugs transformed into a really crappy flick, but if you read a lot of his interviews, he's always negative about other writers and the horror crowd in general because, maybe, he thinks it's a clever bunny attitude. Yeah, hardcore, man. Fuckin' hardcore.

Okay, so onto the movie at hand. It's everything a fan could expect at the time, but unfortunately with a booby prize hidden in the final box, you could say. Yeah, that ending, man. Jesus (or should I say, Wovoka?) No matter, I love this film anyway.

Karen Tandy has found an unusual tumour on the back of her neck, it's growing at a considerable rate which baffles the two doctors she goes to see including tumour expert, Dr. Hughes. This bewilderment is greatly discussed by the duo privately, and they both stare at a chart which diagrams the stages of an unborn baby inside its mother because it gives us an idea of what is happening. Karen did mention that now and then it feels as if something is moving around inside to get comfy.

Time to meet our main guy, Harry Erskine, played with gusto and genuine entertainment by easily recognisable actor, Tony (The Vikings, Some Like it Hot, The Boston Strangler) Curtis in one of his rare horror roles. Harry is a fake fortune teller who puts on a big show for wealthy clients, mainly widows, and gives out a load of old toss which they lap up. He's a conman who gives real readers of the future a bad name, but he's making money and he's a cool fella – a loveable rogue. Turns out that Karen is an ex love flame in his life, thus she calls him to talk and they rekindle some lost heat between one another. A couple of really eerie portents occur, the first being Harry using a tarot deck for their destiny – and the same cards are presented three times. Cards which do not bode well. That night, Karen whispers in her sleep, another language. When asked the next day, she has absolutely no idea what the words mean.

The doctors have seen it as vital to rush Karen through to the operating stage, Dr. Hughes attempts to remove the growth but instead is made to slice his own hand with the scalpel. Around the same time, Harry is looking after a regular client, Mrs. Herz. That is until he turns the Death card and all hell breaks loose. She convulses, speaks in an unknown language – including the words uttered by Karen that night, then for good measure floats off down the corridor before crashing down the staircase and dying. Harry cradles her broken body and we see another side to his character.

Harry meets Dr. Hughes, who admits he has literally no clue as to what he is dealing with, but will not support the view that something supernatural could be happening. “What Karen has is a fast growing swelling made up of flesh and bone. You might almost describe it as a foetus.” It's down to Harry to try and sort things out, enlisting the help of some friends in the know. They hold a sιance which has very nerve wrecking results – they see the spirit of an Indian Medicine Man rise from the table. Reading a book later, they discover the legendary tales of how some ancient Indians who practised in the dark arts could be reborn if choosing. They seek the advice of the hardback's author, who happens to be Burgess Meredith – so cool, he isn't wasted at all in his small role, giving it full throttle.

Discovering another disaster has occurred at the hospital, Harry approaches an Indian Medicine Man of his own, as suggested by Burgess. At first reluctant, Jon Singing Rock decides to take on the spirit. Shocked to learn that it is Misquamacus, one of the most powerful and fearsome of the tribes who existed four hundred years ago, Harry, John, and Hughes have to battle a maelstrom of entities called up by Misquamacus (and he is angry due to the fact he has been born as a deformed freak courtesy of endless X-rays) including a skinless zombie, a huge lizard, and the unstoppable Great Old One.

The story of
The Manitou continued onwards in novel form with Revenge of the Manitou, Burial, Manitou Blood, Blind Panic, and Plague of the Manitou. However (in my opinion) only the first three (including the original) are worth a read because (as many have stated) his writing style altered and became emptier along the way. A bit like this film, an amazing strong start, middle (oh man, some of the sounds even are just sheer sublime) but...yeah.... Due to a few reasons, the ending didn't pan out as planned, so what we have is an awesome build-up. The film looks magnificent with scenes of effective and stand-out set pieces all lit perfectly, only to be all fizzled out in a rather unforgettable conclusion – for all the wrong reasons.

William Girdler died in an accident soon after completing this film. For the man behind Day of the Animals, Grizzly, and Abby, I suppose it could be seen as an interesting final chapter but you're left wondering where he would have gone with his next flicks. He understood the horror genre and made chilling thriller-like crowd pleasers. Having a special effects gang including Thomas (The Exterminator, Cat People, Halloween III, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Con Air) Burman – incidentally he made Sloth of The Goonies, and the mechanical and FX genius of Gene (Black Belt Jones, The Changeling, Hang ‘em High, Vampires, 'V' The Final Battle) Grigg really adds some pizazz to the proceedings. The tumour itself, the make-up on our X-ray deformed Medicine Man pal, and the briefly seen skinless zombie are all astounding.

The Manitou is visually very impressive and, for the majority well-paced and inventive. Yes, the book was far superior, however the use of many computers as opposed to one 'super machine' kind of thing in the final battle is a better choice. Thumbs up for the lesser players. Lurene Tuttle is simply fantastic as the dotty old Mrs. Herz who speaks in tongues, dances, and levitates. Her scene just freaks you out!! Oh yes, and Felix Silla puts on a show-stopping performance as Misquamacus – he deserves a horror figurine! Incidentally, Felix generally acts under many layers of makeup or whatever. The dude was Cousin Itt in the original Addams Family, a Troll in Bewitched, he's played an Ewok, a child monkey in Planet of the Apes, the 'Baby' in Demon Seed, and, hahaha, the Emperor Penguin in Batman Returns! Awesome!

My review is via an imported Cult Movies Gold DVD, it has zero extras, but
The Manitou is available from a handful of labels, including a Blu-ray out of Shout Factory. It's worth seeing, it has all you need from a fun late ‘70s horror, until the last fifteen minutes.



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 Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 16:9
 Region: PAL R0
 Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo

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Last Updated ( Friday, 19 April 2019 )