The Manitou (1978)

5 Beers

Completely mad.  Absolutely bonkers.  Those are some descriptions that are often used to describe this New Age-inspired flick of voodoo hoodoo transmissions.  The Manitou is EXACTLY the pile of rock and schlock trash that you want it to be and now, thanks to Scream Factory, it arrives on blu-ray. 

Tony Curtis as a fake psychic dressed in a wizard’s gown might not be everybody’s cup of herbal tea, but he is a goddamn standout in this supernatural horror flick that is absolutely b-a-n-a-n-a-s.  The Manitou, directed by William Girdler (Sheba, Baby and Grizzly), is not a good film in the traditional sense.  It is a damn riot, though, when it comes to its B-grade spacy shenanigans as the film completely takes off from the realms of reality and jettisons its audience into a universe where Burgess Meredith plays the only logical doctor around. 

In The Manitou, Curtis’ ex-girlfriend (or is she his current one?), played by Susan Strasberg, winds up shooting asteroids out of her hands at the monstrous lump of flesh that she has just given birth to . . . from the side of her neck.  They are supposedly in her hospital room but, thanks to the power of the medicine man she’s birthed, this hospital room appears to be floating in space and only her love for her creation can kill him.

Or something like that.  Trust me, you aren’t going to care.  The Manitou is completely off its rocker and, thanks to the science fiction cinematic highs at the time, audiences get a horror film that is (a) full of one good fright in which an elderly woman is lifted off the ground, floats down the hallway, and tossed down the stairs, (b) gives men another reason to love Strasberg more, and (c) a laser-brained plot involving unplanned pregnancies.

Yep, based on a novel by Graham Masterton and developed by Girdle, The Manitou is every baby mama’s worst nightmare come true . . . and then it has everybody floating in space as Strasberg, while topless, becomes a superhero and starts launching rocks out of her palms at her scary-ass midget monster who loves to be naked and mad.

I mean, come on, Curtis hiring a native witch doctor named John Singing Rock (Michael Ansara) (and paying him in Red Man tobacco) to get an evil 400-year-old Indian medicine man off Wonder Woman’s neck sounds pretty damn silly.  Thankfully, the film delivers that goofiness in spades.  Time and time again, this ultra-serious mess – involving collapsing séance rooms, ice cold hospital rooms, and a birth from the neck – goes for the jugular and challenges audiences to turn it off and walk away.

But we can’t stop.  We won’t stop.  The Manitou, famously smashed into pieces by Roger Ebert, is way too much fun to ever turn off.

Blu-ray Specifications:

The brand new 1080p 4K transfer is crisp and crackling with fine details.  It looks so much better than it previously did thanks to the insistence on getting a brand-new HD scrub.  Originally shot on 35mm film, this release from Scream Factory supports a High-Definition encode and a 2.35:1 ratio.  With solid colors and an atmospheric charm, the cleaned-up image is detailed with nice burnt oranges and strong blacks hitting strong levels for something originally filmed in the early 70s.  The grain is natural and consistent.  Colors are strong and vibrant even.  The overall contrast is deep even if there are noticeable defects in the crush of shadows. The DTS Master Audio track has been restored and it is a strong stereo soundtrack.  Dialogue is clean, clear, and balanced with the music.

Commentary:

Film Historian Troy Howarth gives an excellent commentary that will give you a bit more perspective on this chiller.

Special Features:

This puppy is loaded with lots of groovy stuff that The Manitou’s fans will definitely eat up. 

NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Film Elements

NEW Restored Stereo Soundtrack

NEW Interview With Author Graham Masterson

NEW Producing Girdler – An Interview With Executive Producer David Sheldon

NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historian Troy Howarth

Original Theatrical Trailer

Original TV Spots

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