Director – William Girdler
Cast – Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens, Jon Cedar, Ann Sothern, Burgess Meredith, Paul Mantee, Jeanette Nolan, Lurene Tuttle, Hugh Corcoran
Release Year – 1978
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a flick I pretty much went into “blind” and thanks to a very awesome third act I found The Manitou to be highly enjoyable. We get a plot that I honestly have not really seen before in the horror realm, and it is a sweet and creepy one at that. Throw in some fun dialogue and William Girdler(Grizzly, Day of the Animals)’s cheezy yet respectable direction and this goes from “OK” film to “pizza night” flick.
Doctors are baffled when a woman shows up to the hospital with a large lump on the back of her neck, a lump that according to X-Rays…contains a human fetus!?! The doctors try to remove the lump, but awful occurrences take place, leaving them unable to help her and fearful for their lives. The woman’s husband does some investigating, and learns that this is no ordinary fetus growing on his wife’s neck, but in fact a reincarnated Native American witch doctor! He then enlists the help of the only witch doctor who is willing to take on the mighty creature growing on his wife’s neck…and the battle begins.
Personally, I dig this plot. I love anything involving supernatural powers, and the supernatural presence throughout the film is full-on and satisfying. Plus, isn’t it just scary having a giant lump growing on your back, then having to find out that the lump is a freakin’ human fetus? Yeah, it is creepy stuff in my eyes. This is of course intensified when we realize that the fetus is a witch doctor looking to be reincarnated, and has the power to cause terrible things to happen to those who try and hinder him. The scenes where doctors try and operate on the woman were awesome and much chaos ensued as a result of them using their “science” to cure things, great stuff.
The film really gets going when the woman’s husband, Harry Erskine(Tony Kurtis; The Boston Strangler), begins looking for a way to save his wife, a non-”science” way. As a man of science I personally love seeing science in films, but I also believe there are “other” forces out there with the ability to harm, so it was nice seeing that science vs. myth/religion aspect in this film. Along with Tony Kurtis’ performance we get a great performance from Michael Ansara, who portrays the Native American witch doctor John Singing Rock, whom Harry hires to fight the “Manitou” growing within his wife. The character of John Singing Rock was very well written, and he makes many great points involving the uses of alternative medicine and how “white man’s science” is flawed and worthless against forces of evil. Great stuff, again.
As I mentioned earlier, this film’s third act is an awesome one and I truly feel it is one of the coolest and cheeziest closing acts I have seen in the horror realm. The Manitou manages to fully manifest itself, and we get an epic battle between the creepy looking thing and John Singing Rock, a battle of magic and powers that I found very fun to watch. We get some awesome effects thrown in as well, which was very surprising given this is a 70s film with a pretty low budget. At times the “budget” really shows, but it only adds to the cheezy fun and in my opinion KICKED ASS. It is quite simple folks, if you watch a properly executed film for what it is then you are sure to enjoy it, as I did this film.
Overall, this is a fun and really cool watch that I recommend to those who are into these types of films. If you can get your hands on this one I suggest you do.