Michael Scott

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The Manitou


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Movie: :3stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :3stars:
Extras: :4stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



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Movie

The Manitou is based off of a 1976 book by Graham Masterson, which was promptly turned into a film in less than 2 years time. I had never seen The Manitou before, but had heard that it was a rather weird film by several of my horror fanatic colleagues who had seen it growing up. After watching the film I have to admit that it is one of the most unintentionally hilarious horror movies that I’ve ever seen, and in true 1970s horror fashion, takes itself seriously to the point of hilarity. Honestly, I almost think that Graham Masterson’s crazy idea of an ancient medicine man reincarnating from a tumor growing on a woman to work on page (the book isn’t half bad), but in film form it turns itself into a comedy of errors and acid fueled special effects near the end. The tone fluctuates between spiritual horror, gore, and a sci-fi like battle at the end that was kind of trend setting for the late 70s. This tonal shift is a bit awkward and crazy at times, but the film itself is actually a lot of fun to chuckle along with during the insanity.

Karen (Susan Strasberg) is very nervous about a massive lump that’s growing on her back. In 3 days time it has grown from nothing to that of a very large malignant tumor, and it seems to not be showing signs of stopping. Physicians can’t make heads nor tails of the phenomenon, and her fake psychic boyfriend Harry (an aging Tony Curtis) is worried about her. In her sleep Karen starts changing some ancient Indian words, and during an operation to remove the tumor seems to hypnotize her doctor into cutting himself. Harry is suspicious about the source of the issue, and with the help of an old anthropologist (played by Meredith Burgess in an amusing role) he figures out that the growth is actually a 400 year old medicine man reincarnating himself once more.

Gaining the reluctant help of modern medicine man John Singing Rock (Michael Ansara), Harry attempts to save Karen’s life before the ancient and evil medicine man drains all of her life away. However, this powerful force is none other than the greatest medicine man to have ever lived, and both Harry and John Singing Rock will need more than a bag of tricks to defeat this ancient evil.
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The Manitou is a hilariously psychedelic film that is better on paper than it is on screen. The written novel is amusing enough, with a wild story about an ancient evil growing out of a tumor on a woman’s back. In film it’s 10 times funnier, as the movie attempts to play off the spiritual aspect of the tale with deadly seriousness, while we sit back and chuckle at the lunacy of it all. Veteran actor Tony Curtis is chewing the scenery like a pro here, never once letting it be known that he’s probably wondering what crack his agent was smoking for getting him this gig.

The movie’s biggest problem stems from huge tonal shifts throughout the hour and forty three minutes of run time. The first portion of the movie is very much a spiritual thriller/horror film, but when the medicine man (or manitou) is “reborn”, things start leaning towards shock and gore with the ancient being skinning people alive and casting spells left and right. To make it worse, the end battle delves into spiritual lasers and a huge special effects extravaganza as it tries to take advantage of the post start wars space craze of the late 70s. However, the film is still insanely fun to watch at times, and is more humorous than the producers ever probably wanted it to be.




Rating:

Rated PG by the MPAA




Video: :3.5stars:
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There’s a warning at the beginning of the film that states The Manitou’s 4K scan was taken from an unknown interpositive, and that the original source negatives are completely destroyed. Effectively meaning that what we get is pretty much the best that can be gleaned from an already wonky and aged interpositive. The results are generally pleasing, with enough fine detail and color depth to be accurate to the 1970s source. The colors are more yellow and blue, but there are some neat displays of primary colors during the final “battle” with the medicine man, and the grain structure is solid. However, there are plenty of overly soft scenes, and I noticed some speckles and flecks of dirt and debris on the print. Facial details are good, with colors popping off the screen when needed, but backgrounds and surrounding set pieces aren’t wildly detailed. It’s a solid transfer considering the lack of any original negatives left, and seems to be about as good as we’re gonna get for a niche film like this.








Audio: :3stars:
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There are actually 2 DTS-HD MA tracks on the disc, one being a 2.0 Mono track, while the other a 2.0 Stereo track. Both labeled as a restoration as well. Comparing them side by side I find that the stereo track seems a bit fuller, but it really may be a placebo effect as they sound remarkably similar to each other, and choosing one or the other is completely personal choice. The dialog is solid throughout, but there are volume fluctuations throughout the movie, with some scenes raising and lowering volume in the same cut. There’s also some mild crackling and an echoey part near the end in a stairwell that sounds really bad. The scorer is solid, but nothing exciting, and the track overall is a bit on the weaker side.







Extras: :4stars:
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BRAND NEW 4K REMASTER OF THE FILM
• 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
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery






Final Score: :3.5stars:

The Manitou is a psychedelic 70s horror film that is probably one of the more fun, yet unintentionally hilarious, films I’ve seen recently. The movie takes itself soooooooo seriously, but is filled with so much goofiness and chuckle worthy scenes that you can’t help but have a good time with the schlock fest. Graham Masterson’s novel may have worked in the imagination of our minds, but on screen it had some amusing results that can only be described as “70s cheese”. Scream Factory has done the best they could with the elements on hand for the restoration, and the same goes for the audio. It’s not in the most perfect of shape, but being that the source negative for the film is gone, they did a pretty stinking good job if I do say so myself. Probably the best facet of the entire package is the extras that have been assembled. There’s a bevy of quality interviews and commentaries, as well as legacy extras from the old DVD. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but The Manitou is a cheesy bit of 70s horror that just works simply due to how over the top it really is.




Technical Specifications:

Starring: Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens, Jon Cedar, Burgess Meredith, ann Sothern, Paul Mantee
Directed by: William Girdler
Written by: William Girdler, Jon Cedar, Thomas Pope (screenplay), Graham Masterton
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, English DTS-HD MA Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: PG
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 16th, 2019






Recommendation: Nostalgic Cheesy Watch

 

Asere

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Thanks for the review. I will check this one out.
 
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