THE MANITOU (1978) Reviews and overview

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‘Evil does not die… It waits to be reborn!’
The Manitou is a 1978 American supernatural horror film produced and directed by William Girdler (Three on a Meathook; Abby; Day of the Animals; et al) from a screenplay co-written with Jon Cedar and Thomas Pope. It is based on a 1976 book of the same name by Graham Masterton (Charnel House; Mirror; Hair Raiser).

The movie stars Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens, Jon Cedar, Ann Sothern and Burgess Meredith.

Karen Tandy (Susan Strasberg) is suffering from a growing tumour on her neck, so enters a hospital in San Francisco to have a medical check. After a series of x-rays, the doctors begin to think it is a living creature: a fetus being born inside the tumour. Eerie and grisly occurrences begin; the tumorous growth perceives itself – himself – to be under attack as a result of the x-rays used to ascertain its nature, which is starting to stunt and deform its development.

The growth is actually an old Native American shaman; he is reincarnating himself through the young woman to exact his revenge on white men who invaded North America and exterminated its native peoples.

A second Native American shaman is contacted and hired to help fight the reincarnating medicine man, but the kind of spirits he can summon and control appear to be too weak to match his opponent’s abilities…

Reviews [click links to read more]:
“The whole Burgess Meredith sequence is priceless, as it seems like he keeps forgetting what movie he’s in. And while Manitou does have its slower sections, the climax is a thing of beauty to be enjoyed forever, with crummy special effects, bad lightning, a star field, an Evil One symbolized by a cataract, and Tony Curtis struggling to maintain his dignity.” A.V. Club

“The gradual decline into nonsense is very smartly paced; the movie just sort of lulls you into its madness, so when a naked Indian midget starts shooting laser beams around and the spirit of her the heroine fights back with what appears to be meteors made out of popcorn, it doesn’t “come out of nowhere” as you might expect – in Manitou logic, it’s merely the natural progression of the plot.” Badass Digest

“The film has been accused of being camp, but I don’t think the film ever makes unintentional fun of itself. I do wonder though how Susan Strasberg used ‘the method’ to get to grips with the scenes of Manitou combat. I’d recommend The Manitou to fans of 1970’s horror and disaster movies too. Don’t expect too much blood, just one weird plot.” Black Hole

“Girdler throws caution to the wind for the Big Showdown against Misquamacus, making use of wild optical and practical effects in a multi-dimensional battle that ends with a character erupting in one helluva satisfying moment. The Manitou is a patently ‘70s horror picture in many of the best ways and it has obtained a small cult status for good reason.” Bloody Disgusting

“For 3 million, Girdler and his team deliver a lot of bang for the buck creating some wildly creative set pieces most of which occur during the final 30 minutes. Obviously Star Wars (1977) was on the scriptwriters’ minds as one scene inside a hospital has a laser beam go haywire destroying an operating room and then there’s the incredible finale that takes place in outer space(!)…” Cool Ass Cinema

” …transcends its own ridiculous by virtue of its cinematic power. Mechanical effects by Gene Grigg and Tim Smythe and horrific make-up by Tom Burman are superb and will have your own skin crawling.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“I defy anyone to watch it and not admit that they had fun afterwards” Horror News

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Buy DVD: The Manitou [DVD]

“Certainly, while one praises The Manitou, one must also be aware that there is a good degree of schlocky ridiculousness that surrounds more than a few parts of the film. There is one completely ridiculous scene where a hunched-over Lurene Tuttle starts making frog-like croaks while hovering six inches above the ground, while Tony Curtis runs about smiling bemusedly as if this were no more than one of his Doris Day soap opera comedies of the 1960s.” Moria

“Some of the highlights of the film include the genuinely creepy sequence involving the Indian Manitou busting out of Strasberg’s neck, a spectacular séance in which a demon head pops out of a wooden table, a laser on the loose surgical scene; and another sequence involving a little old lady that levitates on a hallway then plunging to her death down the stairs.” The Spinning Image

“Any commentary on Western civilization encroaching on the Native American way of life is skimmed over briskly as Girdler takes us from one preposterous set piece to the next. In that regard, the movie is utterly fun, and thankfully, the cast, led by Tony Curtis, is game and colorful. If one were to try to read a message into the narrative, it is noteworthy that Dr Hughes states: “We’ve created a monster”. The Terror Trap

“This bout between good and Satan includes some scares, camp and better than average credits.” Variety, December 31, 1977



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Blu-ray release:
In the USA, Scream Factory released The Manitou on Blu-ray on April 16, 2019.

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
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Still Gallery
1080p High-Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
English Subtitles

YouTube reviews:


Cast and characters:
Tony Curtis … Harry Erskine – The Mummy Lives; Lobster Man from Mars; BrainWaves; Rosemary’s Baby; The Boston Strangler; Chamber of Horrors
Michael Ansara … John Singing Rock
Susan Strasberg … Karen Tandy – The Returning; Sweet Sixteen; Bloody Birthday; So Evil, My Sister; Scream of Fear
Stella Stevens … Amelia Crusoe
Jon Cedar … Dr Jack Hughes
Ann Sothern … Mrs Karmann – The Killing Kind
Burgess Meredith … Dr Snow – Magic; The Sentinel; Burnt Offerings; Beware! The BlobTorture Garden
Paul Mantee … Dr McEvoy
Jeanette Nolan … Mrs Winconis
Lurene Tuttle … Mrs Herz
Hugh Corcoran … MacArthur

Technical credits:
104 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1
Audio: Dolby

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