Friday, October 9, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Manitou (1978)

Watching Bigfoot this morning made me think of this oldie and how much it freaked me out as a kid.

This movie typifies the later 70s, post Exorcist, mood of American Horror.  Lots of psychic phenomena, some satanism, and if you can work in Native American or Eastern mysticism all the better.

Tony Curtis is great as a fake psychic and tarot card reader that gets pulled into the drama around a tumor growing on his ex-girlfriend's, Susan Strasberg's, back.  X-rays show the tumor to look like a rapidly growing fetus.

Karen (Strasberg) goes to see Harry (Curtis) the day before her surgery (and they drink a lot of wine before hand).  Harry does a tarot card reading for her and they all come up the same (the tower, the moon, the devil, and death).

That night Karen mutters something in her sleep in a language that Harry doesn't understand (he thinks it is Swahili).

Karen goes into surgery but the doctors are prevented from cutting into the tumor.   At the same time, Harry's psychic ability becomes real.  They take part in a séance and learn about the Manitou. They go and see Dr. Snow (Burgess Meredith in a surprise role) and learn more.

The contact a Native American Shaman played by the always amazing Michael Ansara (Kang of Star Trek and Kane of Buck Rogers) and learn that this tumor is really the ancient Shaman Misquamacus.
At one point Misquamacus tells John Singing Rock (Ansara) not to help them.  I was half-hoping he would stand up and tell them "you are on your white people."

Misquamacus is born (I seem to recall it being scarier in 78) but is held in place at first by John's circle. 

The "demons" summoned by Misquamacus are quite cool.  They have a sort of Lovecraft/August Derleth quality to them. They are even called "the great old ones."  In the end, the evil spirits are destroyed by computers, manifesting as laser blasts from a naked Karen.   Lest we forget this was the 70s.

This really is a cut above my normal fare in terms of acting ability even if the story is a little silly. 

Watched: 11
New: 9

A couple of thoughts here. 

First, there is a wealth of material in Native American folklore that I just have not explored and honestly, I am just not even remotely familiar or even qualified to write about them despite all the stories I have read or watched over the years. 

I'd love to get more of this sort of thing for my Valhalla, AK game.  While the Bigfoot stuff from earlier today went on the silly side, this would be more of the horror side of things. 



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