• The Manitou (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: April 16th, 2019.
    Director: William Girdler
    Cast: Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Micahel Ansara, Felix Silla, Stella Stevens, Burgess Meredith
    Year: 1982
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    The Manitou – Movie Review:

    Karen Tandy (Susan Strasberg) is upset to find a bizarre growth emerging from the back of her neck one day. She wisely decides to get it looked at and is completely perplexed when the two doctors who examine her deduce that the growth is actually a fetus. The doctors decide to operate, and Karen, in need of a little reassurance after such a diagnosis, calls up her ex-boyfriend, Harry Erskine (Tony Curtis). Harry makes his living as a Tarot Card reader, taking advantage of senior citizens and scamming them with fake readings. At any rate, the two of them attempt to rekindle the spark that they once had and before you know it, they're an item again.

    Harry isn't quite sure that the doctors were right with their conclusion and he reassures Karen that the growth is nothing to worry about. His skepticism subsides, however, when one night while the two of them are asleep in bed Karen wakes him up by talking aloud in a foreign language of some sort. To make matters worse, the next day one of the old women that Harry reads for mutters the same strange phrase to him and then proceeds to float down the hall and then topple down the stairs to her demise.

    Harry starts to figure that, yes, something is definitely wrong with Karen after all and after her operation proves to be a failure, he calls in some help from a legitimate psychic named Amelia Crusoe (Stella Stevens) and her husband, MacArthur (Hugh Corcoran). The three of them hold a séance and eventually, with the help of an anthropologist named Dr. Snow (Burgess Meredith), figure out that the growth on Karen's neck isn't a fetus but is actually the spirit of an ancient Native American Indian. The group agrees that they should call in an expert and so they bring in John Singing Rock (Michael Ansara), a Shaman, who finally agrees to perform an exorcism on poor, confused Karen. It leads up to one of the most insane conclusions this reviewer has had the pleasure of seeing.

    Director William Girdler made only nine films before a helicopter he was traveling in hit some live power lines and killed him at the age of thirty. But his filmography remains popular with horror movie buffs and cult film enthusiasts as it boasts such titles as Asylum Of Satan, Day Of The Animals, Grizzly, Abby and Sheba, Baby - an interesting mix of blaxsploitation, nature run amok and horror. The Manitou, which would be his swansong, isn't his best movie but it is a really interesting one. Mixing elements of The Exorcist and Star Wars (two very unlikely bedfellows indeed), it's a bit on the gimmicky side but it's also quite an entertaining film even if it is completely all over the place. If you've ever lamented the fact that there aren't more movies featuring demons, lasers, Indians, a cute topless female lead and Tony Curtis then this is the movie for you.

    Quirky as quirky can be, the movie does benefit from an interesting cast with Curtis and Ansara doing a fine job with the material. Stella Stevens and Burgess Meredith add some class to the supporting parts and Girdler makes the most of their screen time. The effects are hit and miss – some of the earlier ones aren't so successful but the finale is pretty effective – and the lighting is bizarre throughout. The middle of the film tends to drag a little bit but otherwise The Manitou is a considerably more interesting movie than its completely goofy premise should allow it to be. Not a masterpiece by any stretch but definitely a movie that fans of oddball seventies horror pictures should certainly enjoy.

    The Manitou – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings The Manitou to Blu-ray in AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from a ‘4K Scan Of The Original Film Elements’ which in this case would seem to be the inter-positive as the negative can’t currently be located (a disclaimer that plays before the feature states this to be the case). This offers up a pretty solid improvement over the old (and long out of print) Anchor Bay DVD. Yes, some scenes show heavier grain than others and some look softer than others but Shout! has done a nice job with the elements that were available. Color generally looks pretty nice here and we get a lot more depth, detail and texture than we’ve seen before. There are no noticeable problems with compression artifacts nor is there any obvious edge enhancement, sharpening or noise reduction. Mild print damage shows up here and there but nothing too distracting. Skin tones are fine and while black levels can sometimes look closer to dark grey, overall this is a pretty solid presentation.

    Shout! Factory offers up DTS-HD 2.0 Mono and DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo options for the feature with removable subtitles provided in English only. The stereo track is the better of the two, a bit cleaner with effects and a punchier score. Regardless of which option you go for, the levels are properly balanced and the dialogue is easy to understand. No issues here to note.

    Extras start with an audio commentary with Film Historian Troy Howarth who starts off by talking about how this was the biggest budget that director Girdler had worked with to date, what went into adapting the source material, differences between what happens in the film and what happens in the book, the use of Panavision and the Dolby system in the production, the cast and crew involved in the shoot and more. He notes the humor worked into the picture, the importance of Tony Curtis’ involvement in the film and his distinctive voice, details of Graham Masterson’s life and work, comparisons to The Exorcist, the effects work featured in the picture, the film’s MPAA rating, Burgess Meredith’s cameo, and of course, the film’s big finale. There are a few times where Howarth does explain to us what we can see with our own eyes but by and large, he delivers a lot of facts and details about the picture and the people who made it, making this a worthwhile track.

    Up next, we get an interview with Author Graham Masterson, a twenty-eight-minute piece wherein the author of the book that the film was based on talks about how he got to know William Girdler and what their relationship was like both personally and professionally. He discusses the director’s death and notes how it affected him when he learned of it. He doesn’t go into a lot of detail here about The Manitou specifically, though it’s touched on, but it is a nice remembrance of sorts.

    Executive Producer David Sheldon also appears in an eleven-minute piece where he speaks about how he got into the film business and why, some of the writing that he did and then meeting Girdler, serving as producer on the adaptation of Masterson’s book, what was involved in bringing it to the big screen and his thoughts on the picture.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film’s original theatrical trailer, a few vintage TV spots, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Manitou – The Final Word:

    One of William Girdler's most ambitious and unusually quirky movies, The Manitou looks and sounds quite good on Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray. The disc also features a solid array of extra features that detail its history. All in all, a really solid offering from Shout! Factory for a truly underappreciated gem!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Manitou Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      William Girdler's career was cut way too short (fuck helicopters) Entertaining drive in director and I need to snag this soon.