Movie Review – The Manitou

1978 AVCO Embassy Pictures

One and Half Star
“It’s not a tumor; it’s an ancient Indian medicine man!”
Someone took a few drags too many on the old peace pipe when they thought this one up. The Manitou has got to be one of the oddest movies I have ever seen and I have seen a lot of them. This movie starts off with one hell of a premise; a woman (Susan Strasberg) with a fast growing tumor turns out to be the unwilling host to a really ugly and stumpy four hundred year old medicine man trying to reenter the world of the living for the forth or fifth time.
Pretty bizarre premise but when you add in Tony Curtis as a tarot card reading con man, Michael Ansara as an incompetent modern day medicine man, and Burgess Meredith as an absent minded anthropologist then you get something truly screwy.
Curtis looks totally uncomfortable and dazed and Meredith, in his short appearance, always seems to be looking for the nearest exit. Stella Stevens also shows up for a bit as a mystic gypsy and then her character vanishes (lucky for her).
Before the mind staggering and unbelievably cheesy ending we are treated to weird character interactions, a levitating crazy old woman, a goofy séance, and some really bad dialogue. Then there is the ending itself with Ansara bravely battling the evil shaman by banging two sticks together and drawing three quarters of a magic sand barrier around a hospital bed. Toss in some really fake ice, a fake rubbery lizard demon thingy, and a pyrotechnic space shootout between a topless Strasberg (the highpoint of the movie) and the born again snickering medicine man and what you get is one of those totally unclassifiable, so bad they’re entertaining movies that defy logic and reason.
I swear there is a studio in another reality cranking out movies that somehow wind up in our dimension. File this one under the same category as Exorcist II, Plan Nine from Outer Space, that Van Damme movie with the exploding pants, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and Titanic. So weird it’s worth a rental.
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