The Revenging Manta, the ninja vigilante of downtown Orlando, and myself were traipsing through the upper floors of the Museum of Schlock. The next room we passed through was the Battle Beyond the Stars exhibit. A wide array of wax statues stood before us. There was Richard Thomas’s Shad, George Peppard’s Cowboy, Robert Vaughn’s Gelt, John Saxon’s Sador, Sybil Danning’s St. Exmin, and Joe Spinell’s Count Zarth Arn. We turned to move to the next exhibit when I realized Count Zarth Arn wasn’t in Battle Beyond the Stars, he was in Starcrash! Something was amiss! — To be continued.
Shudder is a horror themed streaming platform with original series, movies, and a back catalogue of classics to boot. There’s an original anthology series based on the movie Creepshow. It even featured an episode where Bob Ross fought the Evil Dead. You have famous horror hosts Elvira and Joe Bob Briggs hosting movie nights. And then there’s that back catalogue I mentioned, featuring classic schlock like The Manitou.
Yes, this week’s movie is 1978’s The Manitou from director William Girdler based on the novel by Graham Masterton. I imagine The Manitou was one of the infamous paperbacks from hell as described by horror writer Grady Hendrix. These things littered the bookstore shelves back in the 70s and 80s. No doubt this book was meant to capitalize on the popularity of hot properties such Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Still, the unnatural entity we’re dealing with this time around isn’t the devil.
Our movie begins with a woman named Karen going to a hospital in San Francisco to get a growth on the back of her neck checked out. The growth keeps doubling in size every couple of days and doctors are dumbfounded. The x-rays they take show the growth to be a fetus. That’s kind of gross. They book her for surgery to get it removed and Karen seeks out an old friend of hers named Harry (Tony Curtis).
Yes, you read right. Tony Curtis is in this movie. I guess if Gregory Peck could be in The Omen then why not cast Tony Curtis in your evil neck fetus movie. Harry is a professional fortune teller and by professional, I mean he bilks old ladies out of money in exchange for tarot readings. He even wears a fake mustache during his readings for some reason. Any, we get a lovely montage with Harry and Karen out on a date. However, when Harry reads Karen’s fortune, it doesn’t look so good.
Harry meets up with some of his mystic friends to see if the neck fetus thing has an unearthly origin. There’s a seance that goes badly. The group then does some research that reveals how a shaman once emerged fully grown from a growth on a young girl’s arm. The rebirth of the shaman proved fatal to the young girl. This leads them to seek out a professor named Dr. Snow who’s an expert on such things. Dr. Snow (Burgess Meredith) almost discourages them from interfering with the rebirth of this shaman as his existence would have so much scientific and cultural importance.
I think we learn that the shaman’s name is Misquamacus and he wants revenge on the descendants of the colonists that wiped out his people. This leads Harry to seek out the assistance of a living shaman named John Singing Rock (Michael Ansara). I think John Singing Rock traps Misquamacus in a circle of salt in the hospital room just as he emerges from Karen’s back. He’s not fully grown just yet and has the appearance of a gooey mutant.
Misquamacus starts summoning demons to torment Harry and John Singing Rock. The movie culminates in a topless Karen summoning the spirits of the hospital equipment in the building to defeat “The Great Old One” in a spectacle that reminds me of the opening credits from a Tom Baker Doctor Who episode. I read that the director died before this movie was released. Small mercies.
Jeff Shuster (episode 47, episode 102, episode 124, episode 131, episode 284, episode 441, episode 442, episode 443, episode 444, episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, episode 496, episode 545, episode 546, episode 547, episode 548, episode 549, and episode 575) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.
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