26 February 2008

Things I Learned From Watching The Manitou

"So weird, so bad, that it's a beautiful thing. Don't miss it."
- Featured review by "Truman Chipotle" on IMDB

Once again, an crazy-amazing selection from the Final Girl Film Club. I lucked out and caught this On Demand, so I don't have any screen-caps to offer. That's just as well, since Spazmo turned in the most fabulous review with screen-caps of just about anything you could want to see!

Having recently lived near Manatee County, Florida, this was my first subliminal thought as I glimpsed the title of this month's selection:

But seeing as how manatees are herbivores, that probably wouldn't have made for the best horror movie.

I looked at the cards with my usual elaborate concentration. I knew as much about the Tarot as anybody did who had taken the trouble to read Tarot Made Easy, but it was the style that carried it off. If you want to be a mystic, which is actually easier than being an advertising copywriter, or a summer camp warden, or a coach-tour guide, then you have to look like a mystic.

Since I am a rather mousy thirty-two-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, with the beginnings of a bald patch underneath my scrubby brown hair, and a fine but overlarge nose in my fine but pallid face, I took the trouble to paint my eyebrows into satanic arches, and wear an emerald satin cloak with moons and stars sewn on it, and perch a triangular green hat on my head. The hat used to have a badge on it that said Green Bay Packers, but I took it off, for obvious reasons.

I invested in incense, and a few leather-bound copies of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and a beaten-up old skull from a secondhand store in the Village, and then I placed an advertisement in the newspapers which read: "The Incredible Erskine -- Fortunes Read, Future Foretold, Your Fate Revealed."

Within a couple of months, I was handling more business than I knew what to do with, and for the first time in my life I was able to afford a new Mercury Cougar and a quad stereo with earphones to match. But, as I say, it wasn't easy. The constant tide of middle-aged ladies who came simpering into my apartment, dying to hear what was going to happen in their tedious middle-aged lives, was almost enough to drown me forever in the well of human despair.

I was just going to the icebox to fetch myself a can of beer when the telephone rang. I tucked the receiver under my chin, and opened up the beer as I talked. The voice on the other end was female (of course) and nervous (of course). Only nervous females sought the services of a man like The Incredible Erskine.

"Mr. Erskine?"

"Erskine's the name, fortune-telling's the game."

"Mr. Erskine, I wonder if I could come round and see you."

"Of course, of course. The fee is twenty-five dollars for your ordinary glimpse into the immediate future, thirty dollars for a year's forecast, fifty dollars for a lifetime review."

"I just want to know what's going to happen tomorrow." The voice sounded young, and very worried. I took a quick mental guess at a pregnant and abandoned secretary.

"Well, madam, that's my line. What time do you want to come?"

"Around nine? Is that too late?"

"Nine is fine, and the pleasure's mine. Can I have your name please?"

"Tandy. Karen Tandy. Thank you, Mr. Erskine. I'll see you at nine."

It might seem strange to you that an intelligent girl like Karen Tandy should seek help from a terrible quack like me, but until you've been dabbling in clairvoyance for quite a while, you don't realize how vulnerable people feel when they're threatened by things they don't understand.

- Excerpt from The Manitou by Graham Masterton

This bit from the book makes the story sound like a lame take on a film-noir detective tale. It's cringe-inducingly bad. So, apparently in the book, Harry had never met Karen before. And the book originally had a different ending in its first release. It seems any conclusions drawn from the movie as to the moral of the story would not be what the author intended.

Things I Learned:

I now know that the name of the town of Manitowoc, two hours north up the shore of Lake Michigan, means "Spirit Wood". This in turn led me to the realization that (save for the cable-access show in Aurora), I am practically the female incarnation of Wayne of Wayne's World.

If you're like me, you'll know what I mean: I've seen hundreds more movies than anyone I've met, but my viewing experience is shamefully lacking compared to some of the people I find online. I've been trying to study all the films I see to see how they are related to others I may or may not have seen yet, to try to build a sort of framework to fill in with more movies as I watch them. Here are some things I've sorted out related to The Manitou, which many of you will know, but some of you may not...

Seeing John Singing Rock for the first time, I had the impression he wasn't actually Native American, and I wondered if he might be Iron Eyes Cody, the crying Indian from the anti-pollution PSAs of the 70s who was outed as Sicilian on the Columbus Day episode of The Sopranos. Turns out Michael Ansara isn't Native American or Sicilian, but of Egyptian descent. Having never seen any of the TV Westerns, I'd only heard of his popular role as "Cochise" of the Broken Arrow television series. He has since appeared in a wide variety of television programs. His appearance in The Manitou came a few years after his divorce from Barbara Eden of I Dream Of Jeannie. Lately, he has voiced the role of Mr. Freeze in several animated productions of Batman.

Burgess Meredith played The Penguin on the Batman TV series. Most people will recognize him from his roles in the Rocky and Grumpy Old Men movies.

The actresses who played Harry's first two clients, Mrs. Winconis and Mrs. Herz, were both on the cast of Psycho. Jeanette Nolan was the voice of Norman Bates' mother (nothing like the voice she uses in this film), and Lurene Tuttle was the sheriff's wife, Eliza Chambers: "I helped Norman pick out the dress she was buried in. Periwinkle blue."

Ann Sothern (who played Mrs. Karmann, Karen's aunt) had a long career in both television & film, including her series of Maisie movies. She made television history as the first woman with a job on her series Private Secretary. She previously appeared in two other horror films: Lady In A Cage (1964) and The Killing Kind (1973). Surprisingly, these look pretty raw.

Susan Strasberg (who plays Karen) is known as the daughter of Lee Strasberg of The Actors' Studio. I believe the only thing I'd ever seen her in was Psych-Out/The Trip. Horror movies she has appeared in include Scream of Fear (1961), So Evil, My Sister (1974), Bloody Birthday (1981), Sweet Sixteen (1983), and another Native American-themed film: The Returning also known as Witch Doctor (1983).

Stella Stevens was the January 1960 Playboy Playmate of the Month at the beginning of her career, and might be best known for appearing in the Elvis movie Girls! Girls! Girls! or The Nutty Professor shortly afterward. She has appeared in a crazy list of horror movies - more than enough for her own movie marathon festival! The Mad Room (1969), Arnold (1973), Wacko (1983), Monster in the Closet (1987), Mom (1990), The Terror Within 2 (1990), Little Devils: The Birth (1993), The Granny (1995), Phantasmagoria (1995), Blessed (2004) , Glass Trap (2005), plus a 1978 Aaron Spelling made-for-tv movie called Cruise Into Terror/Voyage Into Evil that sounds like an episode of The Love Boat with Satan on-board. Is there any chance at all that I will ever see it?

Of course Tony Curtis is the father of Her Royal Highness, Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, which makes me loathe to make any snide remarks, but I'm afraid I must say he really seems like a pompous tool. He starred in Some Like It Hot in drag, and Spartacus, for goodness sake, but felt he had to publicly condemn Brokeback Mountain and refuse to watch it even as a voting member of the Academy. Meanwhile his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis is Jake Gyllenhaal's godmother. What the fuck is that all about, seriously? He's quoted as saying "I was 22 when I arrived in Hollywood in 1948. I had more action than Mount Vesuvius - men, women, animals! I loved it too. I participated where I wanted to and didn't where I didn't. I've always been open about it." Huh? This is really sticking in my craw more than ever now that Heath Ledger is gone and has no more career ahead of him.

I'm not sure I've ever seen him in anything besides Some Like It Hot. I'm going to catch him in The Boston Strangler (1968) this month on AMC. TMC will be playing five of his movies back-to-back on Wednesday, March 12 starting at 8 PM Eastern.

Most of these actors have also appeared in many episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone, etc. that I am going to keep my eye out for.

At the very end of the film, they conclude with a mention of a case in Tokyo a few years prior in 1969 in which a boy was found to have a tumor containing a fetus. This condition has lately become more well-known due to the freak-show medical programs that have become so popular.

Long-distance Dedication: This song will never be the same again...


borehole said...

Yet another great horror blog found courtesy of Final Girl's comment section. Why is it that the DIY sites are so much more clever and literate than their for-profit counterparts?

Anyway, yeah, I haven't heard too many good things about Tony Curtis. It's almost charming the way old-guard guys like him bristle at progress, but not quite--I guess there's a fine line between "reactionary curmudgeon" and "pig."

That said, I thought he was a great choice for this flick precisely because he's such a dinosaur. Everybody else was so soft and new-agey, they really needed a guy's guy as an anchor. And that's why the... uh... that's why the movie holds together so well.

Off I go to plumb your archives. See ya when "Scarecrows" comes due.

Bloody Mary said...

Oh my. Unfortunately I've just started and my archives are mostly empty. I've got SO much to write! I've had to be away lately and haven't had any time to play, but I'm ready to get back to work. But come back and see me sometime!

Anonymous said...

I've come here before via Mermaid Heather and now I come via Final Girl.
Personally, I'm still trying to participate in the Final Girl Film Club. I actually saw SUSPIRIA last time, but I have yet to write a review.
This time, I decided to buy a copy of THE MANITOU to watch, but I ordered it via Best Buy hoping it'd be in Monday and I'd cram in a viewing and a reviewing Monday night.
It's Thursday and it STILL hasn't come in the mail.
Grrr and d'oh!

But, uh, I didn't stop by here to tell you that.
Great review.
The info on Tony Curtis is really startling, especially combined with the info about Jamie Lee Curtis as Gyllenhaal's godmother. Man!

Also, I'm really not that up on current music, so that Black Eyed Peas video was just, wow.
It's such a goofy song as is, which is also startling.
Catchy, but goofy.
We live in a strange and weird-ass world, I tell ya.

I really have to check out the rest of your blog.

Bloody Mary said...

Geesh, I haven't finished my Suspiria review either. Or my Eyes Of A Stranger review! And I really didn't say anything much about The Manitou in this review either! :)

I'm thrilled two of you found it interesting, though, I sure did!

I'll be filling in my blanks slowly but surely but steadily and I'll work on putting together an index too so you can easily see which movies have a review finished.

So y'all come back now, ya hear?

Anonymous said...

Thank you.
Probably in the spirit of "Misery loves company," I found great comfort hearing about your unfinished reviews.

borehole said...

Okay, look, I understand that blogging is thankless drudgery with little or no payoff, financial or otherwise, but...

Actually, I guess there is no "but." I still say you should write more.

kindertrauma said...

Where are you Bloody Mary? We miss you!