22 August 2011

The Manitou

United States – 1978
Director – William Girdler
Charter Entertainment, 1986, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 44 minutes

Our present understanding of women’s sexuality and anatomy is a very flawed result of modern science. From a strictly lexical standpoint it is adequate for textbooks and the like, but with the gradual acceptance of empirical inquiry we’ve managed to forget the appropriate tradition of visceral horror. What we have lost is an understanding of the disgusting, hideous and supernaturally evil aspects of menstruation, childbirth and in general, the non-intercourse functions of female genitalia. In 1979 The Manitou (from a novel of the same name by Graham Masterton) sought to correct this glaring oversight (as did The Brood four months later) with an eye toward reestablishing patriarchy’s time honored conflation of women and witchcraft.

The man (because it must be a man) who will mercifully make this reconnection is Harry (Tony Curtis), a con-artist posing as a psychic. His friend-with-benefits Karen (Susan Strasberg) shows up at his door with a hideous swelling boil containing a fetus growing from her neck. The medical community, blinded by facts and evidence, can’t seem to categorize or carve out a solution to Karen’s freakish condition. Instead Harry turns to superstition, and what better place to find tenaciously perennial primitive beliefs than Native America? Teaming up with John Singing Rock (Syrian actor Michael Ansara), a medicine man from the Souix Tribe, and Dr. Snow (Burgess Meredith) an anthropologist who specializes in primitive cultures, Harry defeats the deformed, goo-covered troll that emerges from Karen’s neck-womb.

Is this all to suggest that we had better be careful lest we have to be responsible for the unfortunate but logical consequences of sexual intercourse? Harry seems to have the right idea from the beginning; do not get attached. The only reason he helped Karen is because she is his “friend” and it is implied that they had sex in their first scene thus making him somehow (reluctantly) responsible. What a drag! The remainder of the film serves as a horrific reminder of why anything but the sterile, idealized female form must be diagnosed, vilified, subdued and most importantly avoided. It is thus appropriate that a film concerned entirely with a woman’s body and its associated “problems” should be worked out exclusively by men.

Lowrez Spanish poster from Movie Poster Database

Japanese poster and Australian poster from William Girdler.com


jennwhisper said...

Great review. I just watched this recently. Tony Curtis was amazing.

The Goodkind said...

Well, I wouldn't have used the word 'amazing' to describe his performance, but he was entertaining!

Kev D. said...

Or maybe it's trying to scare us into thinking that if a woman deep throats a guy she can get a goblin baby in her neck.


jennwhisper said...

You didn't think the scene where he takes off the mustache and sticks it on the wall and pours a beer into a goblet was amazing?

The Goodkind said...

The scene was good, but would it have been better with Barry Bostwick?

SimplyMe said...

Is there a movie similar to the Manitou but where the being doesn't die, he jumps out or flies out a bedroom window?