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The Manipulator (1971)

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An insane Hollywood makeup man kidnaps a woman, keeps her prisoner in his warehouse full of props.



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Complete credited cast:
B.J. Lang
Old Charlie


An insane Hollywood makeup man kidnaps a woman, keeps her prisoner in his warehouse full of props.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

15 December 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

B.J. Presents  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


Charlie dies with his hands to his sides and this is how he's always shown, except in one shot where his fingers are interlocked across his chest. See more »

Crazy Credits

After the closing credits Mickey Rooney is shown in fast forward acting around on stage. See more »


Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »


Chattanooga Choo Choo
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Sung by Mickey Rooney
See more »

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User Reviews

Truly bizarre nightmare character study
24 November 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

There's a not insignificant realm of cinema where art unbound roams raging into madness. But less in number are the films that cross into this maelstrom and there not only find meaning but grasp quintessence, and The Manipulator is one of these films. As uncompromising a study of madness as I've ever seen, it tells the story of ageing film-maker BJ Lang and his captive Carlotta who he forces to play Roxanne to his Cyrano in scenes from the Rostand play. The story is barely skeletal, mostly a two handed piece with a short appearance from a wino, its flesh is its dialogue and technique and the two entwine remarkably well, not that you would guess from the average reviewer here, most of whom seem to be hung up on not understanding (nor even attempting to) what they were seeing. Essentially The Manipulator looks at the processes of art in abstraction, removed from their connection to the creation of a cohesive work, and treats them as means of psyche infection, a force that has entirely infested poor BJ Lang, breaking down all the structures that hold him together. In his shadowy and cobwebbed studio he acts the role of director, talks to mannequins as his crew, adopts their voices to talk to himself, plays Cyrano, plays actor, even self aware mad old man. With nothing to hold his notions separate he skips wildly between fiction and reality, artifice and insanity, self knowledge and deceit, even touching on legitimate insights along the way. And in the process slowly but surely a picture of art run to its terrible potential emerges, the manipulations of creating fiction, the manipulations of crafting an actual artwork, these processes of one wielding control over many, we see that complete control, to some the loftiest goal, means the collapse of the individual and rebuilding as collective consciousness, consciousness oh so difficult to hold in any kind of check once developed. It is as you might guess, not exactly an easy film. That it works so well is to a great extent down to Mickey Rooney as BJ Lang, giving an extraordinarily uninhibited performance. Every shade of pathos and mania, even strange grandeur, singing, dancing, physical comedy, there are scarce few other turns in film so free and wild. He is utterly, bizarrely compelling, hateful at times and sympathetic at others, simply superb. Luana Anders does a good job as his foil Carlotta, she mostly has to react, growing steadily more and more desperate and unhinged herself, not quite as showy a turn but still playing very well of Rooney, rather chilling in her plight. Keenan Wynn is good too as a wino, though he has really to do except shifting the plot and sense of reality for a spell. The technique matches the acting in outlandishness, deploying all manner of unbalanced angles, close ups, speedy edits, colored lenses, strobe lighting, hallucinatory sound design, hazy phantasms, all this piled on relentlessly to disturb the viewer as much as the characters on screen. The terrific art direction (by Larry Cohen) goes well with the directorial flourishes too, all manner of mannequins, both whole and in parts alone, free standing or hanging, and an array of beasts as well. And not surprisingly the score is unusual too, ranging from piano and sawing strings to strange noisy burbles. So altogether its a dense film, by the end almost an exhausting one, and most certainly not to all tastes. But for those interested in the intersection of madness and art, of truly bizarre art-house horror or just of unfettered acting exercises this is most certainly a worthy watch. 8/10

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