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The Manipulator (1971)

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



(idea) (as John Durren), (screenplay)

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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

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Technical Specs

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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

His broken white plume
6 November 2002 | by (walnut grove, CA) – See all my reviews

The easy out in commenting on this unusual (!) film would be to reduce it to its most obvious elements--and faults--and lay on the derisive vocabulary in a heat of outrage at its very existence. As the reviews here have thus far done.

But I feel to be so dismissive would be not only too glib, but would be to leave out some elements that, for me at least, contained some real interest, if not artistic, value. In this set piece with three main characters (actually only two, with "Charlie" popping up for the purpose of being killed and adding a potential for reality) it is a "danse macabre" between Rooney's mad old makeup man and Anders as the captive actor who may herself be mad, or only drive to a "distracted" state by being bound in a chair and starved, while subject to B.J. Lainge's phantasmagorical remenisces and "directing" on a stage cluttered with a collection of cobwebbed mannekins, props, and ongoing nightmareish flashes and flashbacks.

What might have been overlooked in writing this picture off as a hodgepodge of bizarre acting antics and weird camera work is that there is a unifying device, and there is some acting, in my view, that should be mentioned.

For one it takes some awareness of the Cyrano theme and some familiarity of Rostand's play to see and appreciate the parallels in the B.J. Lang character and "soul" to that of the original Cyrano, character and play (and real life person for that matter) to appreciate that there is in fact any structure to the piece at all. And there is.

In his madness and reclusion Lang has taken a prisoner to be his Roxanne, the name of Cyrano's thwarted love. She is being forced to say Rostand;s lines under a threat of--but a very wavery line of madness-reality--death by starvation, strangling, or sword. Any sudden reversals in character on her part can be attributed reasonably I think the her extremely stressful and ambiguous position. Despite his obvious madness and homicidal intent, there is real power in Lange's charm, talent, and romantic spirit. This only further confuses and disarms Carlotta--and adds to the dangerousness and compexity of her plight.

I am not being overly generous I think in seeing the irony of Lange "coaching" and prompting his captive actor while consulting and directing an entire set of cameraman "Oscar", and lighting techs, and the wholem retinue

(speaking their line for them, on the "fly")

is startling in the feeling and finesse by which Lange delivers them. It would be a mistake to throw this film away by saying that it had no plot or development. The parallels are often subtle (or vague) and strange, but they are there and they are recognized by the careful viewer.

The acting is another element that can be dismissed as bizarre, flamboyanbt, and plain nuts. But this too would be a mistake, in my view. The fluency and range of Rooney's delivery, the sheer volatility and unpreductability of his movement and speech are in my view spectacularly strong. The speeded up parts do not jolt or amuse me, I see them as being pertinent to the scenes in which the occur--the Chaplinesque "sweeping the set" piece, for instance is an amazing comic relief device that to me demonstrates still more of Rooney's comic dimension. This comic side together with the very subtle and moving romantic side of Lange, also parallel the Cyrano themes and Cyrano's character to a very fine edge. It is not be accident or madness entirely that Lange-Rooney keep the fake nose and the Cavalier hat with the white plume to the bitter end: it is by device and craft.

It seems to me that one needs to remember to stay alert and observant in this and other films of similar "experimentality," and maintain that always valuable commodity: the willingness "to suspend disbelief" long enough not to react immediately against a film that simply baffles and confuses us.

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