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Karen Tandy enters a San Franisco hospital suffering from a tumor growing in her neck. Her surprised doctors think it's a living creature, a fetus being born inside the tumor. Fortune-teller Harry Erskine dismisses it -- until one of his customers begins speaking in tongues and fatally throws herself down a flight of stairs, and Karen's surgeon attempts to cut off his own hand rather than excise her tumor. Erskine finally seeks help from another fortune teller, Amelia Crusoe, and her husband, to try to learn the cause of these supernatural events. When Karen's tumor gets larger, Dr. Snow speculates that within her tumor lives vengeful 400-year-old Indian spirit. Erskine travels to South Dakota to enlist the aid of Indian medicine man John Singing Rock to force the evil spirit out of Karen and back where it came. The Indian spirit is driven from Karen's tumor, but will it take over others before Singing Rock can send him back? Written by
The Manitou was Tony Curtis's last starring role, henceforth after this Curtis would be a character actor for the rest of his career. He's quite a character in The Manitou.
What can I say but that the Manitou is an American Indian version of The Exorcist. Just as Linda Blair was possessed by a demon spirit in that film, in The Manitou here Susan Strasberg is naturally disturbed by the sudden appearance of a growth on her back. It's getting quite exponentially large and doctor determine it's a fetus of some kind. And operating on it causes some horrific casualties.
Here's when Tony Curtis calls in a consult. Curtis is a spiritualist of sorts and has quite the act, but for the real deal when he hears one of his clients Lurene Tuttle start babbling in Indian tongues he calls on Michael Ansara who is a medicine man. It is Ansara who determines that this is a great spirit from the past looking to be reborn.
So Ansara with Curtis's help essentially performs an exorcism Indian style. And if you've seen The Exorcist you know what happens.
When I started to watch The Manitou I saw that Tony was playing it a bit tongue in cheek. When we first meet him he's giving Jeanette Nolan a fleecing. He was very good and I thought the whole film might be tongue in cheek, but it got good and serious after that.
Maybe if it had stayed in a satiric vein, it might have rated higher for me. And ironically I think it could have been played that way.
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