A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies.A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies.A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies.A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies.A laundry-folding machine has been possessed by a demon, causing it to develop homicidal tendencies.
It's possible that director Tobe Hooper also recognized Lovecraft's significance when adapting The Mangler for the big screen. The short-story version does not offer a substantive historical link between the present-day and the genesis of the demon machine in the 1920s; the decade when Lovecraft began his short but illustrious writing career. Hooper took great pains, however, to develop an atmosphere that evokes the New England of Lovecraft's youth; a period when mill towns offered the only refuge for immigrants and native poor unable to make a living off the land. It was a time before the New Deal social reforms of President Franklin Roosevelt offered some relief from the exploitative and dangerous conditions inflicted on America's working class. For me, the philosophical sub-text of The Mangler is the evils of unbridled, industrial capitalism. The fact that rural communities have often depended for their very existence on a dehumanizing local industry is not lost on the socially progressive King.
Some have characterized The Mangler as an outstanding B-movie. I prefer to regard it as an all around entertaining flick. Although such films tend to be formulaic, Hooper and co-screenwriter Stephen David Brooks deserve credit for fleshing-out King's short story in a laudable fashion. The film's characters are well developed, and Robert Englund's portrayal of Bill Gartley, the grotesquely maimed, delightfully evil owner of the laundry machine from hell, should have earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (a nod that should also have gone to Fred Gwynne for his fine work in Pet Sematary.) Ted Levine, and the versatile Jeremy Crutchley -- who portrayed two different characters in The Mangler -- also turned in noteworthy performances. Last but not least, the film's surprise ending, totally different from the climax of the original short story, is satisfying and appropriate.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of his novels, I believe that King's lesser works best demonstrate his creative gifts. The short story format demands an economy of words and a disciplined approach that can result in high emotional impact for readers. Short stories also provide additional latitude for movie makers to offer their unique interpretation of the work. The film adaptation of The Mangler is a fine example of the creative synergy between literary and cinematic artists, and a must-see for horror fans.
- May 26, 2002