The post-EXORCIST 70s produced a variety of quirky, old-fashioned horror films with big name stars whose careers were winding down but who were happy to still be working and who added a touch of class to the proceedings. PSYCHIC KILLER with Jim Hutton, TOURIST TRAP with Chuck Connors and SHOCK WAVES with John Carradine and Peter Cushing immediately come to mind. And then there's THE MANITOU. I saw this movie when it first came out in 1978 and thoroughly enjoyed it. There's something for everyone here... black magic, Native American lore, cool 1970s furnishings (check out Tony Curtis' pad -er- apartment), possession, a séance, demonic birth and a STAR TREK like finish. It's like a summing up of the themes of 1970s horror films with a few well placed shocks and one truly memorable sequence. Curtis takes the Bob Hope approach (complete with quips) to his role as a fake mystic who is suddenly confronted with the real thing. Susan Strasberg makes a suitably vulnerable heroine and Syrian born Michael Ansara is quite believable as an Indian medicine man (no Native Americans in 1978) brought in to fight the evil. Stella Stevens, Ann Sothern, and Burgess Meredith add fun to the proceedings and director William Girdler (ABBY, GRIZZLY) doesn't give you time to think long enough on how preposterous it all is. Sadly this film was to have been his ticket to the big time and would have been (it was a box office hit) had he not been killed in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for his next film. Avco Embassy for whom the film was made was sold to Norman Lear in 1982 and this and other Avco Embassy films disappeared into ownership limbo. Thanks to Anchor Bay THE MANITOU and other 70s A/E films like MURDER BY DECREE and WINTER KILLS have made it to DVD in beautiful widescreen transfers. THE MANITOU may be trash but it's really great trash and I'd rather be watching it than any number of present day horror films. Its well crafted approach to its material (no matter how ridiculous) rather than explicit effects from suffering victims makes it a guilty pleasure that I'll be happy to return to.
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