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The Manitou (1978)
The Tumor of Terror
I'm too young to truly appreciate how weird this film is. Featuring actors that my grandparents would have been super familiar with, The Manitou would be a hell of a lot weirder a film if I'd been around to vote for JFK back in the day. It features several actors who were in everything back in the 1950's, 60's, and sort of the 1970's. The only one I recognized myself was Burgess Meredith, known to my generation possibly for playing The Penguin on the old Adam West Batman show. So no, I'm not qualified to throw the names of the folks in this flick into the mud or place them on a pedestal...because I'm just too young and lord knows none of them ever made a huge career by acting in terrible horror movies. I'm going to read you the first sentence I saw on the back of the VHS when I found this at my rental store. That sentence alone blows my mind and, well, as short as this article is going to be, I have to share. Before I give away the absurdity, let's see if you can figure out the plot using only these 4 images. Test your bad-movie making skills! What kind of plot would you have if you had:
Tony Curtis as a fake psychic who scams old women out of their money.
A mysterious lump found on a woman's neck.
A Syrian man pretending to be a Native-American shaman.
Serious doctors looking at a fetal development chart.
What do these things add up to? Have you figured it out yet?
Featured on the back of The Manitou tape:
"A psychic's girlfriend finds out that a lump on her back is a growing reincarnation of a 400 year-old demonic Native American spirit."
Holy. Freaking. Crap. It's magic tumor time. Like I said, this article is going to be pretty short. I've just walked you through the first forty minutes of the film because The Manitou is really a slow, almost boring film. I say "almost" because it's hard to be bored when there's a tumor possessed by the spirit of a Native American Spirit on the screen. The spirit is that of an ancient and powerful shaman by the name of Misquamaracas or Miskymarocky or even Misquamacas if IMDB's spelling is to be correct.
Say hello to Misquamacas. Isn't he cute? I can't wait to see what he looks like when he's born. Sadly, the doctors aren't so excited. They try a couple of times to remove the tumor...with poor results.
The magic tumor is Pro-Life and able to defend itself. Liberals beware! Misquamacas uses his magic powers to take control of the operating room's laser, which apparently doubles as a death ray. Blasting his statement across the room, eventually the doctors decide to let the fetus-tumor "run its course."
Meanwhile the fake psychic finds some hippies, a real psychic, and a Native American who's name is Singing Rock (as opposed to Muttering Jazz or Shouting Punk) to approach the problem from the other direction. While this does let them figure out what (or who) is inside his girlfriend (her shoulder womb, damn it), it also causes the evil spirit to promise horrible death to the entire cast. This coming from a magic fetus is, honestly, a bit intimidating. The problem is that when Misquamacas is born (or hatches, I don't know) he'll be fully grown. Only...they didn't realize it was a fetus so they x-rayed the hell out of his young developing body. So when he comes out he's going to be super-deformed. And pissed.
And really, really scary. If you ever rent this film, I really suggest just fast-forwarding halfway through until you see the arm of a midget burst out of the back of a moaning woman. It'll be hard to miss. Let's see our antagonist.
I've featured my fair share of scary midgets on the site and....Lord. Misquamacas wins. His entrance is one of the best and the fact that he's a deformed midget who's really been hitting the gym only adds to his mystique. Or maybe just my irrational fear of him. Screw being polite to people with disabilities (see my Warwick Davis article for my usual attitude on the topic) this is a freaky midget who's meant to live in your nightmares.
The fact that he can only talk through the corpse of the psychic's dead girlfriend doesn't help matters either. Singing Rock (or Blathering Folk) the shaman has placed a circle of protection around him, trapping him inside. Two things. 1. It's not a circle. I'm not the most occult of folks around but I've never heard of a magic half-circle before. 2. Apparently a circle of protection just means he can't run up to you and crush you with his bulky midget forearms. It definitely doesn't provide much protection. The rest of the film features the scariest midget around summoning demons to pretty much murder those around him. These range from giant eyeballs to zombies to, well, a man in a lizard suit.
I'm not entirely sure the research department of this film got the Native American Mythos right. Then again, maybe there really are magical reincarnation tumors spoken of in the most ancient of Native American lore.
Tony Curtis reveals the evil midget's weakness by throwing a word processor at him. No, really. Misquamacas was casting some weird freezing spell and when he got touched by the processor it exploded, sending him back into his hospital room/half circle of protection. This give Tony the brilliant idea to summon all the spirits of white man's machines to fight the evil. It sort of works. It also makes the film a hell of a lot more trippy.
The bedroom is now...in space?
There's a flying deformed midget waving at me while a giant red eye watches me?
Oh dear lord, why won't he stop laughing?
Suffice to say, words fail me. The film's conclusion/confusion features a lot of exploding lights and computers blowing up. Misquamacas laughs this horrible laugh that sears my flesh and still echoes in my mind. Hint: If you must do drugs, don't combine them with watching this movie. Trust me. It'll hurt. A lot.
The power of the white man's machines (and love, who would have thought it) ends up bringing the woman back to life, who now focuses her toplessness into rays of pink energy....
...and saves the day. Misquamacas is dead (most likely to return as someone else's tumor) and everyone lives happily ever after. Just before the credits roll, we get a special message from the film's creators.
I call bullshit. Partially because doing that online means someone who calls themselves an expert will be forced to research this for me but mostly because, if this WAS true, why wouldn't you put it at the beginning of the movie? I appreciate the "ooooooooooh wow" factor you get by tacking it onto the end but if this was at the beginning I'd be HOLY CRAP THIS COULD BE TRUE. Well, maybe not but if this story was based off a true event then that really needed to be mentioned on the poster. It'd be like that Amityville series. They say it's true, it must be true! I don't know. I just feel that by throwing this at the end of the movie they were just being safe knowing that most of the critics wouldn't have to hold them to the lie. Oh and just so you know: I want it to be true. Reality needs freaky stuff like this.
Edit, less than 24 hours after I posted this Article: Holy Crap it worked! Thanks to reader Mathew's research abilities and the BBC, I've now got confirmation that spontaneous (well, not really) fetus generation is possible. Sort of. From the BBC:
Sixteen-year-old Abu Raihan (a boy) was admitted to the Bangabandhu Medical University hospital in the capital, Dhaka on Saturday. "After the operation we found a dead foetus weighing two kilograms (4.5lbs) in his abdomen," Doctor MA Mazid said, the AFP news agency reports. "Apart from the head, all other limbs of the baby were developed." The condition is known as "foetus in foeto", or inclusion twin. " (For the whole article, click HERE.)
Now how's that for freaky. I humbly retract my declaration of bullshit. Still....holy crap. That's disturbing. I'd make a Liberace joke here, but I think only two of you would get it. I take back what I said though: Reality just might not need stuff like this.
Manitou, I think I love you.
Copyright 2007 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.
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