Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book to Film - THE MANITOU (1978)

I can't explain why I have such a strange fascination with the 1978 film THE MANITOU. I can't claim it's a very good movie or that it has a very impressive story or is packed with creepy atmosphere or is well cast. OK- that last complaint isn't completely true. The only bit of casting that really seems off is TonyCurtis as phony psychic and all around good guy Harry Erskine. Erskine is supposed to be in his early thirties and at the time Curtis was actually in his late fifties so when the dialog between him and co-star Susan Strasberg strays too close to romantic territory the story seems a little odd. Luckily the story is so crazy there isn't much time for that kind of thing.

For years I have wanted to read the source novel of the same title by Graham Masterson but only got around to it this October. I was pleased with the book and found it (my first Masterson novel) to be a fun, freaky horror tale. Adding to my enjoyment was the fact that the film stuck really close to the novel. Indeed, I was surprised by how close to the book the film had stayed. There are a few changes -location, specific events, etc.- but the movie is about 80% straight from the page. This is a rarity and I must say that in this case it was a refreshing thing to discover, as my familiarity with the adaptation made the book an even more visual read. The movie takes entire sections of the book and slaps them right up onto the screen- even when that might not have been the best choice to have made.

The plot of the film is simple, up to a point -  Karen (Susan Strasberg) is suffering from a reoccurring nightmare and consults psychic Harry (Curtis). She believes her trouble is related to a tumor growing on her neck and enters a private hospital to have it removed. After a series of X-rays the doctors begin to think the tumor is a living creature - possible a vestigial fetus growing inside the swelling. Harry becomes concerned and researches Karen's dream which points to a Native American legend about a medicine man. The operation to remove the fetus/tumor fails when it seems that the growth has interlocked its nervous system with Karen's and then strange things start happening around the hospital. It appears that the tumorous growth is an Indian medicine man named Misquamacus who is reincarnating himself! The time travelling magic user feels under attack as a result of the X-rays used by the doctors to ascertain its nature and the radiation is starting to stunt and deform the thing's development. Misquamacus is returning to exact his revenge on white men who invaded North America and exterminated its native peoples. Harry locates another Native American shaman named Singing Rock (Michael Ansara) who is hired to help fight the reincarnating medicine man, but the kind of spirits he can summon for battle may be too weak to match his opponent's abilities.

Now- if that synopsis sounds crazed you know what you are in for and I wash  my hands of responsibility if you still watch the film. Understand that I like the movie but I don't expect you to be anything more than bemused. The ending is completely insane and shows that the book's monster heavy ending needed to be re-imagined for the screen - but not in this way. On the other hand, I can easily recommend the Masterson novel as a good read and well worth your time if you enjoy horror fiction and I think so highly of it that I look forward to tracking down the sequel! I wonder if Misquamacus actually returns or its another pissed off medicine man.

One day I need to write a bit about the film's director William Girdler. He had in interesting career. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Entire HALLOWEEN Franchise in Two Minutes!

Do not -Repeat NOT - watch this video if you have not watched all the Halloween movies as it spoils the endings of each and every one. But if you have seen them all this is an amusing and fast overview of the movies in animated form that gets funnier as it goes along. Very fun!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Saturday, October 18, 2014


It's October again and time for us to cover a horror film with Spanish connections. This time we tackle one of the best zombie films of all time - that's right - I said it! THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE was conceived as a way to cash in on the popularity of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD but it goes in its own direction to great effect. Indeed, it is such a creative and intriguing variation on the cannibalistic walking dead that both Troy and I mark it as a favorite of the subgenre. It plays with lots of ideas that can tickle the intellect but never skimps on the atmosphere or scares. One of the themes of the movie seems to be man's breach of trust in our dealings with nature with the film wasting no time showing us images of our ecological crimes to drive this thought home. As George leaves London director Jorge Grau focuses his camera on car tailpipes, smoke stacks, piles of garbage and venting sewer grates forcing us to look at our daily polluting of the earth. These things are not dwelled upon as the movie continues but the ideas, like a creeping zombie, lurk behind everything that happens. The film also presents a colorful and beautifully shot series of images that can be enjoyed just as fine cinematography and lovely framing so you don't have to be a gore hound to be entertained by this one.

As usual we can't stay on a single subject for an entire podcast so we start with a discussion of the proposed Universal Monster-verse and our hopes for it. During the mail section we talk about Eli Roth's new film and our reactions to his earlier movies; the concept of the MacGuffin and various other things that we are asked about in emails. If you would like to write us and prompt further discussions the address is or join us on the Facebook page. Thank you for downloading and listening and have a happy Halloween! Spoon!

Neal Adams monster covers!

Adams is one of my favorite comic book artists of all time and his work on various monster magazines is my second favorite of his career. (His Tarzan illustrations are even better in my opinion.) 

Friday, October 17, 2014

RiffTrax tackles The Great Pumpkin

I love this show and have already watched it this Halloween season but this is a fun way to look at it with a new kind of grin. Why DID Charlie Brown always get a rock?

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Voodoo Island is best known (if at all) as one of many programmers made by Boris Karloff in the 1950s. It's not one of King Karloff's best moments.

Howard Carlton (Owen Cunningham) is a very wealthy man who has finally decided to look into developing a Pacific island he purchased some time ago. Supposedly uninhabited, the island has a bad reputation with the natives in the area and it is said that no one who goes there ever returns. Unconcerned about superstition plus seeing potential gold on them thar shores, Carlton recently sent a team of land surveyors to look over the place with an eye to building a hotel and resort in this tropical paradise. But the only member of the group to return was Mitchell (Glenn Dixon) who washed up on another island in a small boat. Alive but in a catatonic, zombie-like state Mitchell can offer no information on what happened. Carlton calls in Phillip Knight (Karloff), a professional skeptic and debunker of supernatural claims, asking him to visit the island to discover what happened to the surveyors. Knight openly doubts Carlton's tale with not even Mitchell’s odd state convincing him this isn't an elaborate Voodoo publicity stunt. He agrees to go but insists on complete autonomy and the right to publish his findings his own way. Carlton agrees and allows Knight to take a small group with him sending his right hand man Finch (Murvyn Vye) along to smooth any money problems. Also making the journey is Carlton's head architect Clair Winter (Jean Engstrom), Knight’s assistant Sarah Adams (Beverly Tyler) and Mitchell is taken along just because Knight wants him to go. 

En route by plane the group begins to experience strange things such as malfunctioning radios and odd disappearing storms. These phenomenon are topped by the strange death of Mitchell just as they are about to board a boat to the dreaded isle. Once on the island the intrepid crew slashes their way into the jungle looking for the previous team's trail but find only tree markers and abandoned surveying equipment. The group fight off pesky insects and pad out the film with some grade C romance between the very attractive Miss Adams and the macho boozehound boat captain Mr. Gunn (Rhodes Reason). Luckily for those of us who know the argue/fight/bond/kiss routine of such subplots we finally get to business when the fetching Miss Winter goes skinny-dipping alone in a lake. Craning our necks for a glimpse of skin instead we're given a carnivorous (and apparently inflatable) plant that attacks and kills the lady, depositing her corpse on the shore. Soon after this, another type of plant resembling a creepy, pulsing suction cup lampreys itself onto Adams' right breast! The men quickly free her (and just as I began to think all the plant life had a taste for human females) the island's natives take everyone prisoner. The native chief explains they have lived in this taboo place for years and wish to be left alone. After witnessing another of his companions die unexplainably after seeing his likeness on a voodoo doll Knight agrees, and the rest of the party are allowed to go home. The End.

Voodoo Island is a bore, pure and simple. A dull story, pedestrian acting, silly dialog and a complete lack of explanation for anything that occurs puts this on the list of the worst Karloff movies I've ever seen. I can't blame poor Boris too much — he tries hard to sell his lines, but he's asked to spout some very stupid things. Humorously, some of his most memorable lines are when he is trying to convince the group not to return to their boat and leave. His incredible argument for staying in the obviously deadly jungle is hysterical and actually had me laughing out loud. If the film had maintained this level of nuttiness I think we'd have had a cheese classic. But unfortunately this scene, the inflatable plant monster attacks and the silly romance are the only things that inject any life into this thing. I thought things were going to improve when character actor Elisha Cook Jr. showed up as the money-hungry owner of a nearby island, but even his efforts can't raise much interest. The bad script just can't be overcome.