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The Manitou is a 1978 American horror film produced and directed by William Girdler. It stars Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara and Susan Strasberg. It was based on the 1976 novel by Graham Masterton, which was inspired by an old legend about the American Indian Manitou spiritual concept. Girdler died in a helicopter accident prior to the movie's release.[2]

The Manitou
The Manitou - 1978 - Poster.png
1978 theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Girdler
Produced byWilliam Girdler
Screenplay by
Based onThe Manitou
by Graham Masterton
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyMichel Hugo
Edited byBub Asman
Distributed byAvco Embassy Pictures[1]
Release date
  • April 28, 1978 (1978-04-28)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]



A woman named Karen (Strasberg), who is suffering from a growing tumor on her neck, enters a hospital in San Francisco. After a series of X-rays, the doctors begin to think it is a living creature: a fetus being born inside the tumor. Eerie and grisly occurrences begin; the tumorous growth perceives itself – himself – to be under attack as a result of the X-rays used to ascertain its nature, which are starting to stunt and deform its development. The growth is the old Native American shaman, Misquamacus; he is reincarnating himself through the young woman to exact his revenge on the white men who invaded North America and exterminated its native peoples. Karen's boyfriend, psychic fortune teller Harry Erskine (Curtis) contacts a second Native American shaman, John Singing Rock (Ansara), to help fight the reincarnating medicine man, but the kind of spirits he can summon and control appear to be too weak to match his opponent's abilities.



The film was released theatrically by AVCO Embassy Pictures on April 28, 1978 in New York, and May 17, 1978 in Los Angeles.[1] "Evil does not be reborn..." was the poster's tagline.[3] The film was released on DVD by Momentum Pictures on October 24, 2005. It was re-released by Anchor Bay on March 6, 2007.[4]


Variety wrote, "This bout between good and Satan includes some scares, camp and better than average credits".[5] Derek Adams from Time Out praised the film's special effects and called the film "a successful excursion, spoiled only by the director's habit of plopping in postcard views of the Golden Gate Bridge instead of exteriors".[6] Donald Guarisco from Allmovie criticized the film's script and weak direction but complimented the acting, special effects and ending.[7] Author John Kenneth Muir wrote the film has "an infectious feeling of fun" despite being "patently absurd".[2] The Manitou has a 43% approval rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes and an average rating of 4.6 out of 10 based on seven reviews.[8]

Masterton, who wrote the source novel, said he "liked it a lot".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Detail view of Movies Page". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Muir, John Kenneth (2012). Horror Films of the 1970s. McFarland & Company. pp. 564–568. ISBN 9780786491568.
  3. ^ Handlen, Zack. "The Manitou (1978)".
  4. ^ "The Manitou (1978) - William Girdler". Allmovie. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  5. ^ "The Manitou". Variety Staff. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  6. ^ Adams, Derek. "The Manitou, directed by William Girdler". Derek Adams. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  7. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "The Manitou (1978) - William Girdler". Donald Guarisco. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  8. ^ "The Manitou (1978) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 7 March 2016.

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