Archive for October 3rd, 2021

by Sam Juliano

My 24 year-old son Sammy IV has been in the hospital this past week (finally due to be discharged tomorrow) because of seizures he has been subject too since early 2020.  They wanted to do the full battery of tests with the helmet and wires.  There are no tumors, no cancer (thank God!) nothing potentially dangerous.  Now they are saying it may not even be a small degree of epilepsy (runs in my family) but rather, (get this!) a kind of migraine related matter that could be caused by lights or even some vitamin deficiency.  Of course medication will control this.  We were terrified because he would space out for over a half hour, but the doctors said this rare type of migraine could last hours or even days.  We are relieved and grateful nothing serious has been diagnosed and want to stay abreast of the situation regardless.

With the unconscionable, tragic passing of young 29 year-old Michael Russo, this past week has been a horror in every sense.  Lucille and I have not watched any films, though I have kept abreast of social media and our pollings.

James Clark has written a superlative essay this past week at the site on Antonioni’s seminal La Notte.

I finished my first novel Paradise Atop the Hudson the first days of May, and the editor completed his work a short while later.  I am still waiting for the artist to complete the book’s cover, though online one can read that normally a cover should not take more than 10 (ten) working days to finish.  This past week saw no progress on the follow-up novel, Irish Jesus in Fairview, but with three-quarters of it done, I am not expected any problem in bringing closure to it very soon.  In any case it seems abundantly clear I need to employ a different artist for it as I don’t want to wait another six months after working my tail off to finishing it.  The book should have been published no later than early August.

Jamie Uhler’s ongoing Horrorfest 2021 project continues this week with some fantastic capsules on older films, but one is on the recent Promising Young Woman:

The Manitou (W. Girdler… 1978) supernatural/possession

During a reading of a Malignant (2021) review, I had inferred that I’d seen a film the piece referenced the Wan flick had borrowed from. Upon further inspection I’d only done a similar reading of a Manitou review elsewhere, and never actually viewed it. It was a mental osmosis that seemed strangely fitting for both movies, what with their penetrating psychological inferences that come and go from past and very much current growths on the mind featuring so prevalent. That and, yeah, Wan most have really liked The Manitou, a film that he borrows from, though missing its charms of touching realism* and storytelling craft. Malignant appearing in parts like a Manitou remake made by a heavily ADHD addled carnival barker who’s never met a jump scare or droning, oppressive piece of music he couldn’t weld at every moment. But then don’t misinterpret my point—yesterday I also hoped to point out that Malignant wasn’t all bad—as on the topic of referential material, it’s silly to praise The Manitou, a film I liked even as it worked as little more than an Exorcist rip-off with a Native American spiritual bent instead of a Catholic one (it was Girdler’s second Exorcist rip-off as Abby had come out a few years prior and been sued by Exorcist‘s creators† you’ll recall).
You see, homages are important to genre cinema and all the arts. For example, where Manitou breaks from The Exorcist is who actually gets implanted with an evil spirit. Here, Susan Strasberg’s Karen is a mature, affluent woman, her being eventually possessed and then ‘birthing’ the fetus that grows from her spinal column into a powerful Native American shaman needs the help of cutting edge (pun intended) medical facilities and former friends (The Exorcist isn’t worse off, its choice of using a child just produces different scares of helplessness and parental loss of power). The friend is Hollywood heavy Tony Curtis, here aged past his prime (you can talk a lot about the Hag Horror movement and what it did to classic Hollywood’s leading ladies but the same thing happened to the fellas) but grows into a caring, brave friend after the initial characterization of his charlatan work as a tarot card reader for rich old ladies. Eventually the tumor grows and a second Native American shaman is sought, a way to ‘fight fire with fire’ once science has offered no resistance.
My appreciation for this truly insane, ridiculous film is perhaps a way in outlining how I view the beauties of yesteryear’s cinema. Where Malignant hesitates to offer any feeling, visual or emotion in anything resembling a whisper of subtly, The Manitou takes its time to construct all the outlandish hooey into something that happened. This isn’t to say The Manitou is sedated and limp (I mean Malignant isn’t and it’s what works most about it), when it needs to ramp up, like the final 30 minutes or so, it does some with pretty effective special effects and entertaining action (and, therefor, our feelings of ‘this could have happened’ go kablooey), producing big laughs. But who needs CGI pyrotechnics when you have Burgess Meredith playing an anthropologist earlier who is also something of a hoarder (here Rocky’s Mick moves about his home full of relics and interrupts himself and shifts dust as he tries to recall lost books and foretell his volumes of sacred knowledge, perhaps my favorite acting in the film)? Those are the things that also marvel real film fans, great pros chewing scenery. High trash recommend.
*I mean realism here in how the actions and events are portrayed—the emotional bond between Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg for example which drives his desire to try and help her at all costs as somewhat believable—it’s all pitched with authentic sincerity. It’s the effect of cinema I mean, the illusion of the otherwise ridiculous, which isn’t to paint the movie as one of realism as the events of the movie are totally camp, fantastical and, frankly, (gloriously) absurd. 
†An absurd lawsuit, the films aren’t that similar, they’re both merely possession movies, a common enough trope through Horror’s many decades. I mean, could the makers of The Possession of Joel Delaney sue The Exorcist? There are more similarities apparent in those two films. 


Read Full Post »