172. The Manipulator (1971)
Writers: Yabo Yablonsky from an idea by John Durren
From: Cult Cinema; Drive-In
A deranged former actor/director holds a young woman prisoner trying to force her to play Roxanne in his version of Cyrano de Bergerac.
How is this my life? Seriously, how is this my life? I’m watching The Manipulator starring Mickey Rooney. I’m trying to get other things done. I just started reading Jane Eyre. I’ve never read it. I can’t get into it, though, because I’m busy watching the goddamn Manipulator!
Here’s the entire movie: Mickey Rooney is a washed-up Hollywood figure running around an abandoned theater emotionally abusing a woman he’s kidnapped. The first 50 minutes, she’s tied to a chair, the last 40, he’s chasing her through the theater. In the end, he kills himself and she starts hearing the spectral crowds he’s heard because he’s driven her mad. THE END.
There’s ninety minutes of this. Ninety! Ninety minutes of Rooney doing bizarro reads of Cyrano de Bergerac, talking to people that aren’t there, and acting manic in sequences shot like an experimental film. One IMDB commenter said the movie’s impressive in small doses—Rooney’s actually good and the experiments are interesting when kept to five minutes or less.
The chase scene after his victim escapes her chair lasts ten minutes and is shot in slow motion. This is excruciating.
Normally I can bloviate for close to a thousand words on a movie, but there’s nothing here. Faux-acid-inspired sequence after faux-acid-inspired sequence, and I’m someone that likes experimental film. While there are hints of a more interesting movie underlying it with the occasionally inventive visuals, or a nice one-act stage play about a former star struggling with obscurity, what’s actually here is really hard to watch. I could say this feels a bit like a precursor to Birdman, particularly the element of a lead playing a character that echoes some of their real-life creative work, but that’d be giving this film too much credit.
It sucks. Avoid it.
It’s still not as bad as Cavegirl or Going Steady.