The Manipulator (1971)

Article 5021 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-16-2015
Directed by Yabo Yablonsky
Featuring Mickey Rooney, Luana Anders, Keenan Wynn
Country: USA
What it is: Art film

An insane man keeps a woman hostage in an old warehouse full of theatrical props. There he imagines he is directing her in a movie production of “Cyrano de Bergerac”.

IMDB describes this movie as a “horror/thriller”. And maybe it is. Certainly, the plot description and the basic situation lends itself to that approach, and there are moments when the movie is downright nightmarish. Unfortunately, the director seems more interested in indulging himself in all sorts of arty distancing techniques; there’s weird camera angles, dream sequences, slow motion and fast motion, all of which seem to add a bizarre drug-tinged haze over the proceedings, and the script is a rambling mess that probably only makes sense in the mind of a madman. I certainly don’t blame Mickey Rooney for any of this; he dives into his role of the insane would-be director with gusto and real commitment, and in terms of showing us just what he was capable of, it’s an impressive performance. But in the context of this movie, the performance starts to feel like little more than another artistic distancing technique, and the fact that the only other two speaking actors in the movie (Anders and Wynn, the latter in a cameo) don’t seem particularly sane either, it doesn’t really have an effective context in which it can shine. The end result is a movie that wears out its welcome very rapidly; it’s unpleasant, annoying and distracting. As impressive as Rooney’s performance is, it really needed to be in a much better movie.

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