This review is a result of not so much being duped by the inaccurate specs for it on Amazon that came out a few months ago like I was with my previous reviews of The Guyver and The Guyver 2, but more by wishful thinking that, maybe, Warner accidentally released the unrated version on this new MOD. The Amazon specs for it still indicate it’s the R-rated version, but the runtime is wrong. It’s listed at 91-minutes for this MOD. As I previously stated in my Guyver review Warner accidentally released the international version of When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970) back in 2008 and had to eventually pull it from circulation. Well, I was kind of hoping they did that again with The Mangler. Unfortunately, they did not.
The real runtime is still 106-minutes. This is the reason I never picked it up on DVD when Warner first released it back in 2004. I was still in possession of the VHS then, but when I saw the 91-minute runtime and the R-rating listed I naturally thought there was 15-minutes cut from it. I eventually bought it some years later and I think that’s because I finally came across a review stating the only cuts were of a few select gore shots, all of which end up being seconds missing from the film rather than 15-minutes of significant time.
I’ve only known this movie in its unrated form when I first saw it on Pay-per-View in the fall of 1995. This movie came out during that period of my life when I also saw In The Mouth Of Madness (1995) for the first time on Pay-Per-View too. I think my viewing of each was just a month a part.
I’ve had at least three terrible jobs in my lifetime, one of them being in the mailroom of a local newspaper called the Berkshire Eagle, it’s probably the closest I’ve ever worked to something involving having to do with large, industrial machines, but none were as dangerous as the mangler. I had two jobs: the first loading flyers into this thing called a hopper, where you stack a bunch of flyers in this machine and it inserts them into the newspapers shooting by. Frankly that job was a pain the ass because if you didn’t put them in the hopper correctly it jammed up, and there were always jam ups going on. The other job I did was taking the newspapers, after they came off the hopper, and jogging them on this small table that vibrated, so all the inserts would be neatly stacked inside the paper and then, then stacking them on a palette. Not particular dangerous work but in other parts of the stock room were the presses that always reminded me of that scene from The Fly (1958) where David Hedison commits suicide by placing his fly head and arm in between the press and dying by being crushed to death. Those things always gave me the creeps when I walked by them, which wasn’t all that often, thank God. And I saw The Mangler weeks before getting this job. God, how I hated it, mostly because of the hours. The first and last job I ever worked where I had to work until almost midnight. Worked at that horrendous place for a year. Why? I have no fuckin’ clue. But I was glad when I finally quit.
Now back to our regularly scheduled review . . .
Riker’s Valley in Maine appears to be the kind of town that was built upon supernatural corruption, at least in Hooper’s movie. I cannot recall much of King’s tale other than the ending. All the officials seem to be subservient to a demonic force, which they’re tagged with by having one of their ring fingers chopped off by I presume this mangler machine. Are they possessed? Not quite. Heavily influenced by Evil might be a more apt description. Where this Evil started is never pinned down, but it was a long, long time ago and seemed to revolve around William Gartley (Robert Englund), who has made his living with Gartley’s Blue Ribbon Laundry. He even lives there with his apartment and furnishings upstairs. What kind of man is Gartley? Before his “corruption” who knows. In his golden years he’s an old douchebag of a coot, who’s blind in one eye and can only walk if his leg braces are on.
Fang covered The Mangler in issue #103 (left, pg.10), and in full coverage in issue 141 (right, pgs. 20-24).
George Stanner (Demetre Phillips) is his right hand man, and the laundry’s foreman. And the both of them run the business like an early 20th century sweatshop. It’s a thankless job for most as it appears and it made my job at the Berkshire Eagle look like a year long adventure of rainbows and unicorns. The supernatural origins of this mangler machine are bit dodgy for the machine doesn’t start out menacing until two men transporting an old fashion icebox out of the building accidentally drop it against the thing transferring a demonic force inside the box to it. Gartley’s 16-year-old niece, Sherry Ouelette (Vanessa Pike), who’s also works there was involved in this “accident.” She cut her hand and splashes the mangler with her blood right as the Evil is transferred to the machine, completing some archaic ritual that’ll allow this force to start its bloody rampage.
This old woman is the mangler’s first victim, reminding us just how gruesome this little tale actually is. She’s crushed by the steamroller-like mechanism and then her bloody remains are folded like she was a sheet. The end result is not pretty, I can tell you that.
Officer John Hunton (Ted Levine) and his brother-in-law, Mark Jackson (Daniel Matmor), are the fighters for Good in this flick. Hutton is burned out and at some point in his life lost his wife in a car accident. Mark and John actually live next to one and he could certainly use a friend this night since that accident at Gartley’s was the worst he’s ever seen. He puked big time when he saw what was left of the old woman.
The events in The Mangler take place over a 24-hour period as John and Mark investigate why that old woman was killed, and why the local officials were so quick to pass it off as just another routine industrial accident and put the machine back into business like nothing ever happened. They also learn Gartley’s sinister plan for his niece. Not to surprising it involves the mangler.
This is an unevenly paced, and at times acted movie, but it’s one that instantly sucked me in. Levine’s Hunton make s a very sympathetic character of a man stuck in grief who wants to move on but doesn’t know how, yet, until that final shot, that is, where he visits Sherrie at the laundry to see how she’s doing. Unfortunately, he’s the only character who gets out of the movie alive and/or in one (mental) piece, relatively speaking.
This is a King adaptation so the downbeat ending is no surprise and anything other than that would have felt like a royal cheat. Other than John, Sherrie and Mark there’s another character in this flick I felt for too. John calls him, Pictureman (Jeremy Crutchley). He’s the mortician always on site to photograph the bodies. He and John were friends at one point, but had some kind of falling out Pictureman may not have full understanding of:
Pictureman: “You know, I get the feeling you don’t like me anymore,”
Hunton : “No. It’s my job I don’t like anymore.”
Pictureman’s got cancer, and he ends up expiring during the course of their 24-hour mangler madness, but not before trying to help John with his grief. Englund also puts in a memorable performance, even though it tends to sometime lean into the over-the-top category. Admittedly, I was never taken with King’s tale since it was kind of odd, I mean, it’s about this “mangle” laundry machine coming to life and actually moving around, so any movie based on it is going to have overcome that “laughable concept” to begin with. I also remember the reviews being bad when it came out. But I think this is one of those flicks that gained a following in the intervening decades and personally I think Hooper and his writers did a good job making this concept of King’s creepy.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen—5.1 English DTS Surround, English Dolby Digital Stereo, 5.1 English Dolby Digital—English & Spanish subs only
The transfer on this one, including the menu set-up, is identical to Warner’s previous DVD. Transfer is really good too for a basic DVD.
Extras included . . .
- Alternate Scene Edit Comparison – Alternate version of 3 scenes presented in split screen comparison
- Theatrical Trailer
The Split Screen extra is basically a comparison of the mere seconds of gore that was excised from the film.
An interesting piece of trivia on IMDB states: “Tobe Hooper filmed a large chunk of the film but left and was replaced by Anant Singh.” I never knew that. I hope one day Warner blues this one, and when/if they do, I hope Hooper does a commentary for it. Probably not, but here’s to hoping.