Home Pge, Site Index, Search, Help

‘The Mangler’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 06, 1995

The teaming of director Tobe Hooper, actor Robert Englund and author Stephen King would seem to offer a horror trifecta, but that's not the result in "The Mangler," the latest King-inspired debacle to hit the big screen. Adapted by Hooper, Stephen Brooks and Peter Welbeck from a King short story, "The Mangler" is ludicrous from start to finish: Its plot lines dangle, its effects fail to dazzle and the acting and directing are uniformly bad. The movie looks as if it's gone through its namesake, the five-ton, 40-foot-long Hadley Watson Model-6 Steam Ironer & Folder. Even the least demanding of genre fans will be hard-pressed to tremble in its presence.

Unaffectionately known as the Mangler, the machine is the heart of the Blue Ribbon Laundry, apparently the only employer in Rykers Valley since it operates with sweat-shop impunity under Bill Gartley (Englund in an over-the-top exaggeration of Peter Sellers's Dr. Strangelove). Things start going awry when one laundry worker's clothes are cleaned, pressed and folded; unfortunately, she'll still in them at the time.

Along comes bitter, wasted Officer John Hunton (Ted Levine, still essentially playing his marbles-in-mouth Buffalo Bill character from "Silence of the Lambs"). Soon three more workers get steamed (literally) and someone notes "it's almost like the machine had a taste for blood and found it liked it." What a surprise!

Luckily, Hunton's next-door neighbor happens to be his occult-obsessed brother-in-law (Daniel Matmor) and they start snooping around more clumsily that those Watergate boys. Starting with a killer icebox that briefly brushed against the Mangler ("transference of evil," wouldn't you know), they eventually arrive at the conclusion that theatergoers will 10 minutes into the film: that the Mangler looks at the people of Rykers Valley as its lifeblood -- and vice versa, of course -- and in turn demands the occasional sacrifice. For the rich, that's the price of power, which explains why so many of them are missing a limb here and there and why it's so hard to find 16-year-old virgins in that particular town.

Following the most absurd exorcism since Linda Blair's in "Repossessed," "The Mangler" veers even further off course when the beast gets up and lumberingly chases humans through the bowels of the Blue Ribbon Laundry. Somehow, that's appropriate.

The Mangler is rated R for gory effects and colorful language.

Copyright The Washington Post

Back to the top

Home Page, Site Index, Search, Help