As any of you who’ve been into a second hand DVD shop will know, some Stephen King films are ridiculously easy to get hold of: the shop is so overstocked with them, and I’d bet the managers want to hand them out for free as you leave the store. You know the ones – films like The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile overpopulate the shelves to the point that signs need to be put up pleading for the intake to stop. After these, there’s the ones that are a little harder to get hold of, such as Cujo or Sleepwalkers,but a quick internet search or stroke of luck are all that’s needed to discover. And then there’s The Mangler.
Never in my quest to find every Stephen King film on DVD in a shop have I seen this available. The obscurity of it got me curious and as my thirst to capture it grew more intense, so did my frustration. But with an eye-roll and a few clicks on Amazon, my lovely girlfriend put me out of my misery by purchasing this rarity. After what seemed like a decade waiting for delivery, it finally arrived – and now I see why no shop wants this abomination inside its doors.
Based on a short story of the same name from 1972, The Mangler is the ludicrous story of an industrial laundry pressing machine that develops a taste for blood after a worker accidentally injures themselves, and the red stuff drips into its workings. It’s up to detective John Hunton (Ted Levine) and his creepy brother in law Mark (Daniel Matmor) to unravel what’s really going on at Blue Ribbon Laundry Service.
I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of what happens here, because just by reading that small snippet of a plot, any regular film watcher would scoff at its ridiculous nature. Unbelievably, this waste of celluloid gets even more far fetched, thanks to the inclusion of horror legend Robert Englund. You’ll probably know him as Freddy Kreuger, but now I can’t get the image out of my head of him as Bill Gartley, the owner of the Laundry Service who wears metal legs as he awkwardly waddles to a female worker he chose to satisfy his physical needs. Gartley is only mentioned in passing in the short story, but here he takes a focal role and admittedly is the best thing about this whole charade.
That’s not saying a lot though – there’s literally nothing here of note. The acting is laughably camp, with performances ranging from exaggeratively pantomime-esque to ‘how the hell did you get a career as an actor?’ Special effects aren’t any better either, but the first (of only three) manglings is probably the reason why it managed an 18 age certificate rating. The demise of Bill Gartley (c’mon, that’s hardly a spoiler: I’ve done you a favour by stopping you from watching this) is also a bloody mess, both visually and in terms of direction, but it’s much too little and far too late.
What’s worse, The Mangler came from the man who gave the world the iconic Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Stephen Spielberg produced Poltergeist; so this monstrosity to the genre and King name can’t be forgiven. Not only that, but this shockingly became a franchise: but in all honesty I’d rather put myself through the Mangler itself than endure the next two in the series.