The Mangler is a 1995 film based on a short story by Stephen King. The film starred Ted Levine (Jame 'Buffalo Bill' Gumb; The Silence of the Lambs) and Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger; Nightmare on Elm Street film series) was directed by Tobe Hooper from a screenplay that he wrote with Stephen Brooks.
The Mangler, in Gartley's Blue Ribbon Laundry Service, is owned by Bill Gartley (Robert Englund). The trouble starts when Gartley's niece, Sherry, cuts herself on a lever connected to the machine and splashes blood on the Mangler's tread, while also trying to avoid being crushed by an old ice box some movers are clumsily carrying past. Sparks and light streams occur when both the blood and the ice box come into close contact with the Mangler. Later, an elderly worker, struggling to open a bottle of antacids, spills them on the moving tread of the Mangler. When she attempts to collect them, the safety shield inexplicably lifts up and traps her hand inside, followed by her entire body getting pulled into the machine.
Police officer John Hunton (Ted Levine), with the help of his brother-in-law, Mark (Daniel Matmor), investigates the incident and the ones that soon follow. As the plot progresses, Mark tries to convince Hunton that the machine may be possessed, and the only way to stop the deaths is to exorcise the machine to dispel whatever demon is inhabiting it.
With the help of Sherry (Vanessa Pike), the two men attempt to get exorcise of the demon before it strikes again by reciting a prayer and administering holy water. The machine gives one last groan and shuts down. As they three sigh with relief, Hunton takes some antacids, admitting to Mark that they belonged to Frawley. Mark suddenly realizes that the key ingredient in the antacids is deadly nightshade, also called "the Hand of Glory" as outlined in his occult book. Since the machine was accidentally fed the same antacids, Mark realizes that not only was the exorcism rendered useless, as the demon is still alive, it is now stronger than ever. The machine bursts to life and now appears to have a mind of its own, shedding off pieces of metal and rising up in the manner of a wild beast. The three run through the warehouse as they are chased by the now-mobile Mangler.
The Mangler kills Mark while John and Sherry descend a flight of stairs. In their hurry to escape, they fall through a large manhole into the sewer below, the machine struggling to get to them. Suddenly, something falls from the machine into the water, and a mechanical wail ensues. The machine draws back and becomes still.
- Ted Levine as Officer John Hunton
- Daniel Matmor as Marcus 'Mark' Jackson
- Vanessa Pike as Sherry
- Robert Englund as William 'Bill' Gartley
Differences from Original
Significant changes were made to expand the short story into a screenplay.
- While Bill Gartley is the owner of the laundry factory in both the short story and the film, he plays a much bigger role in the film version. In the original story, he is never seen by other characters, and is not directly responsible for the existence of the Mangler.
- Whereas in the short story the demon was "awakened" by the blood and accidental death, in the film version it had always been in the machine.
- In the short story, George Tanner loses his arm, but survives. In the film, he is killed.
- The Mangler is defeated, though later rebuilt in the factory. In the short story, the Mangler breaks out of the factory and goes on a rampage.
- The characters J.J.J. Pictureman and Lin Sue were not in the original short story.
The Mangler was a box office bomb at the time of its release, grossing just a mere 1 million dollars at the box office. However, it has become somewhat of a cult classic for its ensemble cast. The performances of Ted Levine and Robert Englund were both praised, and it is sometimes referred to as "the forgotten King film" because of its limited releases and the fact that nobody really remembers it.