Manos, the Hands of Fate
Reviewed by Scott Murdock
Rating: 10 Beans
f only Hal Warren had been a little more prolific. If only Hal Warren had ever written, directed, produced, or starred in any other movie besides this one. If only Hal Warren had signed a big star like Bela Lugosi. Then maybe, just maybe, it would be Hal Warren rather than Ed Wood that comes to mind when we think about the worst movies ever made.
"Manos, The Hands of Fate" is not only part of an extremely small group known as the worst movies ever made... "Manos, The Hands of Fate" could very well BE the very worst movie ever made. On the Internet Movie Database's Bottom 100, "Manos" is cited as the worst movie ever according to IMDB users. Though "Manos, The Hands of Fate" is enjoyable as part of one of the "best" episodes of "Mystery Science 3000" ever, to truly appreciate it you must see it in it's pure form. "Manos" will likely prove very hard to find on video, but aren't all valuable treasures?
Michael (Hal Warren), an impatient father and a bad husband, tries takes his family on a vacation to some lodge somewhere out in the middle of Texas. They drive... and drive... and drive... and drive. Eventually, they fail to reach their destination and get lost instead. Finally they turn up a gravel road and drive past a pair of smooching "teenagers" who for some reason play an "integral" role in the movie as they get harassed over and over by the same cops.
The family winds up at some house owned by The Master (Tom Neyman), who is away. However, the caretaker is not. The caretaker is Torgo (John Reynolds), a strange man with a speech impediment and unusually large knees. He takes care of the place while The Master is away. Michael points out that it will be dark soon (yeah, 2:00 in the afternoon is about when I wind down my day too) and demands that Torgo let them spend the night. Torgo refuses, insisting that The Master would not approve. But Michael is a selfish bastard and bullies Torgo into letting them stay, even though his wife(Diane [Rystad] Mahree), their daughter (Jackey Neyman), and their poodle (Peppy) would rather not stay there and make this point quite clear.
Michael continues to boss poor Torgo around, making him carry the bags from the car and to the house, then back to the car, and then back to the house again.
Torgo finally has enough of this and runs off to wake up The Master, but not after first making some rather awkward passes at Margaret. Then The Master's dog eats the poodle, and the little girl vanishes. Her idiotic parents take forever to search an entire two rooms before finally realizing that perhaps she went outside. Meanwhile The Master wakes up and dons his ass-kicking robe-of-hands and sets fire to one of Torgo's hands. And, while all this is going on, The Master's many wives begin wrestling each other in the dirt to try to win The Master's affections. Then the movie ends with a "surprise".
"Manos" is known for its classic lines, especially Torgo's repetition of everything. Such as, "There is no way out of here. It'll be dark soon. There is no way out of here." Or, "Dead? No, madam. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always." Or "There is nothing to fear, madam. The Master likes you. Nothing will happen to you. He likes you." And, of course, the catchphrase of the whole movie: "I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away."
"Manos, The Hands of Fate" is where the Kevin Bacon Game (ugh) breaks down... because NO ONE who appeared in this movie ever made another film. (One possible exception: one of The Master's wives... see below) This could be in part because Hal Warren was an El Paso fertilizer salesman who tried to spark interest in the El Paso filmmaking industry by creating this movie with the help of his fellow El Paso citizens. Perhaps also because the film's true star, Torgo (John Reynolds), died of a drug overdose shortly after the movie's release.
I've done a little research into the background of this movie, unearthed a few interviews and some reviews from 1966, and here are some of the Manos facts I have found:
* Hal Warren decided to make this movie after a conversation with a friend in which he decided if Hollywood could do it, so could he.
* The movie is so choppy because it was shot entirely with a silent handheld camera capable of shooting a maximum of thirty-two seconds at a time.
* The "driving scene" is shot out a car window as a car is driven around Scenic Drive in El Paso.
* Most of the movie was shot on a ranch owned by County Judge Colbert Coldwell.
* Shooting lasted 2-1/2 months.
* Made for $19,000.
* All the voices were dubbed in later by two people. Torgo's voice is not that of John Reynolds.
* The shot of the rattlesnake was clipped from a nature documentary.
* The two smooching "teenagers" are played by Bernie Rosenblum and Joyce Molleur. Rosenblum was actually a stuntman for the movie, while Molleur was suppossed to have an entirely different role. But, Molleur broke her leg during shooting, so the script was altered to include the "making out" scenes so that she could still participate. Hidden just out of camera view, her leg is in a cast.
* Torgo is actually suppossed to be a satyr-like creature.. and has cloven feet that are not visible in the MST3K version of the movie. This is why to MST3K fans, he simply appears to have large knees.
* John Reynolds worked very hard to build his cloven-footed costume and prosthetics on his own.
* John Reynolds died of a drug overdose (possibly suicide) 6 months after the movie's premiere. He was reportedly very crushed by its poor reception.
* The wives were all played by models from Fran Simon's Mannequin Manor, a modeling agency in El Paso.
* Most of the rest of the cast were El Paso stage actors.
* As the budget ran low, shots had to be left in the movie that did not meet Hal Warren's expectations.
* Hal Warren was very difficult to work with and most of the cast and crew hated working for him by the time it was all over.
* Hal Warren's demanding and persistant nature is likely the only reason this movie was ever shown after its premiere.
* Manos premiered at El Paso's Capri Theater in a gala with appearances by all of the local dignitaries and celebrities. The entire cast and crew showed up for the event, which had been heavily promoted and anticipated. When the audience started laughing and mocking the movie just minutes into it, the cast and crew were humiliated and many chose to sneak out of the theater before the movie ended.
* "Manos, The Hands of Fate" is conspicuously absent from the El Paso Film Commission's web site (http://www.elpasocvb.com/film/).
* One of The Master's wives, played by Robin Redd, might possibly be the same person as Mary-Robin Redd. "Mary"-Robin Redd's film career suspiciously begins only months after Robin Redd's film career ended with Manos.
*The email address "firstname.lastname@example.org" belongs to one Hal Warren of El Paso, TX. Could this be our man? :)
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