Theatrical Release: November 15, 1966
Blu Ray Release: October 13, 2015
Director: Harold P. Warren
Review by James Klein
I never understood the distinction of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space having the notoriety of being the “worst movie ever made”. Plan 9 has the ability to be fun and entertaining, which to me, is essentially the main purpose of making any movie. A movie must be entertaining to watch and with that, Plan 9 succeeds. For those who think of Plan 9 as the worst film ever made has obviously never seen Manos: Hands of Fate.
God, I don’t even know where to begin describing the plot for Manos. We open with a husband, wife, and young girl traveling in their convertible. After some needless travel footage, when our characters finally open their mouths to speak their voices are all dubbed, rather poorly I might add. Even the sound effects are lousy and phony and it becomes obviously clear the entire film was shot silently and later dubbed over in post production.
The family drives around and around (at one point it seems like they are in a quarry and then suddenly on a beach?) until a tree is blocking their path and they can’t get by. They take refugee in what appears to be an abandoned lodge until Torgo shows up, played by John Reynolds. Torgo looks like he’s half man and half goat as his knees are huge and he can barely walk. He even has his own theme music which is hilarious when it starts to play anytime he’s on screen. Torgo tells the family about his “Master” who may or may not be back…I dunno. The plot is so unexplainable and nonsensical that as I was watching the movie I kept thinking, “How the hell am I gonna write up something for this?” When the Master’s devil dog shows up and kills the family’s pet dog, Master finally makes his appearance along with his brides who are constantly bickering and arguing with one another.
The family tries to escape and are being chased around by the Master, Torgo, and the brides. The father gets beaten up and knocked out while the mother and her daughter seem to be stalked by the creepy and hairy Torgo. The Master must decide this family’s fate with the help of Manos, an evil deity that this cult prays to. For reasons unknown the Master burns off Torgo’s hand as his brides wrestle on the ground. Eventually the film just ends leaving one to wonder what the hell did they just witness for 74 minutes.
While there are several moments of unintentional laughs, Manos: Hands of Fate is pretty awful. It’s extreme low budget is hindered by not just poor acting but a storyline that makes zero sense, cheap production values, and shoddy film making. The movie is filled with jump cuts and inconsistencies that I stopped counting after awhile. There is no way that director Harold P. Warren (who also plays the father) did more than one take on any shot. While I don’t necessarily hate Manos as there are moments that I found pretty funny, its rather annoying that the makers behind this film were so inept that they had to have been brain dead and didn’t put forth an effort to make a decent film.
Manos: Hands of Fate got it notoriety when it was shown in 1993 on the cult series Mystery Science Theater 3000 where a man and his two robots watch bad movies and make comments throughout the film. This may have been one of the best episodes of MSTK and Synapse really dropped the ball by not getting the rights to add this to the blu ray. This is really the only way one should see Manos. However, Synapse did add a good amount of special features to the disc including an audio commentary by Tom Neyman who played The Master and Jackey Raye Jones, who played the little girl and is also Neyman’s daughter in real life. While their commentary does have some stretches of silence while they watched the movie, they both provide a little insight on the making of the film and both can’t help from laughing at it. But for those Manos maniacs, the featurette “Hands: The Fate of Manos” is a must watch as it goes into great detail about the making of the film, interviewing several of the cast and crew, all admitting to the fact the movie is pretty lousy. A rather strange special feature included is the “grindhouse” version of Manos which is the film without the 2K restoration. All the film debris, hairs, cigarette burns, etc are here for those wanting to watch it the way it was shown in theaters and drive-ins. Personally, I wish they substituted this with the MSTK version. The 2k restoration is quite amazing and Synapse did a hell of a good job polishing a turd. While the film is remains pretty damaged, the colors are much more crisp and the clarity of the images are rather striking.
A lot of love went into making this blu ray. It’s too bad the makers of Manos didn’t do the same to their own film.
Blu Ray Rating: