100 Film Favorites Countdown – #100: Manos: The Hands of Fate
(Hal Warren, 1966)
To kick off this Countdown of Countdowns, we’ve got a film widely regarded as one of the worst ever made. And yet, I couldn’t leave it off my list. Manos: The Hands of Fate is a 1966 independent film written and directed by Hal Warren, a Texas fertilizer salesman. Warren also stars as Michael, the patriarch of a family that becomes hopelessly lost one night while driving through the desert and has to seek refuge at the suspicious “Valley Lodge.” The Lodge is run by Torgo, a mysterious caretaker with enormous knees, who shambles around doing the bidding of The Master, a mustachioed cult leader. Torgo, The Master and his six toga-clad brides worship Manos, a vaguely-defined, hand-themed deity. But when Torgo falls for the mother of the visiting family, whom The Master is intent on making his 7th wife, internal strife threatens to tear their cozy little commune asunder.
Will Michael save his family? Will Torgo woo his lady fair? Will the Master lord over everyone with his magnificent hand-cape? Watch Manos: The Hands of Fate and find out!
There’s a lot to love (or loathe) about this one. Shot with a “cheap” camera that nevertheless probably strained the budget of a fertilizer salesman, Manos captured no synchronized sound during filming, and all dialogue was dubbed over the footage later. This resulted in Debbie, a little girl, being “voiced” by a middle-aged woman, and Torgo sounding like…well, like nothing you’ve heard before. His quavering, alien voice combined with his wobbly posture and glazed-over eyes suggest Torgo’s actor, John Reynolds, was no stranger to the 60s drug scene. Throw into the mix a running gag (completely unrelated to the main narrative) where a cop repeatedly shoos away a pair of teenage lovers parked on the side of the highway, and the end result is a surreal, grimy, unforgettable film.
-The original negative of the film, unseen since 1966, was recently discovered in the back of an old Texas movie theater. While most cuts of the film are dirty, cropped, copy-of-a-copy prints, this untouched reel features full frames popping with vibrant color. The guy who re-discovered the film is in the painstaking process of restoring this print, with the end goal or releasing a breathtaking Manos Blu-ray. Check out his project at www.manosinhd.com
-If you’re curious, search for “Manos: The Hands of Fate” in your iTunes store. There has been a Manos game released – an 8-bit platformer packed with copious references to other “Z-Movies,” from The Killer Shrews to The Giant Claw, and even featuring goblins from the notorious Troll 2, which will be making its own appearance on this list in the weeks to come.
-Finally, Torgo is eminently cosplayable. Get a shabby hat, a shabby coat, some fake knees, and a hand-staff, and you too can be the hit of any Bad Movie party! Here’s some photographic proof: