The Guilty Pleasure Of Bad Movies – “Manos: The Hands Of Fate”
“Manos” was released in November, 1966, and it quickly tanked. With virtually every aspect of the film being done wrong, pretty much everyone turned their backs on it, and it languished in obscurity for over 30 years before it was rediscovered by “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” where it was introduced to a whole new generation of movie viewers.
The film features Mike, his wife Maggie, their young daughter Debbie, and their dog, on their way to a place called The Valley Lodge while on vacation in southern Texas. Unfortunately, Mike takes a wrong turn and they get lost in the desert. After driving around for a while, they come upon a small house out in the wilderness and find a strange, deformed man called Torgo, leaning on a walking stick in the doorway.
Immediately, Torgo starts behaving strangely. He announces that he is “taking care of the place while The Master is away.” Who is The Master? Who cares?! Not Mike! Despite objections from both his wife and Torgo, Mike decides it’s getting late and they’re all going to spend the night, even though “The Master would not approve!”
It is soon revealed that The Master is the high priest of a Hell-god named Manos, and runner up in last year’s Freddy Mercury look-alike contest. The Master presides over a harem of six wives who obviously felt more comfortable wearing their bras under the flimsy robes they were given to wear; and his own dog, an evil looking Doberman. Apparently Torgo has been in the service of The Master for some time now, and his body is deformed by what we can only assume were magical experiments by The Master, leaving him with grotesque goat legs and a stammering voice.
During the night, Mike’s dog, Pepe, gets out and meets a grisly end while trying to fight The Master’s dog. Then Debby wanders off; Maggie is losing her shit every 5 minutes for little or no reason; Torgo is plotting to keep Maggie for himself before The Master can claim her. Then, about halfway through the movie, The Master and his wives awaken from their coma-like slumber in the crypt, and begin a debate over what they should do with the innocent family upstairs.
Now I know it sounds like a lot is happening here, but really, the movie is very slow and uneventful, with the first several minutes of the movie nothing but driving scenes, background music, and no dialogue. Actually, this scene was supposed to be the into sequence with opening credits, but they weren’t finished in time for the movie’s release. Also, and I can’t confirm this, I’ve heard that on opening night, the producers could only afford one limousine, so they just had one driving around and around the block dropping off another cast member every time it came back around to the theater.
In all fairness it should be pointed out that the director/writer/Mike, Harold Warren, was not a professional filmmaker but a fertilizer salesman making a movie on a bet with a shitty camera that could only record 30 seconds of footage at a time. So all things considered, it’s actually pretty impressive.
Anyway, I won’t spoil the end for you, you’ll have to see it for yourself. I highly recommend this movie for anyone, at any time. It’s truly a special experience, and honestly, I love it. Now pass the popcorn and turn down the lights! And if you feel someone nervously fingering your hair, relax, it’s just Torgo. Enjoy!