Manos: The Hands Of Fate (1966)

DECEMBER 9, 2008


It’s a shame that MST3k went off the air during a horror drought, because it means that movies like Manos: The Hands Of Fate are considered the “worst they’ve ever done”. Call me crazy, but I’ve seen at least 2 movies in the past month that were far worse than this (including yesterday’s), and at least Manos has some valid excuses for its many, many shortcomings. And since these shitty movies are seemingly made for the ultra-cheap Lionsgate to buy for pennies, it’s pretty likely that many of them would end up on the show (MSTs producers had to pay for the movies they showed, which is why you’ve never heard of 90% of the episodes’ targets - they couldn't afford big time stinkers). With Mike and the other guys apparently only focusing on big blockbuster movies for their Rifftrax site (the “most recent Riffs” list on the site just looks like BoxOfficeMojo’s “all time” chart), movies like Manos will unfairly be known forever as the worst, while the Michael Feifers of the world go unpunished for their far worse movies.

Not that Manos needs to be defended, good Lord no. It’s slow, it’s seemingly edited by a blind fetus, it makes little sense, and its low budget shows at every corner (such as the rather slim number of folks doing the dubbing). But director Harold P. Warren has an excuse – he made the movie on a bet, and the money he pooled together wasn’t enough to use a camera with a sync sound system or actual actors. A movie like Leprechaun in the Hood has name actors and probably a reasonable budget – what’s its excuse for being just as terrible?

And to give credit where due, some of the dubbing is actually pretty good. Particularly the wives and the Master – it sounds/looks pretty reasonable on more than a couple occasions, even if it’s all the same two or three voices. I actually forgot it was entirely dubbed at times, so there’s something.

It’s the editing that kills this movie more than anything else. I guess it was already too short to lose anything, but come on – after the Master is killed (?) in the most abrupt finale in movie history, we watch yet another endless driving scene, drawing out the inevitable conclusion. Well, inevitable in that the Master is alive and our heroes are now under his control, not inevitable in that the little girl is apparently one of the Master’s many wives now. Ew. Then there’s when the cop asks “What couple?” and the answer comes about 20 seconds later. Delayed reactions, thy name is Hands: The Hands of Fate.

A very special cameo.

But my favorite “OK, you can cut now” moment has to be when Torgo ties the hero to a tree. It goes on for about two whole minutes, which is all the more hilarious when you realize that the camera could only film 32 seconds at a time, which means that Warren had to have instructed himself (as the hero, natch) and John Reynolds (Torgo) to stay put while the camera started up again, so he could continue showing this entirely unnecessary action. It goes so long that the score song actually ends, and another starts up before it finally cuts away a few seconds later.

Speaking of Reynolds, it’s sort of common knowledge that he committed suicide a few months after the film was released, but the reasons why are less clear. Many will say that it’s embarrassment over being in this film, but all we know for sure is that the device that he wore on his legs left him in tremendous pain, and he became depressed and addicted to painkillers as a result. So I’m sure that the suicide was caused by a mix of being depressed over being in so much pain, and also the closed time loop knowledge that his problems would be forever mocked by film fans who assume he ended his life because he was apparently the only guy to ever appear in a terrible movie. Rumors of some other cast member suicides are common, but they appear to be just that, though it’s understandably hard to get any concrete info on their whereabouts; almost no one involved with the film has a single other credit to their name. All I can say is: if starring in a really awful movie is enough to kill yourself, then the producers of Gossip Girl should keep a close eye on Leighton “Drive Thru” Meester.

The Mill Creek transfer is, unsurprisingly, terrible. It seems to have been taken from a dubbed VHS tape copy of a bad film print, resulting in any number of bizarre artifacts (note how the image keeps skipping/freezing, but the audio itself is uninterrupted). I am sure there is some sort of wise-ass-y “Worst Movie Ever Made Special Edition” DVD with a decent transfer (the MST3k version, which I’ve only seen part of due to the fact that I don’t care much for Joel, is noticeably cleaner), but I don’t need a bunch of assholes laughing at how terrible it is. I’ve said it a million times, or thirteen, and I’ll say it again: I’ll take ineptitude over soullessness any day of the week. And if Manos is legitimately the worst movie you’ve ever seen, well... consider yourself lucky.

What say you?


  1. I watch on average, about 2 horror movies per week. I certainly admire your tenacity.

    Last night I watched "Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde" -- a 1970s blaxploitation horror movie. I'd rate it 6/10 -- it would have been higher but I thought that the ending had a very big plot hole.

    The version I watched was from Elvira's Movie Macabre (recorded on VHS 20 years ago, transferred to DVD), her show being a lot of fun.

  2. Just a question for you:

    While I don't watch as many movies as you do (I watch about 2 a day), I find it harder and harder for me to go through these 50 movie packs. I've already completed "HORROR CLASSICS" and "NIGHTMARE WORLDS" but I'm sort of stalled at "TALES OF TERROR" (disc 3).

    I generally prefer horror that was made from the 1950s onward. But outside of the Universal classics, I really can't stand a lot of the 1940s stuff in these box sets (which seem to comprise about half of the movies that are included).

    So how do you do it--watch these crappy 1940s detective stories (with the obligatory nosy girl reporter) disguised as horror?

    I recently got several Hammer, Vincent Price and Italian horror movie box sets so I've become a little spoiled, I guess.

  3. I like you sub-categorised the horror movies...
    I have watched a good movie (not quite horror but bloody good!) and prehaps you might want to watch it too.

  4. It's not too hard... they are really short, which helps. And also I watch them at work, so they are still more entertaining than Minesweeper or whatever else people do to kill time on the clock. But I will be cutting way back on the really obscure ones due to the fact that no one else has seen them and so it kind of defeats the "this is here for people to discuss the movie" purpose.


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