Monday, June 4, 2012

#658. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Directed By: Harold P. Warren

Starring: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Mahree

Tag line: "A cult of weird, horrible people who gather beautiful women only to deface them with a burning hand!"

Trivia:  The entire film was shot with a hand-held camera that could only record 32 seconds of film at a time

One thing most film fans have in common is that, at some point in time, they've compiled a personal list of the best movies ever made, and nothing stirs up debate better than a group of cinephiles getting together to discuss their respective choices. Yet a topic just as contentious as the best film ever is that of the worst film ever. We've all seen our share of lousy movies, but how many are truly deserving of the title Worst of All Time? Well, 1966's Manos: The Hands of Fate may not be the absolute bottom of the barrel, yet any list of cinematic calamities that doesn't at least mention this film should be automatically nullified. Manos is a dreadful motion picture.

While heading to their favorite vacation spot for a little rest and relaxation, a young family: father Mike (Hal Warren), mother Margaret (Diane Mahree) and daughter Debbie (Jackey Neyman), make a wrong turn down a desert road and find themselves stranded near a remote house in the middle of nowhere. They're greeted by Torgo (John Reynolds), the abode's creepy manservant, who reluctantly allows them to stay for the night. But when the sun goes down, bizarre things begin to happen, including the sudden appearance of the Master (Tom Neyman), a demonic priest who rises from his eternal slumber to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting visitors.

My oh my, where to begin? Manos: The Hands of Fate offers so many critical targets to take aim at that it's really no fun picking the film apart. You can't even fall back on such time-honored appraisals as “sloppy editing” or “bad performances”. Yes, the actors are terrible, but complaining about the acting in Manos: The Hands of Fate is the equivalent of bitching about a weed growing in the middle of a poison ivy patch; it's a problem, but there's plenty of shit surrounding it. Hmmm...well, let's see....for starters, it's a 74-minute movie that feels like 7 hours, with a story that slogs along, from start to finish, at an almost glacial pace. The beginning sequence, where we “peer out” the car window as the family drives along, is tedious to the point of distraction (this was initially where the opening credits were supposed to play, but in a recent interview I heard with Jackey Neyman, who co-starred as the young daughter, she reveals director Harold P. Warren forgot to include them!). There are also large chunks of time where the characters just stare at one another, for what seems like an eternity, before finally delivering their lines. As a horror movie, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a bust. Torgo, with his muscular legs and exaggerated manner of speaking, is more funny than menacing, and the main plot, concerning an otherworldly desert cult, is simply too silly to generate any real tension. I could go on and on, but what's the point? Ultimately, I can't think of a single positive thing to say about Manos: The Hands of Fate; it's a boring, confusing, and often unintentionally hilarious motion picture. Manos is awfulness to the 10th power.

Is Manos: The Hands of Fate the worst film ever made? Despite being a complete failure, I'd still have to vote “no”; I've a few titles in mind I feel are even more painful than this one (to be revealed at a later date). Sure, Manos is piss-poor, and gets a failing grade in just about every category. But the worst of all-time? I'm not prepared to go that far.

Would it make my Top Five (or maybe it's Bottom Five) Worst list? Oh yeah, it's definitely on there. No doubt.


Kevin Bachelder said...

I can't wait to find out what movie(s) you consider worse that this one! Looking forward to seeing your bottom five list and kudos to you for making it though the entire movie. I know many that couldn't. :)

The MST3K gang covered this one and it's pretty entertaining. The DVD release even has a documentary about the making of the original movie.

The Rifftrax gang will be covering this one live this summer at a theater near you! Details on that are available here.

DVD Infatuation said...

Kevin: LOL. Well, admittedly, it's a pretty short list, but I have one or two titles in mind that I think are at least AS BAD as this one (one I'm pretty sure is worse, despite having a fairly well-known actor in the cast).

I actually have both the stand-alone DVD of MANOS and the MST3K version. It's hilarious! I'll also have to keep an eye out for Rifftrax's take on the movie...should be great!

BTW, they're also remastering this film for an eventual Blu-Ray release! Can you imagine?

Thanks again, sir, for stopping by, and talk to you soon (I hope)

Peter Nielsen said...

Hi Dave
Great AND funny review! I like your weed-analogy!
I actually haven't seen this one, but I think I have too now. And Kevin? You'll KNOW why I'd like to see this. I like to torture myself with these turds once in a while just for the hell of it! :-)

DVD Infatuation said...

Peter: Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the kind words!

Even though it's an atrocious movie, I think it's worth experiencing...just once. And if you're into bad movies, you definitely can't pass it up!

Be sure to stop back and let us know what you think when you finally see it!

MovieViewerMan said...

Torgo gives a mesmerizing performance; you can't take your eyes off him when he's on screen. Looking forward to the sequel!

MK Storyteller said...

My wife and I stayed with Diane Mahree, the mother in this film, when we went to Telluride one year. She is good friends with my second cousin. Yes, sounds like a weird chain of separation, but that's the way it played out.

DVD Infatuation said...

@MK Storyteller: Sorry for the late reply, but I definitely appreciate your comment!

That's a very cool story! And I thank you for sharing some tweets about the behind-the-scenes goings-on (like how the director wanted to see her topless, and she refused).

Thanks again for stopping by!

James Robert Smith said...

I know a respected writer and critic who actually has good things to say about this movie. Seriously. He speaks and writes of it with a straight face, too. Completely deadpan without a hint of sarcasm or dark humor. He is absolutely earnest in his insistence that the movie is not a piece of crap.

Based on his insistence that it is not a worthless film, I tried to watch it.

I want to punch him in the face for the fifteen minutes I wasted.

Brian Kuhl said...

This is definitely very near the bottom of my list, and I've seen a lot of horrible movies. At least it looks like they were trying, but so much is wrong with it. You're right about the weed comment.

Unknown said...

Monster a go go is far worse than Manos