Manos: The Hands of Fate
Manos: The Hands of Fate is a 1966 American low-budget horror film written, directed, produced and starring El Paso, Texas insurance and fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren. The film was created on a bet between Warren and a member of the Academy Awards, claiming that anyone can make a horror film really cheaply.
The film never saw a theatrical release, instead only premiering in the Capri Theater in El Paso and in some drive-ins in New Mexico and western Texas. The film almost fell into obscurity until Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured the film in 1993 and it became the show's most popular episode. As a result of MST3K's discovery of the film, it has been declared one of the worst films of all-time, but also gave the film a dedicated cult following as a "so bad, it's good" film. It is currently ranked #3 on IMDb's Bottom Rated Movies list.
While on a road trip near El Paso, Texas, Michael, Margaret, their young daughter Debbie and their dog Peppy search for the "Valley Lodge". Michael and his family finally reach a house which is tended by the bizarre, satyr-like Torgo, who takes care of the house "while the Master is away". Michael and Margaret ask Torgo for directions to the Valley Lodge, but he denies having knowledge of such a place. With this information, Michael asks Torgo to let him and his family stay the night, despite objections from both Torgo and Margaret.
Inside the home, the family sees a disturbing painting of a dark, malevolent-looking man and a black dog with glowing eyes; the man it depicts is the Master. Margaret becomes frightened upon hearing an ominous howl; Michael investigates, retrieving a flashlight and revolver from his car, and later finds Peppy's corpse lying on the ground. Torgo reveals his attraction to Margaret and tells her that, although she is doomed to become yet another bride of the Master, he intends to keep her for himself. Margaret threatens to tell Michael of Torgo's advances, but Torgo convinces her not to say anything to her husband by promising to protect her. Michael returns, unable to start the car. With the revelation that there is no phone in the house, the family reluctantly decides to stay the night.
Michael and Margaret stumble upon the Master and several women dressed in translucent nightgowns and later revealed to be his wives. They are all asleep. Torgo uses a stick to knock out Michael, and then ties Michael to a pole after dragging him to it, and the Master suddenly comes to life. His wives also awaken, and a short argument over the fate of the family ensues. The Master decides he must sacrifice Torgo and his first wife to the film's mysterious deity and namesake, "Manos". When the Master leaves, his wives engage in a further argument that soon degenerates into a fight, and the women wrestle in the sand.
Torgo succumbs to what appears to be a hypnotic spell by the Master. The Master stops the fight and has his first wife tied to a pole to be sacrificed. Torgo is laid on a stone bed, where he is attacked by the Master's other wives, but this in itself does not prove fatal. Evoking some mysterious power, The Master servers and horribly burns Torgo's left hand. Torgo runs off into the darkness, waving the burning stump that remains. The Master laughs maniacally and goes to look for the family and subsequently sacrifices his first wife.
The family runs off into the desert. When a rattlesnake appears in front of them, Michael shoots it, attracting the attention of nearby deputies. Margaret and Michael are later convinced to return to the Master's house, where the Master welcomes them. Michael fires several shots into the Master's face at point-blank range, but they have no effect. The screen fades to black, likely indicating that the Master has again applied his hypnotic power.
An undisclosed amount of time later, an entranced Michael greets two new lost travelers. Margaret and Debbie have become wives of the Master. The film concludes with Michael echoing Torgo's line of "I take care of the place while the Master is away". The production credits are superimposed over past scenes from the film with the words: "The End?".
Why It Should Be Handed To Fate
- Horrible acting throughout the whole movie.
- The film's budget was only $19,000 ($147,536.17 adjusted for inflation) - and it shows, especially with Torgo's "goat legs".
- The nine-minute opening scene in which the family is driving across the countryside of El Paso was supposed to be the opening credits, but Warren could not figure out how to put them in. Therefore, anyone who sees it is forced to sit through nine boring minutes of absolutely nothing happening.
- At some points, you can see clapperboards in some scenes that the filmmakers forgot to edit out.
- The cameras the filmmakers used were hand-wound and so only able to record 32 seconds of footage at a time, and also couldn't record audio. As a result, all of the actor's dialogue had to be dubbed in post-production with only 3 guys and one woman. The dubbed voices are pretty unfitting for the characters; for example, Debbie sounds like a 50-year-old woman instead of the young kid she is supposed to be. Also, the actress who played Debbie reportedly broke down in tears when she heard how she sounded. Yes... this "horror" movie managed to make somebody cry.
- Unnecessarily long shots of the characters reacting to something that is currently happening on-screen.
- Throughout the film, Torgo is constantly moving and twitching because his actor, John Reynolds was high on LSD during filming.
- There is a completely pointless subplot featuring a couple making out in their car in the desert, only to be harassed by the local El Paso police officers; it was only added in when the actress, who was originally supposed to be one of the Master's wives, injured her foot during filming and the crew wanted to keep her on, so they added in that subplot to appease her.
- The song that plays at the end, "Forgetting You", is beautiful.
- The film's overall quality is so bad it's entertaining.
- Torgo is the most memorable character.
- FreakZone Games created an NES-styled game based on this movie.
- The actress who plays Debbie, Jackey Neyman Jones, co-wrote a sequel, Manos Returns, successfully crowdfunded in 2017 and released in 2018.
- Contrary to popular belief, director Harold P. Warren was not a fertilizer salesman when he directed this movie, instead he was an insurance agent. Though he did work as a fertilizer salesman after the film was made.
- Contrary to popular belief, Torgo did wear the rigging for his goat legs correctly and they did not cause pain, despite being uncomfortable.
- This film was featured in episode 424 of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," which pulled the film out of obscurity. It is the highest ranked in the series and at the end, Torgo delivers pizza to the Mads in Deep 13. He became a recurring character for the next two seasons.