Terrible Thursday: Manos The Hands of Fate

There is no way out of here. It will be dark soon. There is no way out of here.

Director: Harold P. Warren

Starring: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Adelson

Trailer (A fan cut, there is no official trailer):

Synopsis: This is one of the stereotypical and most popular bad movies in existence. It was popularized by Mystery Science Theater and has since become a staple of every bad movie watching experience. Manos: The Hands of Fate tells the story of a young family who gets lost on vacation. They stumble upon a house, cared for by the mysterious Torgo. Little do they know that Torgo’s master is the leader of a Satanic cult, dedicated to immortality and driven by a thirst for young women.

Why it fails: Simply put, Manos: The Hands of Fate is the worst movie ever made. It reaches levels of incompetence that the world had never seen before and will never see again. Harold P. Warren wrote and made the movie after arguing with his friend about whether horror movies were easy to write and produce. With a $19,000 budget, Warren got his equipment together and began his film. Production problems plagued the movie. The cameras that were being used had an extremely limited amount of film, necessitating a reel replacement every 32 seconds of shooting. These cameras also did not come equipped with on-board audio. Warren was forced to dub the lines in post-production, but was unable to get all of his cast back together, and had to make do with only two of the original cast members. During production, Warren would only take two shots of every scene, convincing the cast that everything would be fixed using the magic of Hollywood post-production. This never happened. The long opening shot of a car ride was supposed to have opening credits over them, but the credits were never added in post. Clapboards are visible between shots. Editing is sporadic. John Reynolds (Torgo) was on massive amounts of LSD during production, giving his character and twitchy and erratic  performance. Oddly enough, Reynolds performance is the most convincing. Nothing worked for Manos, and you can tell.

Should you watch it?: Absolutely. If you are into bad movies, Manos is a stop that you have to take. It has become such a cultural icon at this point that you have to watch it, much like Plan 9 From Outer Space or Troll 2. Mercifully, the movie is only 70 minutes long and has enough baffling aspects to it that you stay entertained pretty much the whole way through. The slowest part is the beginning, which was intended to have opening credits. Instead you have very boring shots of the countryside. But past that you are in for a treat. Most of the fun of Manos is trying to piece together what happened during production and whether the odd parts are intentional or due to some behind the scene catastrophe. Manos is a puzzle, a horrifying and glorious puzzle that needs to be admired, loved, and ridiculed.

Rating as a real movie: -1/10

Rating as a bad movie: 10/10

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