Manos: The Hands of Fate
Dir. Harold P. Warren (1966)
A family finds themselves fighting off a Devil Cult after getting lost on a vacation trip.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
What can you say about Manos that hasn’t already been said by someone who was forced to watch it under threat of torture? A notoriously bad movie, and what was called by its own director the worst film ever made, it’s a ride that everyone must take, if only to prove that they can. I’ve seen the MST3K version of this film many moons ago, but I thought it was time to dust off the old classic for a first-time viewing on its own, and boy… was I disappointed? I don’t know, I’m asking you. The movie cannot be enjoyed because it simply defies enjoyment, like a ride down a blowjob slide into a pit of screaming clowns. Some people may enjoy it, but you have to ask yourself if they’re people worth knowing.
One of the main actors was on LSD through the entire film, but I’m not sure if it actually hurt his performance. The director insisted that every shot would take, at most, two takes, and that “Hollywood Magic” would take care of the rest. What the actual fuck, dude? I mean, I know it was 1966, but there ain’t no Hollywood Magic if you have no fucking clue what you’re doing. There are way too many mind-blowing parts of this film to list them all, and you could write a doctoral thesis on all of the random bullshit that happens in this film. The film literally means Hands: The Hands of Fate for God’s sake.
It’s a tale as old as time: a family with no sense of direction gets lost, accidentally winding up having to fight off a Satanic cult. What’s a good vacation without a little Satan? The family comes across Torgo, the odd right-hand man of The Master, and the father insists that the family stays at the cult’s lodge despite the fact that Torgo introduces his leader as The Master. Anytime you have the chance to meet somebody called The Master, you better nope the fuck out, because that’s not someone you want to meet. This is followed by the murder of the family’s dog, which takes place off-screen and appears on-screen as clearly a stuffed animal that sits in the distance. Shortly thereafter, the mother and father are in shock when their daughter disappears, despite the fact that the audience sees her get off the couch and walk off-screen. It only gets more bizarre and worse from there, and it’s hard to ever recommend that someone waste their time unless they have an intense appreciation for the absurd.
The dubbing in the movie is god-awful, but to be honest, with the production values behind this thing, the actual audio would’ve been far worse, let’s be honest. The movie goes beyond so bad it’s good, but it’s also got such a legendary reputation as a film to watch with friends that it somehow transcends even that to go back around to being good again. It’s a chore to watch, but it’s also somehow hilarious. It flabbergasts the viewer by somehow preventing any and all critique. It feels more like an art project, or a critique of movies in general, yet it somehow feels insulting to the audience as well. It’s really a mindfuck, because part of you knows this was a serious endeavor for all involved, but you can’t help but feel that maybe they’re laughing at you for even bothering to watch it. If there is a Hell, there will be a room dedicated to making people watch this film and debate its meaning.
Torgo clearly has a love-hate relationship with The Master. He has dedicated his life to serving The Master’s purposes, yet he is jealous of The Master’s multiple wives. I mean, who can blame him, really. The Master is just swimming in chicks. The film definitely has a bizarre relationship with women, evidenced by the child bride at the end if nothing else. It is rumored that the director asked one of the female actresses to go topless, and pretended that it was just a test when she refused. I am at a loss as to whether it would have made the movie better or not, but I guess you gotta take your shot at that point. I mean, your claim to fame is that you made Manos, what else do you have to lose?
The film is a mess, but to be honest it also has a certain charm in much the way that all other indie horror does. This was clearly a guy who wanted to make a film, and good on him for it. Sure, nobody got paid (he promised residuals and the film never made money), the director no longer owns the work (he forgot to copyright it), it doesn’t have opening credits (the long car ride in the beginning was supposed to have credits but the director simply forgot to add them), and nobody in it ever worked again (at least in film), but like… so? Who cares? It’s enjoyable for what it is, which is trash, ultra-low-budget film, and it’s worth it to watch for the memes alone if not for pure appreciation of possibly the worst film ever made. Can you ask any more than that of a movie like this?
Who this movie is for: B-movie fans; People looking to riff on a movie with friends; People with a hand fetish
Bottom line: There is a reason why Manos is viewed as possibly the worst film ever made. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone unless you’re also going to be watching Mystery Science Theater or Rifftrax as well. Honestly though, the film is so rife for criticism that you could easily make your own version of those two classic episodes. I was watching the movie for what felt like forever, figured it was almost over, and checked the time and realize I was only thirty minutes in with almost 45 minutes to go. That’s how bad this movie is, it breaks the space-time continuum of suck. But you know what, fuck it, give it a shot. Maybe you’ll love it, you freak.