Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Worst movie ever made.

Husband and father Michael (played by the film’s writer/director Harold P. Warren) takes his wife Margaret (Diane Adelson) and their young daughter Debbie (Jackey Neyman) on a trip. Along the way they become lost in the middle of the west Texas desert and after driving around for hours finally come upon an isolated building in the middle of nowhere. Standing guard outside is a strange man named Torgo (John Reynolds) who invites them inside. Feeling they have no choice the family agrees to go in unbeknownst that the place is managed by an evil devil worshipping man known as The Master (Tom Neyman) who is already married to six wives and looking to add another to his ‘flock’.

This film came about as a bet between insurance salesman Warren and award winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant who was in the El Paso, Texas area scouting locations for his next movie. Warren met him by chance at a local café and then proceeded to tell him that ‘anyone’ could make a movie and bet him that he could successfully do one without having any prior experience or budget. Warren even wrote the majority of the film’s screenplay on his napkin at the restaurant before the two had even left. He was then able to secure $19,000, which even for the time period wasn’t very much as well as a hand-held camera that could only shoot 32 seconds worth of film at a time. He rounded up some actors from a local theater for the cast and unable to pay them upfront promised that they would receive reimbursement for their efforts once the film was released and made a profit, which never happened.

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The result of all of this is a film that many critics and viewers consider to be the worst ever made. The film’s biggest problem is that there was no sound recorded during the filming and it all had to be dubbed in later causing it to come off like a silent movie with music used throughout the whole thing in order to help ‘narrate’ the mood and scene much of which is jazz sounding that doesn’t really connect with the horror genre to begin with. The takes go on waaaay longer than they should including a long stretch at the beginning where we see nothing but passing scenery of a barren Texas landscape that goes on endlessly.

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The filmed bombed upon its initial release and was only seen at a few theaters in the El Paso area before being forgotten completely. When Jackey Neyman attended collage during the early 80’s and told friends that she had at one point been in a film as a child her friends set out to find a copy and were unable to. It wasn’t until 1993 when this film was shown on an episode of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ that it garnered the cult following that is has now including a Blu-ray release that is set to come out on October 13th of the this year that will have as a bonus not one, but three featurettes included, which I guess proves that these days bad is now the new good.

For my part I liked the general premise, which if put in more competent hands and with a better budget might’ve been interesting. I also enjoyed Adelson as the wife who is beautiful and went on to have a career as a model. The twist ending is also kind of neat, but without some sort of rifftax attached this otherwise boring thing is not worth catching.

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My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: November 5, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 14Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Harold P. Warren

Studio: Emerson Film Enterprises

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Release date October 13, 2015)

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