Friday, July 20, 2012

Manos: The Hands of Fate

Manos: The Hands of Fate
1966 newspaper ad for Manos: The Hands of Fate
Considered to be among the worst movies ever made, Manos was a film reportedly made by its writer, producer, director and star, Harrold P. Warren, because of a bet. The bet in question involved Warren (an insurance and later on, fertilizer salesman) stating that making a horror movie wasn't that hard and claiming he could make one all on his own. He placed a bet with screenwriter Stirling Silliphant. You can see the end result below and judge for yourself.

I'm not going to lie. This movie will test your patience even if you are a dedicated B movie fan. That's because in addition to the amateur production, acting, and editing, the sound is terrible and the film clarity is very dark.

Another obvious bad movie trademark is evidenced by the opening scene, which shows a couple driving along a highway for what seems like an eternity, presumably where opening credits were supposed to be inserted or an effort on the filmmaker's part to pad the movie's running time.

Despite all this, the story is not that bad. It would have been interesting to see what a bigger budget would have done for it, provided the money went towards a professional production crew and actors. As it was, Warren could not afford to pay any of his actors, who agreed to take a share of the film's profits in lieu of a wage. Well, you know what they say. You get what you pay for.

The plot revolves around a young couple on a vacation with their daughter and the family dog. On a road trip, driving around Texas, the family searches for "Valley Lodge" but become lost. Eventually they come upon a house and stop for directions. They are greeted by a strange man who calls himself Torgo and appears to be part satyr. Torgo mentions that he takes care of the place while The Master is away. As for directions to Valley Lodge, he states that there is no way out, yet the family can't stay at the house since The Master wouldn't approve. It's like some alternate Hotel California. After some persuading, the family is allowed to stay. Later, we find out that The Master is the leader of a polygamous pagan cult and intends to make Margaret his latest of many wives, while sacrificing Michael and Debbie. The family spends the rest of the time trying to escape.  

Feature Presentation: Manos: The Hands of Fate 



Read the rest of the review and see the trailer
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Maggie has a feeling someone is watching her

Directed by: Harold P. Warren

Written by: Harold P. Warren
Produced by:  Harold P. Warren

Starring:  
Harold P. Warren... as Michael
Diane Mahree... as Maggie
Jackie Neyman... as Debbie
Tom Neyman... as The Master
John Reynolds...as Torgo

Something annoying about this movie are the inexplicably long, awkward pauses between dialogue and delayed reactions from the characters. Actors will often take anywhere from ten to twenty seconds just to answer a simple question or react to anything shocking or disturbing. They fidget and gaze around as if they are waiting for the director's cue for when to say their line. I suspect most of this was supposed to be edited out but never was for some reason. Incompetence is my best guess.

Manos: The Hands of Fate
Torgo likes what he sees
Speaking of dialogue, it is all dubbed. That's because the movie was shot with a 16 mm Bell & Howell camera which is incapable of recording sound. As a result, dialogue had to be recorded at a later date. Due to budget constraints, not everyone was invited to voice their own character. In fact, the entire film's cast is voiced by only 3 or 4 of the actors. The most obvious example of this is the voice of the little girl, Debbie (Jackie Neyman). Since Neyman was not present at the recording, an adult actress, attempting to simulate a small girl's voice, recorded her lines. The result is squeaky, whiny and grating. It's small consolation that Debbie does not have a large role.
You've heard of the old adage in show business that you should never work with children or animals? With the director's inexperience, he should have heeded that advice for the latter. Both dogs in this movie can't stay still for more than a couple of seconds. The Master's doberman seems to want to play, more than maul, while Pepe the poodle is just as fidgety as Torgo, The Master's servant.

Torgo, in his words, "takes care of the place while the master is away." The role is played by John Reynolds in what has to be one of the most bizarre performances captured on film. Torgo, in my opinion is one of two reasons to watch this movie, the other being The Master. It has been suggested by some of his co-stars that his performance was enhanced either by alcohol or drugs or both. This would explain a lot, like why it takes him thirty excruciating seconds to rise to his feet when he is awakened by his master. It might also explain why his eyes are half-closed for most scenes, why he staggers about when he walks and why his mannerisms are so jittery. It is perhaps the funniest, unintentionally funny acting job I've ever seen. My favourite scenes are when he fetches the family's luggage from the car and when he strokes Maggie's hair in an attempt to woo her. It's pure comedy gold. Gold, Jerry! Sadly, John committed suicide only a month before the movie's premiere.

Manos: The Hands of Fate
You have to admire The Master's handiwork!
That brings us to The Master. The most charismatic of all the characters, it is no coincidence that he is also played by the best actor of the bunch, Tom Neyman. I know that might not be saying much but Neyman brings some credibility to the project that makes it feel like the film is not a total waste of time. He even painted the self portrait that is featured in the movie's opening as well as other scenes. I also have to say that I really like the design of his costume. Those giant red hands adorning his black robe are really iconic and look ominous when he extends his arms out. Neyman was only one of four actors to dub his own voice for his role. He also designed the metal rigging that John Reynolds wore on his legs under his pants to simulate some sort of deformity. Some claim that Reynolds mistakenly wore the rigging incorrectly, which caused permanent damage and a dependency on painkillers but there is no evidence to support this. It was Neyman's who designed his costume while his wife Jakie was the seamstress who also made the gowns of The Master's wives.

Manos is a film which often times resembles a home movie that a relative shot, with out-of-focus scenes and long stretches of silence. There was no Foley artist on this project so there is a noticeable absence of sound effects, such as footsteps, doors opening and closing, body thumps, etc. A lot of Debbie's dialogue is garbled and unintelligible. The Master and Torgo are the two best things about Manos and when they're not on screen, the movie suffers greatly. Even with those two characters, it's a chore to watch. For a movie of this calibre and quality it has a pretty good shock ending.

MUG SHOTS
Manos: The Hands of Fate
The Master (Tom Neyman)
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Torgo (John Reynolds)
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Michael (Hal Warren)
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Maggie (Diane Mahree)
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Debbie (Jackie Neyman)


Manos: The Hands of Fate
Kissing Couple (Joyce Molleur & Bernie Rosenblum)

Shanka, the doberman
The Master's Dog (Shanka the doberman)
Debbie & Poodle in Manos: The Hands of Fate
Family Dog (Pepe the poodle) with Debbie

Manos: The Hands of Fate
Traveller
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Traveller

Manos: The Hands of Fate
Wife #1
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Wives #2 & #3

Manos: The Hands of Fate
Wives #4 & #5
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Sheriff (William Bryan Jennings)
Surveillance Photos

Manos: The Hands of Fate
Manos: The Hands of Fate








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Manos: The Hands of Fate
Manos: The Hands of Fate
















Manos: The Hands of Fate
Manos: The Hands of Fate




Manos: The Hands of Fate 









Manos: The Hands of FateManos: The Hands of Fate                                         





Manos: The Hands of Fate 



Manos: The Hands of Fate
Blue Punch Buggy, no punch back!
Manos: The Hands of Fate 




 



Manos: The Hands of FateManos: The Hands of Fate 



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Surveillance Video




Extra Vigilant

Believe it or not, a sequel is in the works called Manos: The Search for Valley Lodge
 


Recently, a workprint of the film was discovered and is currently under process of being restored in HD.



2 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review of a film quite close to my heart. Always happy to see the love bestowed on this most beloved and yet horrid film. For more on Manos...www.debbiesmanos.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great to hear from little Debbie herself! Thanks Jackey for dropping by and leaving a comment. Good luck to you and your dad on the sequel.

    ReplyDelete

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