Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Manos... fated to return?

For the decade or so that I've been focusing my attention on the more obscure and awful side of cinema, I've avoided writing anything about "Manos: The Hands of Fate." It's been covered by so many others, as well as featured on "Mystery Science Theater 3000", that I didn't feel like I had anything at all to add. Plus, the film is almost too bad to even bother writing about... and I've written about some awful movies.

But, with the news that a sequel is in the works (click here to visit TorgoLives.com), I suppose I might as well join the crowd.

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Starring: John Reynolds, Hal Warren, Diane Mahree, Tom Neyman, and Jackey Neyman
Director: Harold P. Warren
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

A family on vacation (Mahree, Jackey Neyman and Warren) take a wrong turn and find themselves in the clutches of the High Priest of Manon (Tom Neyman), his bizarre assistant Torgo (Reynolds) and the Master's unaging wives. Will they escape, or will the wife and little girl become the latest additions to the Master's harem?

A better question might be whether you'll have the stamina to stick with this movie long enough to find out, because this is without a doubt one of most boring films ever unleashed upon the innocent movie-watcher.

Scenes drag on and on with absolutely nothing happening in them--like the one where a couple of characters stare at a painting for what seems like FOREVER. One would think that in a film with no camera set-up lasting more than 30 seconds that they would have picked up the pace a bit. Even more damning, almost every character in the film is either unpleasant or apparently stupid.

And none are more unpleasant than the character who is supposed to be the film's hero, family man Mike. He is such a collossal jerk that, when he and his family get lost on the back roads, he forces himself upon the hospitality of the freakish Torgo... over both the objections of his wife and Torgo; and Torgo gives the best objection of all--the owner of the property will be angry that they're staying there. And to add injury to rudeness, he lets Torgo--who can barely walk--carry his luggage for him. Because even though they're unwelcome guests who are there for just one night, this family must apparently unpack. Finally, Mike turns out to be incompetent as well as obnoxious, as the bad end that his family comes to is absolutely, 100 percent his fault when he fails to lead them to safety or to even shoot The Master at point blank range.

And then there's the cult leader, the Master. I really, truly hope that they have him at least say "talk to the hand" once in the sequel. The fact that he worships Hand ("Manos" is Spanish for "Hand") and wears robes with red fingers on them makes it a joke that MUST be made. And just what is the connection between having a bunch of wives and worshipping the Hand? I would have thought that a bunch of wives would mean you didn't have to rely on your hand for certain kinds of pleasures... the again, maybe I have the wrong idea about polygamy. Maybe the amount of sex you get decreases in direct proportion to the number of pissed off women living in your household? (And I just grossed myself out there, because by the end of the movie, The Master has "married" a 9-year-old girl. But if pedophilia works for Mohammed and Roman Polanski, I suppose it's no surprise it works for The Master.)

The most bizarre aspect of this picture is that The Master's freakish assistant Torgo--who is supposed to be a satyr. but who ends up looking more like a guy with really huge knees than someone with goat legs--emerges as the closest thing to a sympathetic character this film has to offer. Everyone is always picking on Torgo, so we are almost cheering for him when he stands up for himself--those of us who haven't fallen asleep from boredom that is. (Of course, the sympathy is only generated because there is no one else in the film to care about--except maybe the little girl, but she is a non-entity, portrayed by a child actress who clearly received little or no direction and who was in a role that's badly written. Torgo, as much as we appreciate his rebellion when it comes, is a perverted rapist who only does what he does because he wants a woman to dominate; as he says, it's not fair The Master has several and Torgo has none.

I just wrote far more on this movie than it deserves. It is technically incompetent on every level. It even manages to make a cat-fight among cute chicks boring. The only halfway decent thing about the film is "Torgo's Theme."

Okay... I said halfway decent. At least it was covered nicely in the music videos produced by the creators of the forthcoming sequel. And, for once, it is almost guaranteed that the sequel will be far better than the original. (I wonder, though, if it too is being made because someone is trying to win a bet. That was what led to the creation of "Manos: The Hands of Fate"... a Texas fertilizer sales man bet a screenwriter that he could make a movie, because it can be that hard. While he DID make a movie--that in and of itself is a feat; how many dreamers never even start a film and how many must abandon their project due to lack of funding or other difficulties? As bad as "Manos" is, Harold P. Warren made his movie AND got it distributed. For a time. Then its reputation caught up with it.

I don't usually recommend this, but if you haven't seen "Manos" yet, and want to subject yourself to it, you should get the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" version. They've abridged some of the most boring sequences, and Joel and the robots also bring a bit of life to it. Failing that, get the double-feature I've linked to; at least then you'll have a second, more entertaining flick to watch when you tire of "Manos: The Hands of Fate."

No comments:

Post a Comment