Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

(Directed by Harold P. Warren, 1966, USA)

Ouch! my brain still hurts!

This dreck is so bad it makes many B-movie cheesy flicks look like fine cinematic masterpieces. After this 16mm celluloid crime was lifted from obscurity (where it should have remained for all eternity) as the subject of a famous episode of MST3K in the early 90's, "Manos" still retains its awfulness among the true cinematic offal. Whatever you do: DON'T SEE THIS!

Well, if you must: it concerns the story of Mike (the movie's director, Harold P. Warren), his 'wife' Margaret (Diane Mahree) and their daughter Debbie (Jackey Neyman) and Debbie's rather lackluster puppy driving around endlessly and getting lost until they finally reach a 'shack' in an isolated area, caretaken by someone named Torgo (John Reynolds). Torgo (who claims he's caring for the place while "the Master' is away), has a tendency to repeat everything twice, like "It'll be getting dark soon. There's no way out. It'll be getting dark soon..." etc. Torgo (for unidentified reasons) has huge knees and an incredible case of either the fidgets, DT's or Parkinson's Disease. After warning the unfortunately lost and clueless family ominously (sort of), about "the Master being displeased", he is ordered by Mike to bring the family's bags out from their car into the shack. And ordered to bring them back to the car again. And vice-versa. At this point my brain rebelled and I needed to go somewhere else for awhile, for about 5 minutes. Unfortunately the movie was still on when I returned. The Master (Tom Neyman, in an awesomely bad performance) eventually does awaken from his rest with his wife posse: all six of them. The wives engage (after arguing in geese voices) in an epic catfight: meanwhile, the puppy gets killed, Debbie vanishes, Debbie reappears with a Doberman that runs away (smart dog); Margaret gets molested by Torgo, and on and on: it's the first horror movie wannabee shot in real time. Or something like it. While going on and on for 69 minutes, through the magic of synergy, the actual running time seems to extend into 3 hours of viewing, or what feels like standard paint-drying time.

For me, the highlight of the movie was Mike getting knocked out by Torgo: how many times have you wanted to see really bad directors get popped into unconsciousness? but that gratuitous act of violence didn't stop this movie, no sirree! After many non-scary moments, let's just say it all ends with a twist and then the credits roll (with the requisite "The End?" postulation), and some Shirley Bassey-type lounge singer singing "I'll forget you"....yeah, sweet consolation.

I've often wondered what really makes a bad movie: Manos seems to contain all the elements: bad script (why does the master have six wives? why are they asleep or to quote Torgo, "not alive on this plane", are they satanists? Free-love swingers gone bad? the undead? from New Jersey?); bad continuity: people standing in a frame for a full 10 seconds before realizing they need to speak their lines, and then a rapid cut repeatedly to something else, then back to more dead air dithering: Mike and Margaret stare for so long at a painting of the Master and a Dobermann, it seems like they're meditating and the camera cuts to a bored Debbie...and over and over again, several times. atrocious acting: Margaret's role consists of continually yelling "Help Mike!" throughout the entire movie. The Master seems to have wandered in from "Master Thespian" class and intones in a stagy voice, the voice of DOOM. And then there's Torgo, helpfully repeating his lines as if we didn't get it the first time. Bad camerawork : The camera used was a 16mm Bell & Howard that could only film for 30 seconds and the camera's sound recording was broken, causing for choppy editing and out of snc sound. One blogger said hilariously that the director was follwing the "Zapruder School of filmmaking"
The subsequent dialog sound was dubbed with three voices: it really sounds that way. Oh yes and then there's that cheesy Manos parka with the hands outstretched has the makings of a wonderful Halloween costume.....NOT! Needless to say, no one in this atrocity ever acted in a movie again, it's just for the best. If you must see this, it might scar you for life, but an ideal viewing might consist of getting a group of friends together along with the poison of your choice: whoever makes it through the entire movie still awake with relatively functioning brain cells wins!

If you're looking for the worst of the worst, you can't go wrong with this incompetently made turkey. Just remember: you won't forget the experience, no matter how much you want to.

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