Manos: The Hands of Fate
FRIGHTFUL FAILURE FRIDAY
Friday's theme this month is pretty obvious upon looking at its titles. Put simply; movies that are so incredibly terrible that at some point or another they've probably ended up on a list of "worst movies ever made". One may very well remember watching a specific episode of 'How I Met Your Mother' in which Ted debates that the worst movie ever made was this title above 'Plan 9' (also on this list). Of course, things are always up for debate, but one can't really deny that any of these titles belong on a "worst ever" list of some sort. If you decide to check these out for yourself, I'm gonna go ahead and recommend either a 'Rifftrax' copy or a 'Mystery Science Theater' copy, because my God do they add to the comedy of it all.
One may very well argue that the first time around on any of these titles should be seen as is, but I'd personally highly recommend doing such a thing with someone already very familiar with it. Otherwise, you're kinda just looking at a bad movie on your own, which is far less entertaining (trust me). Think of these to be on the same level as 'The Room', which tends to be the big bad title everyone has seen. It's far, far, FAR more entertaining with an audience, or at least someone's voiceover poking fun at it the whole time. But I digress. There's a lot to unpack here, and so on with the review.
We open (and it's a long one, so buckle up) with ultimately forgettable leads, Michael (Harold P. Warren), Margaret (Diane Adelson), their daughter, Debbie (Jackey Neyman Jones) and dog Peppy, taking a trip through El Paso, Texas, looking for a hotel called Valley Lodge. Eventually, they reach a strange place tended by the real star of this movie, Torgo (John Reynolds), who "takes care of the place while The Master (Tom Neyman) is away". He doesn't know of such a place as Valley Lodge, but eventually, Michael talks Torgo into letting them stay the night, despite the Master's probable objections.
I could go on in more detail, but to make a long story short, through the night a bunch of random dark stuff happens involving the Master, his wives, Torgo and whatever the hell the entity Manos is. Ultimately, it's the family being threatened by the Master's ways, and it's nothing new, except perhaps for the extremely poor execution of it all. I know that all might sound rushed and sloppy, but... so is the movie. In truth (as it often is with films like these), it's the making of the movie that's a little more fascinating than the movie itself, and it all comes down to Harold P. Warren, himself, who wrote, directed and produced the film.
The film is the result of a bet that Warren made with Stirling Silliphant; a screenwriter best known for his film 'In the Heat of the Night'. The bet involved Warren stating that he could probably produce a horror film on his own. After getting some friends and local actors to participate, the film did eventually get made and does give Warren a bit of a technical win. But anyone who has actually seen this movie understands why it's ultimately still a huge loss on Warren's part (unless you count the film's cult following it's grown over the years). The film existed, but was very poorly received and only played in El Paso theaters and drive-ins for a very short time.
Eventually, 1993 gave us a 'Mystery Science Theater' episode that featured the film, and it finally fell out of extreme obscurity but was still quite hidden away for a while. Over the years, the good old internet has given the film a pretty well-known name now, but as a cult classic for terrible movie lovers. And when I say terrible, take all of this into consideration when it comes to the film's criticisms from the masses - technically deficient overall, badly edited, continuity errors all over the place, the soundtrack is basically elevator music, bad visuals, terrible acting, terrible pacing, and a whole lot of disconnected scenes that mean nothing at all, perhaps most famously, a couple making out in a car who keep getting bothered by a cop because... *shrug*
The 'Mystery Science Theater' episode, however, did result in a generous boost of 'Manos' DVD releases, as suddenly people were interested in seeing something so awful. But what's really mind-blowing is that eventually, in 2018, a prequel, 'Manos: The Rise of Torgo' was made along with a sequel, 'Manos Returns'. I mean, I didn't learn that until working on this review, so (especially with some returning cast members) I'm gonna have to find these movies one day if only to explore this fascinatingly god-awful world that Warren has provided with actors actually reprising their roles! I'm not sure to expect better or worse from them, but one thing is for sure, the original 'Manos' is easily one of the worst movies in existence... and totally worth checking out in the ways I suggested earlier.
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