‘Manos’ The Hands of Fate (1966)

Manos

Written and directed by Hal Warren

Tagline: "It’s beyond your imagination!&quote

Run Time: 74 min

Other titles: "The Lodge of Sins&quote

Necking kids:"Awww…we aint doing nothing…"
Sheriff:"Well, whatever it is you’re not doing, go don’t do it somewhere else."


No. I did not misquote that second line. That’s as clever as this movie ever gets.

So here it is. The grand-daddy of all bad movies. The "King-of-the-Hill-of-Crap".

How could something this bad, this incompetent, this painful ever come into existence in our universe?

Let me tell you a story about this film.

This is not a pretty story.

Let me tell you a story about an El Paso fertilizer salesman named Hal Warren.

You see, Hal was a successful fertilizer dealer who did pretty good for himself in El Paso. One hot, dusty afternoon in 1966, Hal decided to make a movie…and the course of humanity was changed forever. Hal decided to cast El Paso locals as the ‘stars’ of the movie, hell, he even decided to cast himself in the leading role. He proceeded to scour the local theaters and modeling agencies, and what do you know: Hal had himself a cast.

After finding a cadre of actors and actresses, Hal used all the high-powered business connections that he had and managed to round up the meager sum of $19,000. Wow. That’s not really a hell of a lot of money. Still, that wasn’t going to stop Hal. Nothing would.

He managed to find a hand-held spring-driven camera to shoot the film. The camera was capable of taking only 30 seconds of film before having to be rewound, resulting in a film where no one shot lasts longer than a half minute.

In addition, the film was shot without sound, and all the dialog was dubbed in later. However, they dubbed in the lines for all of the characters using the voices of only 2 men and 1 woman. That is why you have scenes with 2 people talking to each other with the same voice. That’s why when the young girl talks she sounds like her mother talking in a high-pitched voice…it was her mother speaking in a squeaky voice.

The soundtrack consists primarily of soulless ‘jazz’, bongo drums, piano riffs (the kind where somebody drags their finger up and down a keyboard), and flute melodies. Have you ever wondered why nobody else uses ‘jazz’ in a horror film? Watch ‘Manos’ and see for yourself.

Speaking of the little girl, she is one of only 2 cast members that actually received any sort of payment for their work in the film: She received a new bike. The only other cast member that received any kind of reward was her dog, Shanka, who played the ‘Devil Dog’: He got a 50-lb bag of dog food. The others were to receive shares of the movies profits. There was only one problem. The movie didn’t have any profits.

The film itself revolves around a family that takes a wrong turn and ends up staying at a lodge run by ‘The Master’ and the care taker, ‘Torgo’. The family struggles to escape but the Master and his harem of evil ‘wives’ prevent them at every turn. In the end, the girl and her mother become slaves to the Master, while the father also falls under the Master’s power and becomes the lodge’s new care taker. Such a charming story.

Are you sure you don’t want to turn back now?

After the movie was made, Hal invited all the El Paso dignitaries to a huge opening night ceremony. To ensure that this was to be a night to be remembered, Hal even rented a search light that swept the skies in front of the theater, drawing curious people from all over the city. Hal and the others dressed up in tuxedos and were driven to the premier in a rented limo, being dropped off at the theater 2 at a time, thereafter the limo would circle around the block and pick up 2 more cast members. What was to be a night of celebration turned into an unforgettable humiliation as the audience began to laugh and heckle the film just minutes after starting. The cast snuck out of the theater in the cover of darkness before the movie ended…mortified and disgraced.

On a macabre note, John Reynolds (Torgo) committed suicide shortly after the film was completed. Furthermore, it is said that Diane Mahree (Margaret) and Sherry Proctor (one of the Master’s wives) also committed suicide in the following years. However, I have read several conflicting reports as to the authenticity of all those besides John Reynolds, so if anybody can find any hard evidence for either case, please let me know.

UPDATE July 17, 2006:

Thanks to Glenn St-Germain for the following info:
“In doing research for the 2004 documentary film Hotel Torgo, the film-makers were unable to find any evidence (obituaries, etc.) of the deaths of the three female cast members who are rumoured to have killed themselves. But I also remember reading somewhere that Joyce Molleur (girl in car) is still alive, and that Diane Mahree (Margaret) was killed in a car accident a few years after the movie was made…

Jackey Neyman (Debbie) (ED: The little girl) attended the University of California at Berkeley, and is now a painter somewhere in the Pacific Northwest under her married name, Jackie Jones.” (A huge Shack-shout for the info, thanks Glenn)

This is not a pretty story…and this is not a pretty film.

Tom Neyman The Master (Tom Neyman)

The Master rules the lodge with an iron fist. He lives somewhere in the desert where he watches his harem of ‘wives’ fight and argue amongst themselves. Tom Neyman actually painted the picture of himself and ‘Devil Dog’ seen in the film, and his wife made all the costumes. After the film was made, Tom moved to the Oregon (or thereabouts) and dropped out of sight.

John Reynolds Torgo (John Reynolds)

“I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away!” Undoubtedly the most famous side-kick in ‘bad movie’ history. Torgo even has his own ‘theme song’ which plays whenever he enters a scene. Torgo’s most noticeable attribute, his huge knees (!), are due to the fact that he is a satyr. John spent a great deal of effort creating the special effect ‘knees’ for his Torgo character, and was quite proud of his creation.
John Reynolds committed suicide in 1966 shortly after this film was made.

Hal Warren Michael (Hal Warren)

The man responsible for it all. Hal plays the ‘father’ in the film.
The actors and crew on the film said he was a real asshole and everybody hated him by the end of the film’s production. Hal returned to the fertilizer business after the failure of ‘Manos’. Incredibly enough he wrote the script for a second film, "Wild Desert Bikers", but nobody would have anything to do with it.

Diane Mahree Margaret (Diane Mahree)

The mom. What more can I say? Torgo loves her hair, and she doesn’t particularly seem to mind it when he runs his grubby fingers through it. The hapless Margaret winds up as the newest wife in the Master’s harem. In all fairness, Margaret seems to be the only character with any common sense in the film.

Jackie Neyman Debbie (Jackie Neyman)

The daughter to Margaret and Michael. Spends most of her screen time playing with her dog, Pepe. (At least until Pepe is killed by the Devil Dog) Debbie is portrayed by the real life daughter of Tom Neyman, the ‘Master’.

Joyce Molleur Teenager in Car (Joyce Molleur)

Joyce broke her leg early in the filming of ‘Manos’, forcing Hal Warren to rewrite her part. Her new role simply requires her to sit in a car (her broken leg, in a cast, barely out of camera view), drinking and making out with the other ‘Teenager in Car’ (above).

Well, here we go.

We open with a scene showing Mike, Margaret, and their daughter, Debbie, driving through the streets of El Paso in a blue convertible. (By the way, there is a lot of driving in this movie. A lot, lot, lot, of driving.) Mike pulls to the side of the road while Debbie sits in the back and plays with her pet poodle, Pepe. Apparently Mike is lost, but refuses to go back and ask for directions to their vacation destination (Men!).

Displaying his great directorial skills, Hal has shot nearly the whole scene from directly behind Margaret’s head, giving us a great view of her hair blowing in the wind. This is a great movie! Anyway, Margaret decides to sing a song "to kill some time". Well, they all break out in a rendition of "Row, row, row your boat", and believe me, it’s as exciting as you might expect. This is ‘Manos’.

As they drive off, we finally see the title credits. The title quickly disappears as we see Mike being pulled over by a policeman for a "tail light problem". The policeman begins writing a ticket while Mike asks for a break…"running late, first vacation, kid getting tired…". Well, that was enough to convince the policeman to let him go with just a warning. He wads up the ticket and returns to his patrol car while Mike drives off.

ManosThe dialog in the previous scene is rather difficult to follow because it’s the same person doing both the voice of Mike and the voice of the policeman. The only way you can tell who is speaking is by the context of what they are saying, so by the time you realize which character is actually speaking, the other character starts talking…still in the same voice of course. This is ‘Manos’.

We are now subjected to a sequence of shots showing landscape passing by the car as Mike drives…somewhere. To capture the, er, action, the scenes are simply filmed by somebody holding a camera out a car window while the car drives…and drives..and drives….for a full 90 seconds! Let me repeat that: a 90 second driving scene! The monotony is broken up around the 35 second mark when we get an exterior shot of the car making a left turn to "Valley Lodge"…whatever the hell that is. Believe it or not there are a couple of (relative) funny moments in this monotonous footage…a ‘dissolve’ from one scene directly into the same scene again. (I guess they had to stop the car, wind up the camera, and start driving again…beautiful, just beautiful.) Also, in one of the shots we catch a glimpse of the car’s roof at the top of the frame, even though Mike is driving a convertible. This is ‘Manos’.

ManosWith a jarring shift in scenes, we see 2 ‘teens’ making out in a car. Since the characters don’t have any names, I will simply say that it’s the 2 "teens in car" as noted in the cast line-up above. They take a pause from their tongue-wrestling just long enough to take a few drinks from a liquor bottle and then resume their romantic interlude. (Hmmm, I just noticed the wedding ring on the guy’s finger…how nice.)

A car drives by, presumably Mike’s car. After about 15 seconds, they stop kissing to allow them to say their lines, consisting of, "I wonder where they’re going?" "Man, like there’s nothing up that road!", then they start making out again. Ahhh, young love.

Yes, ok. We are now watching Mike driving along a dirt road. As opposed to the previous ‘driving scene’, this thrilling driving scene is filmed through the windshield. This scene goes on, and on, and on. My God, he’s still driving. We’ve been watching Mike drive for a freakin’ 1 minute and 30 seconds, with only 2 lines of dialog! What the hell were you thinking Hal?

I’m 10 minutes into the film and I’m already having a nervous breakdown. Not good. Not good.

This is ‘Manos’.

Well, back to the kids in the car. Yes, they are still making out. OK. Let’s see what happens…oh! The cop has driven up and runs them off by saying "Whatever it is you’re not doing, go don’t do it somewhere else." (???) That, by the way, is one of my all time favorite movie lines. I mean, this is an incredible film!

As the kids drive off, we cut to the next scene where we watch Mike driving some more. (Just kill me now…) He pulls over to the side of the road and peers at a lodge or something that he has just driven past (we of course don’t get to see it). He notes that "This wasn’t here a couple minutes ago…" Since we have no idea where he has driven from, where he is driving to, nor what he is looking at, we’ll just have to take his word for it.

Margaret looks over to the lodge and sees Torgo standing beside the door. Torgo stares at Margaret, Margaret stares at Torgo, Torgo stares at Margaret…hey, I’m just telling you what’s happening in the movie. I’m trying to make this as entertaining as possible but I don’t have a hell of a lot to work with here! Ok. I feel better now.

Manos

Finally something happens. Mike gets out of the car and walks up to Torgo along with Margaret and Debbie. It is now that we see that Torgo has some sort of staff with a cast iron hand on the top. Spooky! There are a lot of ‘hands’ in this film. Not really ‘spooky’ as it was intended, but certainly strange.

Torgo greets the visitors with with a stuttering, "I am Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away." Torgo notices Debbie and adds "The child! I don’t think the master would approve. The dog! The Master does not like children!" (??) (All of Torgo’s lines consist of this pseudo-Zen koan gibberish that leaves my head spinning.)

Margaret says that she’s scared, so Mike asks Torgo "Which way is out of here?" (huh?) Torgo replies that "There is no way out of here. It will be dark soon. There is no way out of here." (No, I didn’t accidentally type that twice…Torgo has an unnerving habit of repeating things…hell, everything about this film is weird, and not in the manner that the director intended.)

Despite Margaret’s objections, Mike decides to spend the night since he "doesn’t know what else to do." (What a loser. My God.) I wonder how hard it could be to escape when I can see cars driving in the background! That kind of ruins the sense of ‘isolation’ that Hal Warren was working so hard to create here.

By the way, I’m sorry that I have to resort to bold text from time to time. It’s the only way I can communicate the fact that I’m screaming at the computer screen while typing. And it makes me feel better. This is ‘Manos’.

ManosTorgo eventually shows them to their room. I use the word ‘eventually’ quite a bit in this review because the film is padded with lots of shots of the actors saying absolutely nothing. I don’t know if this is suppose to build suspense, but it sure the hell is annoying.

Torgo staggers over to the car to help Mike carry in the luggage. Due to his, er, enlarged knees, Torgo is forced to stagger and shuffle whenever he walks. It’s all so very odd to watch.

Meanwhile, Margaret and Debbie make themselves at home in the room. Margaret glances around while Debbie plays with Pepe. The camera reveals a fireplace with an unusual number of ‘hand’ carvings on the mantle. And I don’t mean hand-carved, I mean carved hands…

In case you aren’t aware of the ominous foreshadowing taking place here, scary music is played to clue you in.

ManosMike returns from the car along with Torgo, who is struggling along with the luggage (and that ridiculous ‘hand-staff’ of his). It is at this moment that Mike and Margaret notice the bizarre painting of the Master and his Devil Dog.

The painting gives us another opportunity to see Hal Warrens incompetent pacing and direction. (As if there weren’t enough all ready.) Mike and Margaret stand and stare at the picture…and stare…and stare.

Really, do you know how exciting it is to watch somebody looking at a painting?

ManosWe cut to see the picture…ok. I see the picture. Next we cut back to watch them stare at the picture some more. What the hell is happening here?! I’m not getting any younger!!! OK, back to the picture…back to Mike and Margaret…back to the picture…back to Mike and Margaret…

Maybe I can just sum up the previous scene by showing you a series of screen shots:

Manos Manos Manos Manos Manos Manos

Pretty exciting isn’t it? This is ‘Manos’.

Meanwhile Torgo has finished putting the luggage away and returns to the living room. He sneaks up behind Mike and raises his ‘hand-staff’ up in the air, seemingly poised to strike Mike from behind. Inexplicably, he simply taps Mike on the shoulder with the little hand ‘thingee’ on the end and walks away. I can only guess that Hal Warren wanted this to look like Torgo was going to hit him in a bid to build up some suspense. It didn’t work. Nothing works in this movie.

Mike realizes that the painting is of the Master and enquires as to the Master’s whereabouts. Torgo replies in a mysterious tone, "He has left this world. But he is with us always. No matter where he goes, he is with us." Hmmm. Margaret doesn’t seem to understand what Torgo means (do you?), but Torgo reassures her that everything will be ok: "Nothing to fear, madam. The Master likes you. Nothing will happen to you. He likes you." Thinking that the Master was dead, Margaret wants to know what Torgo means by ‘the Master likes you’ business. Torgo denies that he ever said the Master was dead (in his own incomprehensible manner of speaking): "Dead? No, Madam, not dead the way you know it. He is with us always. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always."

ManosWell. Let’s see here. Everybody has stopped talking again, see we watch Torgo, Mike and Margaret standing in silence intercut with scenes of Debbie playing with Pepe. Note that nobody is saying a single line of dialog here. To be honest, this is all very surrealistic. Am I dreaming this? Do I really co-exist in the same universe as this film?

Suddenly a wolf howls from somewhere in the desert, scaring the crap out of Margaret. Mike reassures her that it’s just an animal and that he’ll go check it out, or something. Mike peeks out the front door and peers into the darkness. While he is so busily peering, Mike fails to notice that Pepe has run out the front door and into the desert. (Who cares. Does anybody really like poodles anyway?)

Well, as soon as Pepe leaves the scene we hear a recording of dog’s barking, which I can only assume is to simulate the life and death battle between Pepe the poodle and the Master’s Devil Dog.

Mike runs to the car and fetches a flashlight and a revolver from the glove compartment. The next scene shows Mike grimacing in disgust as he stands over the lifeless body of Pepe laying on the dry desert ground. Margaret runs out to see what all the commotion was about, and Mike informs her of Pepe’s demise. Margaret explodes in a torrent of tears and exclaims "What kind of place is this!?" (I’m actually wondering ‘What kind of a film is this…").

We move inside again where Debbie is just waking up from a nap. It’s impossible to tell how much time passes between scenes. They inform Debbie of Pepe’s fate, causing the little girl to break down in tears. Well, she at least rubs her hands on her eyes in an imitation of crying. (This is actually the best performance I’ve seen so far.) Margaret, the only person who appears to have any common sense in this movie, demands to leave this horrible place. Mike relents and calls for Torgo. We see Torgo emerge from the bedroom (??) and Mike orders him to put the luggage in the car ("Right now! Fast! Damn it! Fast!").

The luggage loaded, I think, Mike tries to start the car but to no avail. You see, this is a monster movie (of sorts), therefore, no automobiles will start after sunset.

While Mike futzes around under the hood, Torgo is inside informing Margaret that the Master wants her for his wife. Instead of smacking Torgo and running away, Margaret actually looks rather happy to receive such a compliment. (Once again, it’s hard to tell what people are feeling in all of these ‘non-speaking’ scenes.) A clarinet begins wailing on the soundtrack while Torgo makes his way towards the embarrassed Margaret. He reaches his (unfocused) hand towards her and begins fondling her hair. Margaret shouts at the bumbling Torgo, commanding him to stop. However, Torgo continues towards her saying that Margaret is to be his wife, and not the Master’s. (Oh! Margaret, you lucky dog, you!)

ManosMike, still outside looking under the car’s hood, somehow fails to hear Margaret’s screams of "Mike! Mike! Where in the world can you be? Mike! Mike!", even though he is a mere 5 feet from the front door. Of course, with the editing in this film, he could be in the middle of downtown El Paso as far as I can tell.

Anyway, Torgo offers to protect Margaret if she won’t tell her husband about his approaches. This deal is too good to refuse for Margaret: she agrees not to tell Mike about the whole ‘hair touching’ thingee that just happened in return for Torgo’s protection from the Master. (Seeing how Torgo struggled to carry in 1 suitcase from the car, I wouldn’t feel completely out of danger just yet.)

In another pointless scene that advances the plot, oh, not at all, Mike comes back in and tells Margaret about the car not starting. Torgo tells them the nearest phone is 10 miles away at "the crossroads" (?) because the "Master does not approve of such devices." Oh. I see. Well, Torgo brings the luggage back from the car, which puts us right where we were about 5 minutes ago.

I hate this movie.

Oh God. Mike and Margaret walk across the room and start looking at the Master’s portrait again. Here, I want to share all of this excitement:

Manos Manos

While staring at the painting Margaret gets creeped out and says "Sinister just doesn’t describe it." Well, ‘bad’ just doesn’t describe this movie either.

They still haven’t figured out how to break the news to Debbie that Pepe was killed, but Mike consoles Margaret by oddly saying, "She’ll understand. She’s my baby. She’ll understand."

Oh no! Now Mike is talking like Torgo!

While they are staring at the painting, Debbie gets her off camera cue and walks out the front door, er, back door. I don’t know which door that is. Let’s just say that there’s a door in the left wall that she walks through. Needless to say Mike and Margaret do not see Debbie’s departure because they are so entranced by the painting.

Now, taking her cue, Margaret turns around and sees that Debbie isn’t sleeping on the sofa anymore. She freaks out and Mike tells her "don’t get wrought out [?], she’s probably playing hide-and-seek." (!) They begin looking around for Debbie (which is hard to portray in a convincing manner since the scene takes place in only one room). I will say that Margaret does open a door a crack and pretend to look in the room. I’m not making this up. This is ‘Manos’.

Yes well, moving right along. Mike and Margaret decide to look outside. Outside, Mike shines the flashlight around while calling Debbie’s name, when suddenly there comes a sound from around the corner of the house. Mike draws his pistol and points it at the noise. (There’s a candidate for Father of the Year, I tell ya!) Boo! Debbie walks out from the darkness leading the Devil Dog by the leash. Debbie lets go of the lease, the Devil Dog runs back into the darkness and we cut scenes back into the living room. Yep. That was scary, eh?

Inside, Mike asks Debbie where she found the dog. Debbie quietly says, "In a big place. A big place with a lot of funny people." Mike wants to know where this place is, so Debbie hops off the sofa and leads them back outside to take them there. Oh please. Please. Let this movie end soon.

Manos

Now we cut scenes to see a metal hand sticking up from a roaring bonfire. (There is no fading or segueing from scene to scene in this movie. When I say we ‘cut’ to a new scene, I mean exactly that.) Surround the fire are the Master’s wives, apparently sleeping (like the viewer at this point). In the middle of the ring lies the Master on a stone slab, with the Devil Dog secured to the head of the stone bed by its leash. Margaret gets spooked (and I do understand at this point), and they return to the relative safety of their lodge.

As a little side note, the Master’s ‘wives’ were played by models from the local modeling agency. (Hal, you are so resourceful!!!) Their costumes were intended to be sheer and very scant (Hal, you dog, you!), but the models’ agent wouldn’t allow it, so she designed her own costumes consisting of the white flowing robes and red ‘tails’ that you see in the film.

Back at the ‘ring of fire’ (for lack of a better description), Torgo has arrived to declare his intentions to the Master regarding Margaret. Torgo shouts that Margaret is to be his wife, and that the Master has all the wives he needs already. (One’s enough for me! Ha ha! <rim shot>. I’m in trouble now…) Of course, Torgo’s bravado takes place while the Master and his wives are in some sort of suspended animation, so we’ll see how this all pans out when the Master awakens. I can’t wait.

Torgo takes this opportunity to start fondling the hair of one of the wives. OK. That’s really great.

It’s a sign of a quality film when moths keep flying in front of the camera due to the lights used to illuminate the scene.

Let’s see, has anything important happened while I was typing that last line?…hmm…Torgo stops fondling her hair, laughs a bit, walks around in a circle, and he wanders off into the darkness. Nope. I didn’t think so.

We see a quick shot of Mike running through the desert with a flashlight before we cut back to the bedroom. Margaret is getting undressed while unbeknownst to her, Torgo leers at her through the window. I guess that’s what he’s doing. Whatever it is, he seems to like doing it.

Manos

Somehow, Torgo has stopped watching at Margaret and has managed to catch up with Mike in the desert. Torgo taps Mike on the back with his hand-staff…wait. Oh I see. That was supposed to be him hitting Mike, that’s would explain why Mike fell down unconscious after being simply tapped. Through the moths swarming in front of the camera lens, we see Torgo drag the motionless Mike over to a tree and ties him up.

At the ring-of-fire, the Master is now awakening. He unties Devil Dog and sits on the stone slab to collect his thoughts. Or maybe it’s to look scary. Your choice. Amazingly we see a, er, flashback of the painting, oh, ok, that shot was intended to show us that..wait for it…yes…the painting is a painting of the Master. Oh Wow! I did not see that coming! Auteur! Auteur!

What the hell? Now we cut back to see the 2 kids still making out in the car. And yes, they stop kissing long enough to drink some more from their bottle of booze, then start kissing again. Fascinating!

OK, they’re still kissing.

Wait. The cop drives up again and chases them off again. Does all this sound familiar? What’s the freakin’ point of all this?! Oh yeah, I forgot. This is ‘Manos’.

Manos

Back with the Master again, I see. He hooks the dog’s leash back up to the stone slab and walks over to the bonfire. The Master takes a deep breath and begins his Manos incantation:

"Oh Manos. Thou of primal darkness. Thou who dwelleth in the depths of the universe in the black chasms of night. Thou bestoweth thy darkness upon thy faithful." OK, no more. I can’t keep up with this idiotic prayer. Note that this would have been a lot more, er, scary, if jazz music hadn’t have been playing the whole time. (The swarms of moths detract a bit from the mood of foreboding as well.)

At the climax of the prayer the Master spreads his arms to reveal the (ridiculous) red ‘hands’ embroidered on his cloak. (And the zipper running up the back. Do demons really use zippers?)

The Master then calls for his wives to awaken and "hear the words of Manos." Yes. I can’t wait to hear that.

Manos

Well, the wives are now awake as we see them sitting around the bonfire (with the little metal hand-thingee in it). They’re chatting and twittering away like a bunch of gossipy hens. Are these supposed to be the evil wives of their demonic Master? It’s like a freakin’ tupperware party!

The Master sits silently and watches from the stone slab. (Probably wondering why in the hell he woke them up!) Apparently the wives are arguing over Debbie’s presence. They don’t seem to mind killing a man, but don’t feel that sacrificing a child is the right thing to do. To add confusion to the scene, one of the wives states:

"The woman is all we want. The others must die. They all must die. We do not even want the woman." (???)

That’s it. I officially give up trying to make sense of this movie. I would sacrifice myself to Manos if it would just mean the end of this movie. Could eternal damnation really be any worse than 74 minutes of "Manos The Hands of Fate"?

The Master, apparently reading the mind of the viewer, jumps and shouts, "Enough! Stop this stupid bickering!" (Amen!) Finally taking charge, he declares that they all must die. (That is, Mike, Margaret, and Debbie…if you still care at this point.) I have to question the Master’s mental acuity, however, when he stares into space for a bit, then suddenly shouts "Silence! Silence!", even though nobody is talking. (Umm…did somebody forget to dub in something there?)

The Master has also decided to "deal with the one responsible for the child’s being here." In case the viewer has forgotten who it was that let Debbie into the lodge in the first place, one of the wives helpfully clues us in by shouting, "Torgo! He’s the one!" (Thank you.) The Master oddly replies, "You are responsible for this nonsense! We shall dispose of you later!" and then storms off to deal with Torgo. (?) Ummm…So who the hell is responsible then? Oh never mind.

After the Master departs, the wives continue their debate. Hilariously, you can see them all talking, shouting, and waving their arms, yet nobody had bothered to dub in any voices. (!) Incredible. When we actually do hear some dialog, the face of the speaker is often obscured by thick black smoke because the scene was shot from behind the fire.

Suddenly a cat fight breaks out between two of the wives. I really don’t know the reason for the disagreement since it wasn’t dubbed in. Oh well. At least I get to see the wives fight a bit. At this point I’ll take whatever I can get.

OK, let’s speed this up a bit:

Wife-1 slaps wife-2.

More soundless scenes of the wives arguing.

Ok, now some dialog. "She is a child. She will grow up to be a woman." (Thank you.)

Now wife-1 and wife-2 start circling each other, probing for a weak spot to attack.

Yes, some more dialog, "The man yes. The child…no." (Thank you).

ManosOne of the wives throws another wife onto the ground and suddenly all the wives are fighting each other.

You figure this out. I can’t.

The fighting consists mainly of twirling each other around, then one is thrown to the ground. The standing wife politely waits for the other to get up from the ground so they can twirl together some more.

This idiocy continues for much too long, all to the the sounds of a saxophone jazz riff. Well…lets see…ok, they’re still fighting. This is really incredible.

Whoa! We cut to a room where Torgo is sleeping in a corner. (?) The Master walks in and pokes Torgo in the gut with his ‘hand-staff’. (What I wouldn’t give to have one of those props for a souvenir..)

We get to see every single second of the 20+ seconds it takes for Torgo to stand up and grab his hand-staff from the wall.

SOMEBODY SAY SOMETHING!

Thank you. The Master confronts Torgo, saying that he has " failed us!" Apparently the wives have informed the Master that Torgo was at the fire-ring and had insolently claimed Margaret as his own. (Homey don’t play dat!)

Torgo notes that the Master has 6 wives, so why can’t he have one too? (Good point, really.)

ManosWell, since Torgo has failed as Torgo (?), the Master is of the opinion that he must die. Well, in one last lame effort to rebel, Torgo says that he will help Mike and the others…to do what? He doesn’t say…but it’s probably something that will make the Master very angry.

Finally getting down to business, the Master backs Torgo into the corner and starts waving his hand-staff-thingee in Torgo’s face while making ‘googly-eyes’ at him. Torgo eventually collapses to the ground either from boredom or fear. Oh wait. Now Torgo is standing. Whatever. The Master starts laughing, spreads his arms (so we can see those ohhhh-soooo-scary red hands on his cape…not!).

Meanwhile, one of the wives, who knows which one, has found the still unconscious Mike tied to the tree in the desert. She bends down and starts kissing him (nice one, Hal…I bet that scene was crucial to the story!). The kissing continues for a while, a bit too long if you ask me, until she suddenly stops kissing and starts slapping him. (??) She finally spits on him (or maybe said something to him that wasn’t dubbed in) and leaves.

We next cut to the fire-ring where some of the wives are still fighting! The Master runs into the middle of the struggle with Torgo close behind. (Wasn’t he dead?)

OK, the women are still fighting. No wait. We’re back in the lodge where Margaret has just awakened and starts calling out, wondering where Mike is.

Wait a minute. Back at the fire-ring the Master has just broken up the cat fight and is admonishing his wives for their foolishness. He turns and walks over to where Torgo is patiently standing beside the stone slab holding the Devil Dog by his leash. (?) The Master’s wives return to their places around the fire and start arguing about the child again.

CAN WE PLEASE GET ON WITH IT!

The Master, after sitting beside Torgo (are they buddies now?), suddenly jumps up and commands that one of his wives is to be sacrificed for her insolence. I’m not sure which wife it is…but she has really big hair if that helps.

After wife-with-big-hair is safely bound to a handy (ha ha! no pun intended) stone pillar, the Master commands his wives to bring the doomed Torgo to him. A couple of wives grab Torgo and throw him on top of the stone slab. For some reason, Torgo is now unconscious (?), and lies motionless on the slab awaiting his fate (with moths swarming around his head from all the lights).

Manos

Mr. Big Knees himself.

As the ceremony begins, the wives start dancing around the fire, while the Master commands them to kill the helpless Torgo. The wives set the sacrifice in motion by slapping Torgo and pulling at his clothes. (Ummm…this might take a while…)

While the brutal execution of Torgo continues, we see that Mike has regained consciousness and has gotten free from the tree that he had been tied to. Mike returns to the lodge and forces his way into the bedroom where Margaret is cowering with Debbie on the bed.

ManosNo wait. Back at the fire-ring, the Master declares that the ceremony is complete. One of the wives shoves the battered Torgo from the slab down to the foot of the awaiting Master. Torgo rises and the Master grabs his hand. With a flash of light, we see that the Master is now holding Torgo’s severed, burning hand while Torgo runs off into the darkness with a flaming stump. The Master laughs maniacally, commands his remaining wives to dispose of the others, and lays the burning hand at the feet of wife-with-big-hair, still bound to the pillar.

Back at the lodge, Mike and Margaret decide to make a run for it through the desert. We then watch them running through the darkness for about 2 seconds before Margaret stumbles and falls. (sigh)

We are next treated with scenes of the Master and his faithful wives walking through the desert searching for Mike and his family. Once again, I would like to mention to any aspiring film makers that if you want to create a mood of isolation, don’t show street lights in the background!

Ok. Still looking. Looking for Mike.

Back to Mike. Margaret suggests that they head back to the lodge because the Master would never look for them there. (Kill me now. Please.) The dangers of the desert are brought home when stock footage of a rattlesnake is spliced into the scene. (In an interview with one of the film’s cameramen, he cynically jokes that you can tell it’s stock footage because it’s actually in focus unlike the rest of the film! I laughed my ass off at that! It’s true!) Mike takes out his pistol and fires a couple shots at the snake, forcing it to crawl back into whatever movie it came from.

ManosAs Mike and his family head back to the lodge, we see the cops pulling off to the side of the road to investigate the gunfire that they heard. In a truly hilarious scene, the cops grab a flashlight and head off into the desert to investigate the gunfire. They walk 2 steps past the car, stop, and then turn back. (The reason for this ‘thorough’ investigation was cleared up by one of the film’s crew who said that they didn’t have enough lights to illuminate the scene any further than only a few feet in front of the car.)

Back at the lodge, Mike and the others go inside only to see the Master walking out from the bedroom. <GASP!!!> We see Mike fire a couple shots into the room, which is now empty (???) then a totally out of focus view of the Master. Mike fires a few more shots at the Master but to no effect…fade to black.

We fade back in to see a car driving down a road. (NOOOOO!!!! NO MORE DRIVING!!!)

The car turns off the main road while thunder roars and rain pours down. Maybe somebody should tell the actors to put the roof up on the convertible..

We next see 2 women in the car cursing the rain (Hmmm…why was this scene shot in broad daylight then?).

OK, now they put up the roof..and we get to see some more driving.

CAN SOMETHING PLEASE HAPPEN?!

Good lord! They drive past the 2 kids still making out in their car.

Now we see that they have pulled up to the same lodge, and guess who is at the door:

Manos

We also see a shot of Debbie standing with the other wives. (!!) (ummm…what the hell, dude?!)

The movie ends, as the Master’s new servant recites his line:

"I am Michael. I take care of the place when the Master is away."

Ahhh…the irony.

Fade to black.

Dennis Grisbeck(April 2005)

Afterthoughts

Manos the Hands of Fate is truly, truly, terrible. Horrible. The film itself is almost always out of focus, the lighting either washes out the scene or can’t illuminate it enough…not to mention the swarms of moths that flutter in front of the camera in the outdoor shots. (!) Hal Warren’s direction makes Ed Wood look like Steven Spielberg…shots of people talking filmed from behind their head, or from behind thick clouds of smoke that obscure the actors, and so on, and so on. The editing is non-existent. There is no stitching together of scenes to form a coherent story; rather, the scenes are simply thrown into your face with no transition whatsoever.

Oddly, Torgo has become somewhat of a cult icon in the B-movie underworld; he even has entire websites devoted to him. (Google ‘Torgo’…).

Regarding John Reynold’s suicide, people who knew him said that he was already a troubled individual before the film, so maybe this movie isn’t entirely to blame. Maybe it is. It certainly is noteworthy that 4 of the cast killed themselves in the same year the film was released…a very sad footnote to a very bad film.

There are times when this movie unintentionally transcends its awfulness and achieves a very surrealistic atmoshphere…even disturbing. In the MST3K version of the film, Joel notes that "Every frame of this movie is like someone’s last known photograph". It is somehow true. It’s like looking into a police mug shot book, or a file at the Department of Missing Persons. Washed out, blurry shots of a child and a poodle, the odd, silent scenes where people are talking but there is no dialog, and so on

UPDATE July 23, 2005:Over summer vacation I received a couple of emails from "Teenager In Car" actress Joyce Molleur’s brother and sister, Scott and Sharon. In previous versions of this review, I had noted that it was rumoredthat Joyce had committed suicide. Thankfully, these erroneous bits of misinformation have been dispelled. According to Joyce’s sister Sharon:

“We (Joyce and Sharon) joked about a lot of things and one of the things was the movie.  [Joyce] laughed like crazy when she found out she was on the web and that the movie was a cult classic..  Joyce went on modeling with the agency that supplied the girls for the movie Manos and then went to New York along with Susan Blakely, Susan made it but Joyce was too short for the runway,  She was only 5’5″ and they needed at least 5’6″ for the runway,  She did do some hand modeling but gave everything up and moved to California (we went together) and lived in North Hollywood until I came back to New Mexico to get married.  Joyce Stayed and worked for Rose Magwood Agency in Hollywood.”

Joyce went on to get married and be a mother to 4 children before passing away in California in 2005.

Read more about Manos: The Hands of Fate at

IMDB

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