Title: Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Tagline: “It’s shocking! It’s beyond your imagination!”
My Tagline: “Get groped by Pan’s retarded cousin.”
Favorite Quote: “The Master likes you.”
Plot Synopsis: A man, his wife, his daughter, and a dog are unable to find the hotel they were after and wish to stop for the night at a remote house in the desert near El Paso, Texas. The master of the house named, “Master” isn’t around but his satyr servant “Torgo” takes care of the place while the Master is away. Despite Torgo’s warnings that the Master does not like children or dogs and despite his wife’s protests the husband, Mike, forces the family to stay the night. Inside the house hands are a recurring decorative theme along with a creepy painting of the Master and his hellhound. As the couple poses in front of the painting for a while the dog eventually runs out into the night after the source of a sound. Presumably it is killed by the hellhound but whatever the cause the dog is dead. The family decides that they wish to leave and minutes after forcing his way into the home Mike tells Torgo to bring their bags to the car like a hotel bellhop. For reasons unknown the car will not start and the family appears to be stranded. While again posing in front of the painting the parents loose their child and after a through search of the house find her outside with the Master’s hellhound. When they ask the child, Debbie, where she found the dog she leads them to an alter where the Master sleeps with a burning pyre nearby and several women standing around pillars. After fleeing the scene Mike goes to search for Torgo while his wife and daughter hold up in their room. As it turns out Master worships a being called “Manos” and although what exactly is believed and practiced in his weird religion is not explained it would appear he keeps several undead wives and the idea of human sacrifice is later thrown about. A ritual that involves vigorously rubbing someone’s chest and lightly swatting at their face for a few minutes then igniting their prop hand over a fire as they go off screaming into the night. Torgo, having grown tired of simply groping the Master’s wives as they sleep, has decided he wants his own wife and has chosen the matriarch of the visiting family. The Master and his wives awaken and after some discussion Master goes to find Torgo while the women fight about sacrifice. Some believe it is wrong to kill Debbie and only wish to kill the husband and assimilate the wife. The heated debate turns mildly erotic as a catfight lasting what must have been at least twenty minutes breaks out. After he incapacitates Mike who was prowling the area outside the house I guess Torgo decides to take a nap because that is how the Master finds him. Master is upset with Torgo for letting the family stay and for groping his wives and declares he will “do the will of Manos” by killing Torgo. Master proceeds to wave Torgo’s stick at him for a while and then begins shouting that the will of Manos is done. One of the Master’s wives escapes to tell Master what is happening and along the way makes out with Mike for a second and then starts to slap him. For some reason Torgo remains dutifully by his Master’s side in scene after scene until he is “sacrificed” and runs off screaming into the night. Meanwhile Mike’s utterly useless wife is either sleeping or screaming out for Mike in her room. Once they are reunited the family decides they will take their chances in the desert. Five steps into it Mike’s wife falls over saying she can’t go on. The rest would be revealing too much.
Review: I have mixed feelings about Manos. Yes, it is truly bad and one of the worst films of all time. It’s a lot of fun and the stories behind it are the best of any movie but in recent years it has come to be accepted as THE worst movie of all time in some circles. Removing the long standing “Plan 9 From Outer Space” from this illustrious position. I find this disturbing because I feel that it is mainly the result of the stories behind the movie rather than the content of the film itself. The movie got its start when writer/director Harold P. Warren, a fertilizer salesman, made a bet he could produce a hit movie with an extremely modest budget. The man had a bit of an ego and clearly was not a gifted filmmaker. The entire movie was shot using a handheld camera that could only record thirty-two seconds of footage at a time. John Reynolds, who plays the satyr Torgo in the film, killed himself the same year the film came out while addicted to pain killers he got hooked on because of the prosthetics he wore for the film permanently damaged his knees. The saddest thing about that is the fact that nowhere in the movie is it demonstrated that Torgo is a satyr. To the audience it just looks like he has pillows stuffed in his pants. Learning these things does indeed endear the film to you and raises the question of whether or not back-story should play a role in choosing our favorite bad movies. I would say it does but I would point out that Plan 9 has its own mythos and that back-story is only one consideration along with content. Content-wise Manos can be a little boring at times and somewhat difficult to watch while Plan 9 grabs you and just will not let go until you have learned your lesson about nuclear weapons and grave robbing aliens. A comparison of the films and their directors would be interesting but that isn’t really the point of reviewing the experience that is watching Manos. And that is an experience of great moments and delightful flaws. From the parent’s exhaustive search for their lost daughter to the police literally taking two steps to investigate then turning back to the pointless teenagers making out in the car to the epic cat fight and of course the amazingly shocking, mind-bending, incredibly surprising, and completely fantastic ending. The movie may have only one truly memorable character but boy is he memorable. Torgo is one of the greatest characters in bad cinema history and you can’t help but just love him. Whether he is peeping in on you while you are undressing or wobbling around on those stupid legs of his or taking thirty minutes to speak a sentence there is just something about Torgo you can’t resist. Maybe it’s the fear he will kill you while you are sleeping. Whether you want to debate if it’s the worst film of all time or if you just like bad movies this film is a must see for any B-movie fan or film buff.
Trivia: -“Manos” means hands in Spanish so the real title of the movie is, “Hands: The Hands of Fate.”
-Spurred it’s own short documentary called, “Hotel Torgo.”
-Was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
-Considered by some to be the worst film ever made and considered by most to at least be one of the worst.