‘Manos: The Hands of Fate’ Retro Review

When discussing the worst films ever made, you often hear the same names pop up as being synonymous with dreadful cinema; Plan 9 From Outer Space, Batman & Robin, Troll 2, and this particular picture; Manos: The Hands of Fate. This movie began as many movies do (or no other movie ever) with a bet. Harold P. Warren had a chance meeting with famed screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, the man behind many classic films who even had an Oscar to his name thanks to In the Heat of the Night. Warren, not being remotely impressed, came to the conclusion that anyone could make a movie, and made a bet with Silliphant that even he could do it. Warren gathered up a cast and crew from the El Paso, Texas area and set out to win his bet. Due to poor funding, or more likely no funding, Warren only had a single camera which only recorded a few moments of footage at a time and had no way of recording dialogue.

Naturally with an ego such as his, Warren cast himself as the male lead, the patriarch of a family who ends up at the Lodge of Sin during a road trip gone awry. There he and his family encounter the strange caretaker of the lodge, Torgo and his “master” appropriately named the Master. The inexperience of Warren and his crew is on proud display and technical inabilities of the crew and poor performances from the cast ensure that nothing goes right with this movie. To describe the faults as amateurish, could be construed as an insult to amateurs, as we see; crew members standing in shots, clapboards in full view, and a young girl who has had her voice dubbed over by an old woman. In fact, Warren could even get opening credits in the movie, so we are simply treated to a painfully long sequence of the family driving around aimlessly where the credits should have been. When the movie first premiered in El Paso, it was derided for the horrible failure that it was, and was purged from the town’s collective memory short many years. Needless to say, this meant that Warren’s agreement to pay the cast from the film’s profits ended up not amounting to much of anything.

The film was given second life when it was riffed on the cult classic series Mystery Science Theater 3000. Now this terrible obscure movie from Texas was given a nationwide audience, which has resulted in it becoming a favorite among lovers of terrible cinema. It says something about the quality of this movie, when Joel Hodges and his robots mocking it ends up being the best thing its popularity. Manos: The Hands of Fate, can be best summed up as long periods of nothing interspersed with moments of pure weirdness. In fact when I recently discussed this film on the Aymerich Show, we came to the conclusion that if you’re not watching it with the MST3K commentary, then all you have to gain from your viewing experience is learning what NOT to do when making a movie. Of all contenders for the title of Worst Movie Ever, this one probably makes the biggest case to win, as it lacks many of the cheesy charms that its competitors possess. That being said, I do encourage people to see Manos: the Hands of Fate, if nothing else than for seeing an entirely unique movie that has become a part of movie legend.