Manos: The Hands of Fate (review by Doug Smith)
Fans of the ever-classic cable show “Mystery Science Theater 3000” might automatically go into convulsions upon hearing the title “Manos: The Hands of Fate.” While it made for a great episode of MST3K, it’s quite possibly one of the worst films ever made, even surpassing “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” Made by a fertilizer salesman in Texas, “Manos” reeks of what the maker sold, only the fresh, still steaming stuff and not the somewhat dryer, bagged kind.
This move stars no one. And I mean NO one! I didn’t bother researching all of the actors, but I’m pretty sure this is the only film any of these people have ever made. Tom Neyman plays The Master, a maniacal, satanic cult leader. His sidekick, Torgo, who’s supposed to be a satyr but looks more like a drunk dude that’s been working out his thighs a little too much, is played by John Reynolds. John wound up killing himself shortly after this move was made. Diane Mahree and poop salesman, Hal Warren, play hapless tourists Margaret and Michael. Hal’s the aforementioned fertilizer schiller that made the movie. The rest of the cast is pretty much unmentionable, aside from Tom Neyman’s daughter playing the little girl, Debbie.
The filmmaker’s incompetence becomes painfully obvious within the first few seconds of the movie. The cinematography is nonexistent and all of the dialogue has clearly been added in after filming. The actors are wooden and even the dog doesn’t look like it wants to be there. So, tape yourself to the couch, it’s going to be a long ride. In the opening scenes, Margaret, Michael and their daughter are driving along on a vacation. The daughter, Debbie, complains about being cold, so instead of putting the top up on the convertible like any good parents would do, they just pull her into the front seat with them, completely ignoring any child-safety/department of motor vehicle laws. Then they drive off and promptly get stopped by the cops for having a taillight out. Whoooeeee. After that, they continue driving. Then they drive some more. They go past some cornfields. They go past a couple more cornfields. Then, for an added bonus, they go past the same cornfield, only going the opposite direction.
For some inexplicable reason, there’s some sort of subplot about a couple of teenagers making out in a car and always getting hassled by the cops. All I can really do is shrug. Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t make the movie!
At any rate, after we’re introduced to the teenage couple, it becomes apparent to the family that they’re lost. Instead of just going back the same way where there was traffic, Michael decides to take a dirt road leading to the desert. Hey, good plan, Mikey. As they’re driving around in circles a house appears, with a creepy guy standing outside. The creepy guy turns out to be Torgo, the lovable housekeeper with huge knees. He goes back and forth on whether they can stay or not, then he apparently gets a transmission from The Master on the plate in his head or something, and he decides it’s perfectly all right for them to stay.
Great, now that’s squared away. Wait, no, it’s not, because now Michael and Margaret are wishy-washy about staying. MAKE IT END!!!! JUST END!!!!! They decide to stay after all, and then notice a painting of a menacing looking guy with an equally menacing looking dog. Torgo tells them it’s the Master and that he’s “always with us.” Now, at this point, I’d get the hell out, and if the car didn’t start (which it doesn’t later on in the film), I’d be satisfied with walking. Not Michael, though. He’s confident it’s going to be a great place to stay, like it’s some sort of little demonic bed and breakfast. Of course, most bed and breakfasts are demonic, but still….
As Michael and Margaret are standing there talking to Torgo, they hear some kind of hideous hell beast howling outside the window. So, Michael, being the moronic white guy from Texas that he is, goes partly outside while holding the screen door wide open so the family dog can get out and promptly get killed. Rigor mortis sets in unbelievably fast as it looks like the dog carcass was kept in the freezer for the winter until the ground thawed enough to dig a hole. This once again prompts the whole “should we stay or should we go” debate. This time, Michael actually decides they should really leave. Unfortunately, as I alluded to before, the car doesn’t start this time, so they’re forced to spend the night. Oh, by the way, while Michael is trying to get the car fixed, Margaret is bending down picking something up and Torgo is ogling her. Excuse me while I spray some Technicolor into a toilet bowl here. Anyway, Torgo then tells Margie that the Master “wants” her. Then he fondles her hair. You know, I could type stuff about me vomiting again, or I could type something about me taking a shower, but I think it’s pretty much just pointless.
Then, to further enhance the drama of this film, Debbie (the daughter) decides to go outside and look for her dog. Michael and Margaret, after an exhaustive search of briefly opening doors and looking into rooms, give up and panic sets in. Soon enough, though, Debbie shows up outside accompanied by the vicious looking dog from the painting. When the parents ask her where she got it, she takes them to some kind of weird ass little ritual grounds with women tied up against posts and the Master lying on a stone table and some pyres burning. Incidentally, the Master and his women are all unconscious.
Well, this basically solidifies it for Margaret and Michael that this is a freaky place. Never mind the fact that they had about a five dozen slaps in the face that should’ve made them realize this. When they get back to the house, they start looking for Torgo, but he’s off pawing at all the tied up, knocked out women and yelling at the Master. Michael decides to get his gun and go exploring in the desert, while Margaret, even though they’ve decided they’re not staying there, decides to get into something more comfortable. As she’s in her slip in the bedroom, Torgo is watching through the window. I tell you, lately I’ve had movies that just want to make me bathe in sanitizing gel. If you’ve seen this movie, you’ll know the facial expressions Torgo has and you’ll know just how sick it makes you feel, kind of like after you eat too many Wheat Thins or Triscuits after a big night of drinking and you wake up at 4:00AM with a huge knot in your stomach.
A little later, the Master wakes up and the fun begins! Namely, we go back to the teens that were making out earlier and they’re still making out. That kid must have a case of blue balls that would make the Smurfs look teal. Once again, the cops break it up. I’m so glad I’m watching this movie.
Meanwhile, back at the B&B, the Master is raising all kinds of hell. He eventually rips Torgo’s hand off, then the women that were unconscious and tied to posts all wake up and wind up getting in some kind of weird-ass wrestling match for some reason. Eventually, the Master manages to posses Margaret, make Michael the new Torgo and … he even possesses the little girl!!! One of the last shots of the movie is the little girl tied up against a post and unconscious. I swear, if Hal Warren’s not dead, I could make him wish he were, and if he is dead, I’m going to gather all of my friends together after a big night of drinking Schlitz and we’re all going to piss on his grave. And then a yak will wander by and plant a huge, smoldering yak turd right in front of the headstone!