"Manos": The Hands of Fate, a low-budget 1966 horror film, will go down in history as one of the worst films ever made.Mike and Margaret, along with their daughter Debbie and the family dog, find themselves lost on the way to Valley Lodge during their family vacation. As night begins to fall, they decide to spend the night in a strange-looking house on the side of the road. Torgo, the house's caretaker, greets them upon their arrival. Torgo sPeAkS wItH aN oDd EmPhAsIs, has extremely bulgy legs (a failed attempt at making Torgo a satyr), and continuously refers to "The Master" — the undead leader of a cult dedicated to the dark god Manos. The Master, Torgo, and The Master's wives want to kill the intruders, but can't come to an agreement as to who to kill: Torgo wants to keep Margaret alive as his wife, The Master wants to keep Margaret alive as *his* (seventh) wife, and the wives want to kill both Margaret and Mike (but are unwilling to kill Debbie, which leads to them fighting amongst themselves). As the night continues, Mike and his family find themselves in great danger, and they eventually come face-to-face with The Master himself...El Paso, TX native Hal P. Warren, who would go on to become a fertlizer salesmen later in life, pulled triple duty by writing, directing, and starring in Manos. Warren wanted to win a bet with Stirling Silliphant (screenwriter of In the Heat of the Night and a genuinely talented fellow) by proving he could make a successful horror movie on a shoestring budget. (Desert heat can do strange things to a man.) Without any previous movie-making experience, Warren soon found himself in over his head — but he decided to press on with a bare-bones Bell & Howell camera, a lack of remote sound equipment, and a cast composed mainly of non-actors and local extras. The finished film provoked laughs instead of chills at its first screening in El Paso, and Warren — demonstrating eerie prescience — suggested someone could Gag Dub the film and re-release it as a comedy.The film languished in obscurity for thirty years until the producers of Mystery Science Theater 3000 discovered it. The episode of the show that featured the film proved Warren's suggestion right — and became one of the show's most famous episodes. (For tropes related to the MST3K episode, visit its Recap page.)For more laughs at the film's expense, check out The Agony Booth's recap or I-Mockery's review. Manos also spawned three major fan works: a computer game adaptation of the film and a crossover with Splatterhouse, as well as a RetrauxNES platformer.Thanks to its popularity post-MST3K, Manos spawned a 2007 musical (Manos: Rock Opera of Fate, performed in Chicago) and a 2004 documentary (Hotel Torgo). RiffTrax performed a live riffing of the film on August 16, 2012.In 2011, film buff Ben Solovey ended up buying (much to his surprise) the original 16mm workprint of the film, and he soon established a Kickstartercampaign to help fund a complete high-definition restoration of the movie from the pristine-condition workprint. (It raised almost 400% more than the initial goal.) A side-by-side comparison of the restoration illustrates the dramatic difference between the restored version and the currently-available DVD release.Believe it or not, a sequel, Manos: the Search for Valley Lodgeis currently in production in El Paso, starring much of the original cast, and scheduled for a 2013 release.
Manos: The Hands of Fate contains Master-approved examples of the following tropes:
The Master:(to Torgo) I know of your visits to the tomb... The women have told me. They may not be able say anything, or move when you're there... but they remember everything you say to them... everything you do to them.
Cat Fight: After the wives try to decide on what to do about Debbie, they get into one of these, which was presumably intended as a form of Fanservice.
Central Theme: The Master's cult has a bizarre fixation on hands. As explained above, "manos" means "hands" in Spanish, but beyond this fact, the connection is never explained.
There's a lot of focus on Torgo's hands as he awkwardly tries to grasp and paw at various women throughout the film. One of his hands is taken as punishment for his transgressions; this, combined with The Master having so many wives, suggests hands may equate to a form of possession. The Master possesses the entire family by the end of the film. …Sweet Odin's Raven, does this movie make sense now?!
The staff Torgo carries around has a hand on it, as well.
Chest Insignia: The Master has a black robe with a big pair of red hands on it. It's an interesting effect, since it's not obvious they're hands until he spreads his arms out, but it gets old quick.
Crow: Oh, I wish those hands would just push him over.
Closed Circle: The characters are unable to leave, because Mike is lost, his car won't start, and his family wouldn't be up for a long overland hike even if they did know where they were going.
Corpsing: Almost literally! One of the comatose wives can be seen smirking at Torgo's antics in the HD version.
Cowboy BeBop at His Computer: A film review from shortly after the premiere lists Torgo as the film's "hero", though granted he's the closest thing to one. Curiously, the reviewer also focuses in on Torgo's "beautiful set of teeth" as his most prominent feature.
Crusty Caretaker: Torgo is one of these. Mike presumably takes his place in the ending.
Torgo: There is no way out of here. It'll be dark soon. There is no way out of here.
One character even appears to contradict herself with this redundancy! The following quote is, more or less, one sentence thanks to the actress' delivery. (The problem seems to be that the same actress was dubbing two separate voices; see the Talking to Himself entry below.)
Bride Of Manos: The woman is all we want. The others must die. They ALL must die. We do not even want the woman.
Hong Kong Dub: All of the voices in the film were performed by five actors (four males and one female), as the film was shot entirely without sound and the dialogue was added in post-production. For some reason, they still used a clapboard (which is visible in a few shots). The little girl who played Debbie allegedly cried when she heard how she sounded in the movie.
The Igor: Torgo was originally planned to be called Igor.
Immune to Bullets: It seems guns are on the list of devices the Master does not approve of, given that bullets evidently don't harm him.
Informed Attribute: People who knew them insist that John Reynolds (Torgo) and Tom Neyman (The Master) were very talented actors. This isn't evident in the movie, due mostly to the almost complete lack of direction from Hal P. Warren, and the fact that they were dubbed over.
Large Ham: Tom Neyman tries to be this while playing The Master, but whoever dubs over him doesn't have the voice to pull it off right.
Leave the Camera Running: Technically averted. Several scenes drag on to the point of distraction, but no single shot is longer than thirty-two seconds, due to the technical limitations of the camera Warren used.
Though watching Torgo take 31 seconds just to get up can seem like an eternity.
Leitmotif: The "haunting" Torgo theme serves as this for Torgo (of course).
Make-Out Kids: A couple who falls under this trope is in the film for absolutely no reason (the actress broke her leg and couldn't play her original role as one of the Master's wives, and the go-nowhere subplot was an excuse to keep her employed).
Make-Out Point: There's one of these on the road to the Master's house.
Neutral Female: Margaret. Though, thanks to either Mike being rock stupid or the house (as it is implied) having the power to render noise inaudible to those outside (or both), she still takes action and slaps Torgo.
Police Are Useless: Most of the local deputies' time is spent bothering a couple who can't keep their lips off of each other. They show up again after Mike fires the gun, get out and walk in front of their car, then turn around and leave. (Warren and his crew didn't have enough lighting for a pan scene.)
Scenery Porn: This is attempted with the opening sequence, but bits of footage are repeated and, unfortunately, the El Paso countryside — while not unpleasant — isn't exactly a paragon of unparalleled natural beauty. (The muddy 16mm-to-35mm film transfer didn't help, either.)
Sequel Hook: The film ends with Margaret and Debbie in suspended animation in the desert. Two young college girls arrive at the house and are greeted by the new caretaker, Mike. Torgo might be dead, but his death was never shown onscreen.
Talking to Himself: Everyone is dubbed by five actors, including Warren himself. When the sheriff points out Mike's burned-out taillight, it becomes an odd Dada experiment in alternate reality.
Those Two Guys: "The Make-Out Couple" and the two sheriffs have no relevance to the rest of the film. The couple was used because the actress broke her leg early in production; she was intended to be one of the wives, so they worked her into her own, pointless subplot.
Manos! God of primal darkness! As thou hast decreed, so have I done. The hands of fate have doomed this man. Thy will is done!
Too Dumb to Live: Mike insists on staying at the house despite the protests of the mysterious satyr man who calls his boss "the Master"; after things go predictably wrong, he suggests they go back to hide from them while they're all looking.