"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 by the filmmaker at making Torgo a satyr), and continuously refers to "The Master" — the undead leader of a cult dedicated to a dark god known only as Manos. The Master, Torgo, and The Master's conclave of 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 refuse 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...
Texas native Hal P. Warren (who would become a fertilizer salesman 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 making 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 Warren's hometown of El Paso; Warren himself (demonstrating eerie prescience) suggested after the screening that 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 MST3K
episode that featured the film proved Warren's suggestion right — and became one of the show's most famous (and beloved) episodes. For tropes related to the MST3K
episode itself, please visit its Recap page
For more laughs at the film's expense, check out The Agony Booth
or I-Mockery's review
also spawned three major fan works: a computer game adaptation
of the film, a crossover
, and a Retraux NES platformer
Thanks to its popularity post-MST3K
spawned a 2007 musical (Manos: Rock Opera of Fate
, performed in Chicago) and a 2004 documentary (Hotel Torgo
performed a live riffing of the film in August 2012, which you can purchase as a VOD.
In 2011, film buff Ben Solovey bought a host of old film reels hailing from distributor Emerson Films via an eBay auction, partially because he saw Manos
listed on the collection of reels. That Manos
' reel ended up surprising Solovey when he received it, because he'd actually bought the film's original 16mm workprint
. Solovey established a Kickstarter campaign
to help fund a complete high-definition restoration of the movie from the pristine-condition workprint; by the campaign's end, Solovey raised almost 400% more than the initial goal. A side-by-side comparison
of the restoration illustrates the dramatic difference between the restored version helmed by Solovey and the currently-available DVD release (created from third-generation sources and degraded beyond repair).
A sequel, Manos: the Search for Valley Lodge was reportedly in production
sometime in 2013; the crew supposedly filmed in El Paso and used much of the original cast
Manos: The Hands of Fate contains Master-approved examples of the following tropes:
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: ToRgO dOeS tHiS, nAtUrAlLy.
- Amateur Cast
- And I Must Scream: With a healthy dollop of Squick:
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.
- Angry Guard Dog: The one that later eats Peppy is one of these.
- And Your Little Dog Too: Peppy
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: This was presumably behind the naming of the cult's god; the Spanish word for "hands" is "manos".
- Awkward Silence / Held Gaze: To the point of Padding.
- The Bad Guy Wins: The Master gets the two protagonists — and their little dog too.
- Battle Harem: The Master has a harem of wives who are ready to fight for him — and fight each other.
- Big Bad: The Master
- Bilingual Bonus: "Manos" is Spanish for "hands", which means the movie's title literally translates to Hands: The Hands of Fate — or, perhaps, Hands: Las Manos del Destino.
- Body Motifs: hands, of course.
- Broken Record: Torgo in particular, but everybody falls under this trope. But, really, Torgo in particular.
- Bumbling Dad: Mike
- The Cast Show Off: Tom Neyman was an artist; the proof is in The Master's portrait, which he painted.
- Catch Phrase: "ThE mAsTeR wOuLd NoT aPpRoVe."
- Catfight: 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.
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.
- Finally, a cult movie that is a cult movie!
- Department of Redundancy Department: Certain words and phrases tend to be repeated. Certain words and phrases get repeated.
- Does Not Like Shoes: The Master's wives are all barefoot.
- Downer Ending: The Master wins. See The Bad Guy Wins entry above for more info.
- Dull Surprise: Mike, Margaret, and some of the wives all practice this trope at times.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The Master and some of his wives fall under this trope.
- The End... Or Is It?: "THE END?"
- Evil Laugh: The Master is an altogether cheery guy.
- Fanservice Faux Fight: The only reason for the nightgown-clad Wives of Manos wrestling-fight scene (to jazz music) seems to be fan service. It has nothing to do with anything else in the movie.
- Gratuitous Spanish: "Manos", of course.
- Heel-Face Turn: Torgo, though he really shouldn't have informed the Master of his intentions.
- Hell Hotel: The Master's home is more like a Hell House, but it still counts.
- Hellhound: Well, the dog is supposed to be one. While he barks up quite a storm off-screen, he's very docile on-screen. See the Real-Life Relative entry on the Trivia tab for more info.
- Here We Go Again: The movie starts with Mike and Margaret and their daughter Debbie arriving at a dilapidated motel, where they encounter an odd man who greets them saying "I aM TORgo. I Take CARe oF THe pLaCE whILE the MASTer is awAY.". At the end, another couple arrives, but are greeted by Mike who says "I am Michael. I take care of the place while the master is away.".
- 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. For that matter, they don't even seem to hit him.
- Infant Immortality: Half of The Master's wives refuse to kill a child.
- 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.
- Jerkass: Mike is an unbelievably callous guest.
- Laughably Evil: All of the villains fall under this trope.
- 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.
- Two scenes (where Torgo is dragging Mike to tie him up after knocking him out and where Torgo stands up after being woken by the Master) last longer than the 32 seconds due to the camera being stationary and with a auto-winding device mounted on it.
- Leitmotif: The "haunting" Torgo theme serves as this for Torgo (of course).
- Looping Lines: The movie was shot using a silent camera, so Warren and another woman dubbed all the lines.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Torgo again. He's the only character with any personality, really.
- Madness Mantra: Torgo's speech pattern can be interpreted as this.
- 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.
- The Master: This one is self-explanatory.
- Negative Continuity: This is done, unintentionally, from scene to scene.
- 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.
- Nice Hat: Torgo's hat is pretty nice.
- Nightmare Face: When the kissing teen asks, "What don't you just leave us alone?", she then mugs for a few seconds in a bizarre, almost frightening, way. It's striking when watching the remastered version with no theater seats in front.
- No Budget: And how! John Reynolds even had to make the leg braces he wears in the film himself.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Torgo. He's supposed to be a satyr (a man-goat hybrid from Greek Mythology), but he doesn't look it.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Least we think they're vampires, or at least something like them considering the bad guy is called "The Master", considered undead and has "wivies" which are traits from vampire stories.
- 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.)
- Porn Stache: The Master has one of these.
- Red Right Hand: Torgo was supposed to be evocative of a satyr by having goat-legs and a bleating voice. It didn't pan out too well in execution.
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Master's robes.
- 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.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The happy jazz music playing at the beginning and end, and especially the song played over the credits, would be far more appropriate for a Glamorous Wartime Singer.
- Still Wearing The Old Colors: Torgo's costume is supposed to look like a Confederate uniform to suggest this trope, but it doesn't work (even in the restored version).
- Sycophantic Servant: Torgo
- 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.
- Title Drop:
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.
- Margaret may be even stupider. She clearly notices everything that's going wrong but does nothing about it as if she is completely dependent on Mike to do everything for her. Considering how she constantly flies off the handle at the slightest inconvience or problem this may just be the case.
- The Unintelligible: Debbie, unintentionally.
- Verbal Tic: ToRgO (pause) TAlks (pause) LIkes thIS.
- Villain Protagonist: Torgo is a scumbag but he's probably the closest thing to a hero the movie has.
- Vocal Dissonance: Debbie was a little girl dubbed over by an adult woman trying to sound like a little girl. Jackey Neyman said she cried when she heard how awful her dubbed voiced sounded.
- What Happened to the Mouse? / What Could Have Been: It's ambiguous whether or not Torgo survives; Warren intentionally left his fate ambiguous, as he planned to film a sequel (which was never produced) starring Torgo.
- Wife Husbandry: "The child is a female! She must not be destroyed. She will grow up to be a woman!"
: Oh, so that's
how it works!
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The Master's rants fall into this trope.
- You Have Failed Me: When the Master catches Torgo getting grabby with his brides once too many times, he prepares to sacrifice Torgo to Manos. This doesn't pan out, as Torgo survives losing his hand.