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A family driving through a small town gets lost and winds up at a backwoods shack managed by Torgo, who takes care of it while The Master is away. The Master worships Manos, an evil deity, and he also wears a neat cape. When Torgo lets the family stay, The Master awakens and does mean stuff like burning off Torgo's hand and sicking his dog on the family pet. Meanwhile, The Master's wives wrestle for his favor.Written by
Jeremy Yuenger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When I watch a film for the first time it is generally quite easy for me to establish an initial opinion of the film at hand. At times I will come to this very website and submit a rating of the given film or perhaps I will turn to a friend and give my thoughts of the film (which tend to be quite clear). Well, after reading quite a few extremely hyped reviews and discussions throughout the internet, I decided to try my luck and buy the alleged worst film of all time: ''Manos': The Hands of Fate'. Let it be clear that this review does not pertain to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the film; rather it applies to Hal P. Warren's original, cut-and-dry, El Paso-born version of the film. ''Manos': The Hands of Fate' may very well be, one of the only films of which classification is painstakingly difficult to near-impossible. The film leaves a quaint, surreal, and indecisive effect upon the viewer which is what leads to the formulation of this strange conclusion.
Warren's film opens on a vacationing family traveling through El Paso, Texas. The family consists of little Debbie (Jackey Neyman), Margaret (Diane Mahree), and Mike (played by our very own Hal P. Warren). Surely enough, the travelers are soon found lost on the way to their vacation site. They eventually turn onto a long dirt road marked by a sign promising a "Valley Lodge". After a great deal of aimless meandering throughout the backwoods of El Paso, the vacationers come across a mysterious Lodge run by an awkward and deformed Satyr named Torgo (John Reynolds). Seeing as it is getting late, the visitors ask about staying the night only to be deterred by Torgo's ominous words "The master would not approve." After some pressure from the family, Torgo folds and allows the newcomers to stay. As the visitors enter the lodge they are welcomed by a mantel full of strange hand-like pagan icons and sculptures, accompanied by a strange portrait of presumably The Master and his hound. As Michael and his wife Margaret observe the strangeness of the portrait and their surroundings, a strange howl is heard from outside in the desert. Soon strange happenings begin around this lodge of sins, as Michael and his family's fate is determined by "the hands of fate"
To be blunt, the film is simply quite technically limited. Supposedly the film was shot entirely on one camera which was only capable of shooting 60 seconds of film at a time. To say that this hurt the film would be an untrue, if anything it helped the pacing of this little low-budget flick. Hal P. Warren was a director with literally no experience or conceived directorial abilities; he had no knowledge of pacing or camera work (if he had any it was most likely limited to home videos). The acting for the most part is quite dismal, the only exception being a wonderful character conceived by Warren named Torgo. Reynolds' portrayal of Torgo is supreme; although having no professional training or profession acting experience in cinema he creates a one of-a-kind character, which has been quite unparalleled in cult-cinema. No matter how much one hates this film, they will always remember the timid and tormented Torgo, uttering his infamous line: "The Master would not approve." The music featured in the film is quite repetitive and amateur, although at times it does add to the feel, aid the pacing, and promote the overall camp-factor of the film (which was sometimes delightful). The cinematography is certainly not note-worthy, nor is the lighting. The editing seemed to have been done with haste and is one of the key factors which seems to have earned this film its reputation. One thing however, which is not widely criticized by viewers is the plot. It is a plot with great potential that was realized by Warren; at the time it would have been quite fresh. Interestingly enough, it could vaguely be seen as a blundering, early version of 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' (not to say that Tobe Hooper drew any influence from ''Manos': The Hands of Fate').
Well, this is widely considered to be the downright worst of the worst the bottom of the bottom. As stated earlier, I cannot place this film on a scale of one to ten, yet I can argue that this is a false statement. Almost every aspect of the film is done poorly, yet as odd as it sounds, the movie generates a charming and enjoyable little atmosphere; it simply does not feel like the worst one out there. There are plenty of films which are far less enjoyable to watch than Manos. Technically speaking the assumption can be made that it is the worst, but then again there are films with far more dismal lighting, far more sloppy camera work and far worse pacing. One could contend that the acting is downright dismal and corpse-like in every respect, yet there are films with worse acting and absolutely no memorable or quotable (Torgo - whether it be mocking or homage) characters. Hence, in many respects Hal Warren's single 1966 production isn't the worst piece of celluloid out there, yet at the same time it possess many, if not all of the qualities which could be attributed to the worst film of all time. However, the goal of this review was not to debunk the position in cinema history ''Manos': The Hands of Fate' has achieved, but rather to offer a little insight into what this film has to offer. In all fairness, I enjoyed it in a wonderful, campy, and surreal sort of way... after all, what other film is out there like this? What film is there that was made on possibly the lowest budget of all time, featuring the work of the most cinematically inept individuals, yet despite these obvious flaws has kept people talking about it for years to come?
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