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Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) Poster

Trivia

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Cast and crew recall that John Reynolds was on LSD during filming. It explains his confused behavior and incessant twitching in virtually all of his scenes.
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The entire film was shot with a hand-held camera that could only record 32 seconds of film at a time. It was also shot without sound; all the lines were dubbed later by two men and one woman. Jackey Neyman Jones cried when she first heard her dubbed voice.
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The film had a gala premiere in El Paso. Many local dignitaries attended. Members of the audience began heckling the film during the premiere. Many of the film's cast and crew sneaked out of the theater before the film ended, to avoid having to admit being part of it.
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The only cast members who were paid for their performances were Jackey Neyman Jones, who got a bicycle, and the Doberman, which got a bag of dog food. The rest of the cast was supposed to receive a cut of the movie's profits, which never materialized. Director Harold P. Warren also gave the crew shares, instead of a salary.
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Lighting was limited for the film, which explains the infamous scene in which two cops literally take two steps to investigate, then turn back.
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Despite the film's negative reception, Harold P. Warren was so proud of it that he began wearing the Master's robe every Halloween. His son Joe Neal Warren has carried on the tradition.
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In 2011, Benjamin Solovey found the workprint, made from the original 16mm reversal stock. It was in pristine condition. Solovey released the digitally restored film in DVD and Blu-ray formats in October 2015. It includes a new short documentary about the making of the film, including interviews with surviving cast members.
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The film was popularized by a 1993 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988), in which Joel and the Bots, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, go mad while suffering through the film's endless boredom. The creators of the show called this the worst film that had been featured.
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Harold P. Warren only did two takes of each shot. If things didn't go well, he reassured the novice cast that the magic of Hollywood would fix any errors in post-production.
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"Manos" is Spanish for "hands". Translated, the title is "Hands: The Hands of Fate". The Master's outfit has two red hands on it and Torgo's walking stick has a hand on top of it.
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The endless driving sequences at the beginning were supposed to have the opening credits over them.
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As filming dragged on and on, the increasingly disgruntled crew began to refer to the movie as "Mangos: The Cans of Fruit".
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The random scenes featuring two teenagers who are hassled by the cops while necking in their car were added because actress Joyce Molleur broke her leg during filming, and was unable to perform her original role.
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The majority of the cast and crew never appeared in another movie. Property painter Stephane Goulet worked on Wavelength (1967), an avant-garde short, and Tiger Child (1970), the first IMAX film.
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Despite the film's utter failure, Harold P. Warren won his bet with Stirling Silliphant because he made an entire film on his own.
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Tom Neyman's daughter, Jackey Neyman Jones played Debbie. His wife, Jacqueline Neyman, made the Master and wives' costumes. Their dog played the demon dog.
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Jackey Neyman Jones wrote a memoir about the making of this film. "Growing Up With Manos: The Hands of Fate," was published in 2016. The book includes a forward by Joel Hodgson, one of the hosts of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988).
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The city of El Paso was so involved that director Harold P. Warren sent free tickets to the mayor, the aldermen, and the local press.
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The film was shot in two and a half months with a budget of about $19,000.
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The Master's wives were played by a group of models from Mannequin Manor.
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Tom Neyman helped John Reynolds make Torgo's knees. He also painted the portrait of the master and his dog.
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Post-production efforts were minimal, despite promises made to Harold P. Warren by crew members that any problems in the film would be fixed in later editing. One of the more visible examples of this is a brief moment at the beginning of the film in which the clapperboard is visible after a cut to the "make-out couple." In the new documentary included with the recent print restoration release, Tom Neyman claims that the entire movie was edited in 3 to 4 hours.
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Following the premiere, Harold P. Warren said that he felt the finished product was the worst film ever made, even though he was proud of it. He suggested that it might make a passable comedy if it were re-dubbed.
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Writer/director/producer/actor Harold P. Warren was an insurance salesman (later a fertilizer salesman) from El Paso. He made a bet with visiting location scout Stirling Silliphant (later an award-winning screenwriter) that he could make a popular horror film on an extremely small budget.
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The Master's "Lodge of Sins" was the ranch of then-El Paso County Judge Colbert Coldwell.
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The modelling agency that provided the women who played the Master's wives refused to let them be "too skimpy". Their red sashes were supposed to be tails, which the agency also objected to.
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The film premiered at the Capri Theater in El Paso, Texas, on November 15, 1966 as a benefit for the local cerebral palsy fund. Harold P. Warren arranged for a searchlight to be used at the cinema and for the cast to be brought to the premiere by a limousine, to enhance the Hollywood feel. Warren could only afford a single limousine, so the driver had to drop off one group, then drive around the block and pick up another.
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Contrary to popular belief, Torgo was only briefly intended to be a satyr. The idea was scrapped after the first draft of the screenplay. According to Jackey Neyman Jones, Torgo was intended to be a hunchback-type deformed henchman. A literal hunchback was considered too cliché and overdone, so they went with the knees instead.
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Filming mainly took place on the ranch of Colbert Coldwell, a lawyer who shared an office floor with Harold P. Warren, and who later became a judge in El Paso County.
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As a publicity stunt, Harold P. Warren told the local press that the story was based on a Mexican urban legend. The account ended up in local newspapers shortly before the premiere.
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Torgo was originally named Igor.
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Tom Neyman wrote The Master's soliloquy ("Manos, God of primal darkness...") himself, as the script only required the character to stand still silently in the scene.
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Jackey Neyman Jones recalled John Reynolds being very enthusiastic and happy. When she grew up, she realized it was due to his use of LSD, and his imagination was more than likely hallucinations.
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The pillars where the Master and his wives sleep are a real location.
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Director Harold P. Warren later approached cinematographer Robert Guidry with another script, "Wild Desert Bikers". Guidry declined.
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Working titles for the film were The Lodge and Sins or Fingers of Fate.
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Restoration efforts began in 2011. They stalled for several years when a man named Rupert Talbot Munch Sr. tried to help the Warren family put Manos under copyright. The Warren family severed ties with Munch, and eventually dropped the copyright pursuit. The restoration was finally shown in 2015.
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Most of the cast and crew never worked on another film. In fact the only three who have are editor James A. Sullivan, production supervisor Jay O. Lawrence and sound supervisor Bruce Shearin.
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Most of the equipment used for production was rented, so Warren had to rush through as many shots as possible to complete filming before the deadline for returning the equipment.
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One day, to mock Harold P. Warren's prima donna attitude to directing, Bernie Rosenblum impersonated Erich von Stroheim, wearing a safari suit and barking out orders.
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People attending the premiere at The Capri Theater in El Paso paid $0.35 (Children) $1.25/$1.00 (Adults/with a discount card).
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One of Quentin Tarantino favorite films which he owns a 35mm copy of.
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The guy making out with the girl in the convertible is wearing a wedding ring.
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Reports that the only crew members who were compensated for their work in the film were Jackey Neyman Jones and her family's dog, who received a bicycle and a large quantity of dog food, respectively, would seem to indicate that even with its extremely low budget, the film failed to break even financially.
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Tom Neyman speaks his first line 35 minutes into the movie.
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The film fell into the public domain because the director failed to include the necessary copyright protection notice. Numerous home video releases of varying quality are available, including the 2015 Blu-Ray restoration from a 16mm print.
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The film was riffed by Joel Hodgson and the bots in Mystery Science Theater 3000: 'Manos' the Hands of Fate (1993).
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The film was briefly distributed by the Emerson Releasing Corporation.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

After the premiere in El Paso, a middle-aged woman attacked Harold P. Warren with her purse. She was upset that Debbie, the little girl, became one of the master's wives at the end.
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The snake Michael shoots looks a lot better than the rest of the film because it was stock footage lifted from a Disney nature documentary. It's also why the snake is on purple carpet.
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Harold P. Warren once stated that he left Torgo's fate ambiguous on purpose. If the film was a hit, the sequel was to involve Torgo's return. The sequel was never written.
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Peppy, the family's dog, actually belonged to Harold P. Warren. Its corpse was actually a stuffed toy animal that had been cut up and covered with stage blood.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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