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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.