#36. Manos: The Hands of Fate

36. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) - Season 4, episode 424
"Manos: The Hands of Fate was filmed on location in a vacant lot."

Plot:  A family on vacation stumbles into the home of a weird cult leader, and they all die.
Famous for: Torgo, and for being arguably the most famous bad movie ever made

"He's the guy you used to know who works at a Kinney shoes and won't leave you alone."

My favorite riff: Oh boy. There are sooo many great riffs to choose from in this episode. Because I can't possibly only pick one, let's go with these:

A. Any riff during the scene where Mike and his family first meet Torgo.

"Been hittin' the thighmaster, Torgo?"

"It's like having Joe Cocker as your bellhop."

B. The great moment towards the end of the movie where The Master and Torgo are just standing there, staring at each other. And Joel gets so frustrated by the lack of action that he loses his temper and screams:


C. And of course, because I love a good understated deadpan, this line. It comes right at the end, after we've had to sit through an hour of maybe the shittiest movie ever made. During an especially uninteresting "action" scene, Tom Servo astutely points out:

"You know, there are certain flaws in this film."

Comments: Manos is widely considered
to be A) the worst movie that MST3k has ever shown, and B) one of the funniest episodes in the show's history. I don't personally agree with either one of those things, I think there are far worse movies they covered, and I also think there are far better episodes. But there's no doubt that Manos marked a important milestone in the history of the show. And of course it remains, to this day, without the slightest possibility of debate, one of MST3k's most famous episodes.  

I mean, seriously, there is no way you can know about Mystery Science Theater 3000, and not know about Manos. It's pretty much their signature film.

"Oh look, honey. Torgo has a little altar to Ba'al!"

If you want to know more about the history of Manos: The Hands of Fate, and how/why it was made, there are plenty of great sites on the internet you can go to read about it. It's easily one of the most documented bad movies of all time. In particular, the Wikipedia page on the movie is especially helpful, and so is this entry on The Awful Movies Wiki.  

Because Manos has been documented to death over the years, I'm not going to say too much about the movie itself. Other than to say that YES this movie is bad. It is absolutely terrible, from start to finish. Director/creator/screenwriter/shit salesman Hal Warren clearly didn't know what the fuck he was doing. But at the same time, I DON'T think it's the worst movie they ever covered on the show. In fact, I don't think it is even CLOSE to the worst movie they ever covered on the show. In my opinion, the worst movie they ever covered on MST3k was probably Red Zone Cuba.  

Red Zone Cuba. Never forget.

Manos, while ineptly made, actually has a pretty decent story behind it. In fact, I have always felt that if you took the story of Manos, and you had a budget of more than three dollars, and you found some halfway decent actors, and you had a director who actually knew what the hell he was doing, and you had a camera that could actually film more than thirty seconds of film at a time... I mean if you had ALL those things, you could probably turn this into an effective little regional horror movie.  

And this is why... as much as Manos sucks as an end product... I will always give Hal Warren credit for at least TRYING. I mean, the movie sucks, but the guy put in the effort. The guy was an absolute hustler. He wrote a story that isn't actually that bad, and he wasn't really even a screenwriter. The guy was a goddamn fertilizer salesman! Yet here he was, trying to win a bet that he would be able to write, produce, direct, and make a movie. And you know what? Technically, he did. He actually won the bet. He actually DID make a movie.

No one ever said the movie had to be good.

"Ehhhhh. Ahhhhh. cUt it OuT, yoU feM."

Manos is one of those movies that is completely intertwined with the history of Mystery Science Theater. At this point, you can't really think of one of those things without thinking about the other thing. They are basically now one and the same. But at the same time (and this is the important part) it's really not one of their best episodes. And Manos is absolutely NOT the episode you want to start with if you are being introduced to the show. Because the movie is far too slow, and the whole experience is just way too tedious.

The last part of the movie is especially slow-paced. I mean, no one ever talks about this, but MAN, are the last twenty minutes of Manos: The Hands of Fate a chore to get through.

"Torgo, you're missing the fight, get your dress on and get in there!"

All things considered, I love just about everything about Manos: The Hands of Fate. I mean, I even own an unriffed version of the movie on DVD, and if you can sit through that, you can sit through ANYTHING. It's even worse when you realize they actually cut about fifteen minutes OUT of the movie for the MST3k episode. The unriffed movie is even duller and longer.

I'm thrilled that I get to write about Manos in my top fifty Mystery Science Theater episodes. But at the same time, the mid 30s is about the highest I would ever rank it, because the episode just isn't that great. I mean, it's fun. And some of the riffs (especially the Torgo riffs) are glorious. And I love all the history behind the making of the movie, that stuff will always be gold.  

But it just isn't one of MST3k's better episodes.

I wish I could say that it is, but it isn't.

Maggie: Wants me? What kind of talk is that?
Crow: Why, it's oily, sleazy talk.

Other personal favorite things about this episode:  As my wife likes to point out, the dad in this movie (Mike) is an absolute dick. He just shows up at some guy's house (Torgo's) in the middle of the night, and he demands to be let in, even though the guy who lives there says no, you can't. But Mike doesn't care. He just barges in anyway. He basically takes over some guy's personal residence, and he treats it like a hotel. Just because it's late and because he promised his family a trip.

As my wife always says, I'm glad Mike got Torgo'd at the end. What a dick.  

Torgo never asked them to stay. Torgo was just standing there next to a door.

Trivia #1:  If you want to know more about this movie, t
here's a pretty good documentary on Youtube called "Hotel Torgo", which talks about the backstory of Manos, and how it came about, and where it was filmed, and its overall legacy in the world. It's pretty good, you should check it out.

Trivia #2:
 Sadly, the young man who played Torgo (John Reynolds) committed suicide shortly before the movie was released. So he never lived long enough to see how beloved it (and he) would later become. A lot of websites claim he committed suicide because of the movie, but that's not actually true. People who knew him say it was because of personal problems with his father, and because John had a very bad drug problem.

In any case, because Torgo is probably the most famous character to come out of any MST3k movie, ever, I thought it would be interesting to find a picture of what John looked like when he wasn't in costume. It took me a couple of years to track these down, but here are some pictures I found of John Reynolds back when he was in high school. This is what Torgo looked like when he wasn't in his beard, his giant thighs, and his hat.

Trivia #3:  Manos in Spanish means "Hands." So the name of this movie is, literally, "Hands: The Hands of Fate."

That somehow seems appropriate.

"Oh, I wish those hands would just push him over."

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