This is not a recommendation, it is a warning.
Cast and Crew
Tom Neyman as The Master
John Reynolds as Torgo
Diane Mahree as Margaret
Harold P. Warren as Michael
Written and directed by Harold P. Warren.
Complete information is available from this IMDB page.
A young family find themselves stranded at a farm house. Why are they stranded? Because they’re idiots. They turned onto a road that hit a dead end with no intersections. They started backing out from the dead end, stopped at the farm house, and asked Torgo, the supposedly creepy caretaker, how to get to the vacation spot they were headed to. He told them there was no way out, and they believed him. The road had no intersections after the crossroads that Torgo later admitted to! All they had to do was keep driving! This level of complete and utter idiocy is typical of every decision made by every character in the film from start to finish. There’s even a “subplot” with the world’s oldest necking teenagers that seems to exist for the sole purpose of driving the running time over an hour.
The existence of Hotel Torgo. In 2004, 38 years after this movie was made, someone made a documentary whose sole purpose is to explain the existence of Manos: The Hands Of Fate. The movie really is that pointless.
They couldn’t even keep the same dog. Yes, the “scary” attack dog, pet of the Master, which stays on its leash and calmly goes along with a young a vulnerable little girl is replaced during the course of the filming. Initially shown as an entirely black dog, the replacement dog has several prominent brown patchs. The dogs aren’t even the same size!
This is original only in the sense that I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The script is loaded and layered with one cliche after another, but nothing I’ve seen managed this level of atrocity without the Ed Wood name in the credits. Sadly, unlike Ed Wood’s reliably laughable product, this one is just plain bad. Without the unintended humour of flying hubcaps and styrofoam grave markers, we’re left with nothing but empty and unentertaining footage. I give it 3 out of 6.
The effects are awful, and that’s saying quite a bit when you realize that the only effect in the film is the ritual fire that never needs additional fuel provided. I give it 2 out of 6.
In order to rate the story, there would have to be one. Instead, idiots stop at farm house for no good reason, spend a large chunk of a small movie fending off a pointless kidnapping, and then the movie ends. That wasn’t even new in 1966. I give it 1 out of 6.
The acting is horrible. For just a single example, I spent the bulk of the movie thinking that the man portraying Michael should have compared notes with the writer and director, as he never could seem to figure out what his character was supposed to be doing. I should have been surprised when the closing credits revealed that the man who played Michael was the writer and director, but given what I’d endured for the hour before those credits rolled, it felt more like an explanation than a mystery. I give it 1 out of 6.
The emotional response, sadly, was flat. Based on the movie’s reputation, I was hoping for a Plan 9 style laugh riot, but instead was served unlikeable dreck. I give it 1 out of 6.
The production is mired with horrible, horrible editing. It actually took two editors to botch things up this badly, cutting from one shot to the same shot several times, completely ignoring continuity from cut to cut, failing to trim conversations around cuts, and including utterly pointless cuts. The music is worse, often drowning out sound effects and conversations due to poor audio sampling. The sound was credited to “Glen Glen Inc.” Note that this is not the same entity as the exceptional standard setting “Glen Glenn Sound,” but rather a different company which seems to promote itself solely by a deliberate attempt to be mistaken for quality. There is simply nothing redeeming in this category of any kind. If it weren’t for the fact that the movie actually exists, I’d give it zero. I give it 1 out of 6.
Overall, I wish I could recommend this to the Ed Wood fans out there, but that would mean suggesting that someone else endure all 69 minutes of celluloid agony. I give it 1 out of 6.
In total, Manos: The Hands of Fate receives 10 out of 42.