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Article about Manos: The Hands of Fate in the latest EW

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Article about Manos: The Hands of Fate in the latest EW

Old 06-09-05, 01:27 PM
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Article about Manos: The Hands of Fate in the latest EW

Just a heads up to all you Torgo fans that there's an article about Manos: The Hands of Fate in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (with Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger on the cover). It details the history of the production and some of the aftermath. I didn't even know that there was a documentary about the film (Hotel Torgo) - that'd make a great extra if there's to be a 40th anniversary DVD next year. Anyway, it's an interesting read.

Subscribers can read it here.
Old 06-09-05, 02:25 PM
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Good read!
Old 06-09-05, 05:34 PM
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I was bummed they didn't go deeper into the MST3K details. The MANOS making-of story is pretty well known, the MST3K side isn't.
Old 06-09-05, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by scott shelton
I was bummed they didn't go deeper into the MST3K details. The MANOS making-of story is pretty well known, the MST3K side isn't.
Shelton, can you briefly explain to us about the MST3K side?
Old 06-09-05, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Matthew Chmiel
Shelton, can you briefly explain to us about the MST3K side?
I wasn't suggesting there's a story... whoops! My fault.

I would like to know more about this title through the eyes of MST crew. Hell, it's the only reason why MANOS is popular today.

The EW article goes into the discovery of the tape, but they only get Mike Nelson's reactions. I would love to hear from Joel on the subject. I've worked with Trace and Kevin, but I never screwed up the courage to ask them about it.

It's their most popular title, and an iconic one for the die-hard fans. Much like the TIME CHASERS ordeal, there's gotta be something more than the odd quote from the cast and crew of MANOS about the MST3K version. All I've really read is that one of them is pissed that the MST version cuts off Torgo's feet, so you can't see the full intended costume.

EW just retraces the production of the film. It's a great story, but already covered. I guess I should be happy something like EW would give so much space to the film in the first place.
Old 06-09-05, 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by scott shelton
I was bummed they didn't go deeper into the MST3K details. The MANOS making-of story is pretty well known, the MST3K side isn't.
Well, in all fairness, the article is about the film itself, and not who made the film famous. What you suggest sounds akin to an EW article about Thriller: A Cruel Picture that details how Quentin Tarantino watched it a lot.
Old 06-10-05, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by scott shelton
I would like to know more about this title through the eyes of MST crew. Hell, it's the only reason why MANOS is popular today.
Well, the only time I've heard any of the Best Brains talk about the movie (besides in the article) is this by Mary Jo Pehl from the MST3k Amazing Colossal Episode Guide:

This movie was like watching a train wreck - we couldn't bear to watch it but we couldn't look away. There were many times during the writing process when we simply couldn't make any comments, so caught up in the wretchedness of this movie were we. We were haunted. Manos became our standard by which all others are measured. By the way, the translation of Manos is 'hands,' so the title is "Hands: the Hands of Fate."
And by citing that book in an internet message forum, I think I've officially earned my Geek Card.
Old 01-29-06, 02:22 PM
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Full article.

Entertainment Weekly

The Worst Movie Ever Made

The long, strange journey of ''Manos: The Hands of Fate'' by Dalton Ross

Out in the desert, almost 20 miles from downtown El Paso, stands a relic of film history. Of really, really bad film history. To view the area now is to see only broken beer bottles, a collapsed roof and floor, and such graffiti scrawlings as ''In memory of the dead'' and ''No one gets out alive.'' It looks like any other abandoned property-turned-vandals' delight. But here, 39 years ago, among the prickly pear cacti and mesquite trees and just a stone's throw away from Mexico a ragtag group of Texans banded together to make their own little horror picture. Little did they know they would end up creating what is widely regarded as, quite simply, the worst movie ever made. It is even ranked as such on IMDb.com, the encyclopedic Internet Movie Database. But this is a story about more than mere incompetence. It's about hope, possibilities, embarrassment, humiliation, tragedy, and finally redemption. It is the story of Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Leave it to a fertilizer salesman to make the crappiest film in history. Harold P. Warren (Hal to friends and family) may have sold manure for a living, but he dreamt of leaving a different sort of imprint in the soil. Warren was active in the local El Paso theater scene, wrote books and plays, and was constantly seeking new adventures. (Once, after watching his children Wendy and Joe play with LEGOs in the basement, the aspiring inventor came up with the idea of creating giant cement LEGOs to use for building real houses. He called them Superblocks. Okay, not exactly Edison material, but still. . .)

But it was during a meeting with Oscar-winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant at a Texas coffee shop that Manos was born. Warren had previously met Silliphant while filming a walk-on as a bus driver in an episode of the TV show Route 66. During the conversation, Warren boasted that making a movie wasn't so hard. Anybody could make a movie. Heck, even he could make one. Warren bet Silliphant that he could take a film all the way from conception to completion. Tellingly, the first outline for his master script was written right then and there on napkins. The story was standard B-grade horror family (husband Michael, wife Margaret, and daughter Debbie) gets lost en route to a vacation and stumbles upon a horrifying fate. Less standard, however, was a half-man, half-goat character named Torgo, or the mysterious cult leader known simply as the Master who walked around sporting a robe with giant red hands on it. Perhaps the film's first sign of ineptitude was the title itself, Manos: The Hands of Fate, which translates a tad redundantly to Hands: The Hands of Fate.

After raising $19,000 from neighbors and friends, Warren went about assembling his dream cast. He started with. . .himself. In addition to writing, directing, and producing, Hal would also play the husband. The rest of the cast came mostly from either local theater (including Tom Neyman as the Master and John Reynolds as satyr Torgo) or the Mannequin Manor modeling school (from which Warren plucked women to play the Master's multiple wives who would spend the majority of their screen time catfighting in oversize girdles).

People were so excited that they agreed to work for free. In fact, the only member of the cast and crew to be paid was Neyman's 6-year-old daughter, Jackey Neyman (now Jones), who played Hal's on-screen daughter, Debbie. ''I got a red bicycle,'' says Jones. Jackey's pet Doberman, Shanka, who played the Master's evil sidekick, was also compensated for his efforts with 50 pounds of dog food. (He must have had a good agent.) The rest of the cast and crew were all promised percentages of the film's sure-to-be-vast profits. ''Everybody did it on speculation,'' explains Pat Littledog, who was then married to Manoscinematographer Robert Guidry. ''There was no money involved just having little shares of the work. They were all excited to be a part of it.'' Only there seemed to be a few too many shares going around. ''I was getting 6 percent,'' says stunt coordinator-actor Bernie Rosenblum, who spent his entire time on screen in a car chugging tequila and sucking face with a brunette. ''But then we all started talking and realized that everybody's percentages added together equaled, like, 300 percent!''

With cast and crew in place, Warren just needed to find a place to film the thing. He didn't have to look far. Warren shared an office floor with a lawyer named Colbert Coldwell who was just getting ready to run for county judge. When Coldwell told Warren about his property, it seemed perfect. ''They wanted. . .well, I don't know what they wanted,'' says Coldwell, now 84, of that desert property, which he still owns and lives on. It might have been the collection of one-story-high columns that his father had hauled away from the federal courthouse when it was torn down in 1932, although Coldwell notes with resignation that ''they're not too imposing. . .. The director said he knew about films. I don't know if he knew anything much.''

Manos filmed throughout the summer of 1966. By all accounts, it was grueling. ''They were all working eight hours a day at their regular jobs and then going and shooting all night out in the middle of the desert,'' says Richard Brandt, a fan who has become something of a Manos historian. Although everyone was thrilled to be involved, it soon became clear that making a movie requires things like money, time, and talent none of which Warren possessed in abundance. As a result, mistakes during filming were either missed or intentionally ignored. ''Everybody was always questioning Hal, asking 'How is this going to work?''' remembers Jones. ''When I would worry about the way things were going, he'd say to me, 'Oh, don't worry. It'll be fine. We'll fix it. We'll fix it.'''

Whether it was an evening scene being filmed in broad daylight, Margaret's scarf magically appearing and disappearing between shots, or car headlights appearing in the background during a scene allegedly taking place in the middle of nowhere, there were many instances in which the faith of cast and crew was severely tested. Yet Hal would always assure them of a magic studio in Dallas in which anything could be corrected. That's because that's what Rosenblum and Guidry had led him to believe. ''Whenever Hal got worried about something being wrong, Bob and I would say, 'We can fix it in the lab,''' laughs Rosenblum. ''Because we weren't getting paid, and it was getting old fast. And he'd be like, 'Oh, okay.'''

Warren's on-set demeanor also needed work. ''He was probably the least friendly of anybody on the set,'' says Jones. ''He played my father, but at the same time, we had no connection whatsoever. He kind of barked out orders and I personally tried to avoid him.'' One day, Guidry even mocked the director by showing up to set dressed like Erich von Stroheim. But there was always one person who could be counted on to lighten the mood: John Reynolds. ''He made it his job to keep me entertained with magic tricks and funny faces,'' says Jones. Little did she know that much of said silliness was artificially enhanced. ''I think he was high on acid the whole time,'' says Littledog.

That certainly would help explain Reynolds' unique performance as Torgo, the enigmatic caretaker with knobby knees. Seemingly operating in his own special universe, Reynolds bumbled, stumbled, and very slowly convulsed his way throughout Manos, with an awkwardness that for viewers is equally engaging and enraging. ''When you watch the film,'' says Jones, ''you gotta figure he was stoned the whole time.'' On Oct. 16, a few months after production ended, the troubled thespian/shipping clerk, the son of a military officer at nearby Fort Bliss, put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He was only 25. ''My mother was taking me to school when we heard it on the radio that he had shot himself,'' says Jones. ''I remember she was so upset she had to pull over.'' ''Obviously, he had some kind of a problem that he wasn't able to deal with,'' says Rosenblum. ''But it had nothing to do with the movie.''

On Nov. 15, 1966, Manos: The Hands of Fate made its worldwide debut at the Capri Theater in downtown El Paso. By all accounts, it was a gala affair with spotlights scanning the skies, and the stars of the film all arriving by limousine. Only one problem it was the same limousine. Strapped for cash, Warren had only enough dough to rent one limo, so the actors were forced to stand out in the street around the corner and wait their turn to be picked up. ''We all waited in our fancy clothes and tuxedos like we were waiting for a bus,'' says Jones. ''And the limousine would pick up a few people, drive them around, drop them off, and then drive around the block and pick up some more people. And even at 7 years old, I remember thinking how silly that was, and at some point that someone was gonna realize it was the same car and driver.''

A ceremony took place in which Warren was presented with a deputy's badge by the county sheriff. The mayor was even there. According to Jones, ''It was one of the biggest things that had happened in El Paso up to that point, other than, you know, Lee Trevino, the golfer.'' And then the film began.

''Right away,'' says Jones, she knew they were in trouble. It didn't help that the first few lines of dialogue were delivered from people facing away from the camera. And it certainly hurt when the film began with a mind-numbingly long driving scene. ''The driving scene goes on forever,'' moans Jones. ''It's just horrible. It just goes and goes and goes. People were looking around. . .. I'm sure my parents were exchanging glances over my head and going 'Oh, s---.'''

It wasn't long before the looking around turned into something else. ''It took about six minutes,'' estimates Rosenblum. ''It was very quiet, and then there was one snicker, then a couple, maybe two guffaws, and then just out-and-out laughing their asses off.'' Perhaps the crowd had never witnessed entire scenes out of focus before. Perhaps they had never seen such things as a marking slate or an insect bumping into the camera lens actually make a final cut. Or perhaps they were trying to figure out why every single voice in the movie was dubbed badly. (Since the camera used for Manos could not capture sound, all the dialogue was recorded in a studio by Warren, his wife, Neyman, and Diane Mahree, as well as two others who did all of the other voices.) Unfortunately, not all of the cast had been made aware of this development. ''Nobody told me that the voices were being dubbed,'' says Jones. ''So here I am all excited, and then I come on the screen and my mouth opens and it's some squeaky lady's voice. I just sat there and cried.''

But Manos' badness went beyond mere technical gaffes. Even simple motions were carried out to unintentionally comedic extremes, like Torgo's impossibly drawn-out attempt to stroke Margaret's hair. The dialogue was ultra-repetitive (''There is no way out of here. It will be dark soon. There is no way out of here''), and yet almost every shot started and finished with an insanely uncomfortable amount of silence. The only truly scary thing in the film was during the final credits, when the words The End were followed by a big question mark, implying the possibility of a sequel. By that time, however, most of the audience including Rosenblum and Guidry, who snuck out and went straight to a bar had already left. Coldwell recalls his nephew Eliot Shapleigh (now a Texas state senator) even demanded his money back although, he adds, ''I don't even remember him paying!''

The morning after the premiere, under the headline ''Hero Massaged to Death,'' The El Paso Herald Post reviewed the film, generously noting that ''perhaps by scrapping the soundtrack and running it with subtitles or dubbing in Esperanto, it could be promoted as a foreign art film of some sort or other.'' After a limited run at the Capri and a few showings at West Texas drive-ins, Manos: The Hands of Fate was dead. Hal Warren had won his bet, but lost his dream of cinematic immortality. And then, a funny thing happened on the way to the graveyard.

More than 25 years later, writers for a Minneapolis-based television show called Mystery Science Theater 3000 were sifting through a box of tapes sent from Comedy Central headquarters in New York City. MST3K specialized in showing really bad movies complete with a running gag commentary courtesy of a comedian (Joel Hodgson) and his two robot pals. But even they weren't prepared for what lay in store for them on the tape marked Manos. ''We started watching it, and had never seen anything like that,'' says Mike Nelson, head writer at the time. ''We kept saying to ourselves, There is no way we can do this movie, it is just too bizarre. But we finally decided, No, we must bring this to the world.'' On Jan. 30, 1993, Manos was not only back from the dead but playing to a nationwide TV audience. A new generation of fans okay, a first generation of fans was born.

The Manos episode became Mystery Science Theater's most popular episode ever. Nelson recalls going into a computer store shortly after the show aired only to see a Torgo screensaver running across every monitor. ''It really stands out among all the bad movies they've shown as being a movie that has no real content or purpose,'' says Manos buff Bobby Thompson, who was born more than 10 years after the movie came out and caught it on MST3K. ''It's like a train wreck you just can't take your eyes off it. It's something you really have to see to understand. And even if you see it, you may not fully understand it.''

Through repeats, passed-around videotapes, and websites like Thompson's own Torgo-themed page (chosen because the satyr ''really conveys the entire badness of the movie''), the legend of Manos grew. Not one but two DVD versions of the film (the original and the MST3K one) were released, and a group of Canadians recently completed a documentary on the movie titled Hotel Torgo.

Unfortunately, the man who created it isn't around to enjoy the renaissance. After Manos, Hal Warren tried again, writing a script titled Wild Desert Bikers, in which a schoolteacher is kidnapped by a biker gang and dragged into the woods. He showed it to Guidry and Rosenblum, who politely declined to get involved, so instead he turned it into a book titled Satan Rides a Bike and shopped it to publishers. (They also politely declined.) While daughter Wendy Barbieri says that her dad ''was the first one to admit Manos was the worst movie ever made,'' he was also proud of the film, even going so far as to sport the Master's robe every Halloween. (Son Joe Warren now carries on the tradition.) ''He took something from nothing and got it to the end, and that was what the whole bet was,'' says Barbieri.

''My dad made a movie, and it turned out to be the worst thing known, but at least people recognize that he did something,'' says Joe. ''Here's a guy who was able to concoct this story on a napkin, and proved you don't have to be the George Lucases of the world to make it happen.'' Warren died Dec. 26, 1985, from lung cancer and heart problems. What would he think about being celebrated as the director of the worst movie ever? ''He'd love it!'' says Barbieri. ''He'd probably start lurking on different websites and then pop out and say, 'Hey, guess who I am!' And he'd be the first person to give anyone advice or encouragement.'' Rosenblum agrees. ''Say what you will about Hal, but that motherf---er did it! Now, what he did, I'm not quite sure,'' he adds. ''But he did it.''
Old 01-29-06, 03:33 PM
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Good read.
Old 01-29-06, 05:01 PM
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Cool story. I suppose those are valid reasons why the movie isn't all that great.
Old 01-30-06, 02:05 AM
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Even MST3K couldn't make that film tolerable. They really killed the "Manos...the Hands of Fate.." reiteration line, using it every 3 minutes. Got stale fast.
Old 01-30-06, 02:42 AM
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EW should try to budge an effort and look beyond what's the current #1 on imdb's worst movie list, that stuff isn't accurate, other MST3k movies make Manos look like Citizen Kane, and the stuff shown on mst3k is just the tip of the bad iceberg as said by Mike Nelson. Imagine the unknown stuff they rejected, it's all just popularity.

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