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Manos: The Hands of Fate

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Manos: The Hands of Fate

Manos: The Hands of Fate
Poster for film showing a gripping hand in the foreground, and a flame between a woman on the left and apparently the same woman on the left. The top of the poster has the word
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Harold P. Warren
Produced by Harold P. Warren
Written by Harold P. Warren
Starring Harold P. Warren
Diane Mahree
Jackie Neyman
Tom Neyman
John Reynolds
Music by Russ Huddleston
Robert Smith Jr.
Cinematography Robert Guidry
Edited by James Sullivan
Sun City Films
Distributed by Emerson Film Enterprises
Release dates
  • November 15, 1966 (1966-11-15)
Running time
74 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19,000

Manos: The Hands of Fate is a 1966 American low budget horror film written, directed, produced by, and starring Harold P. Warren. It is widely recognized to be one of the worst films ever made. In 1993, the television comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), a show based on the premise of mocking B movies, featured Manos: The Hands of Fate, helping the film develop a cult status.[1]

The plot of the film revolves primarily around a vacationing family who lose their way on a road trip. After a long drive in the Texas desert, the family is trapped at a lodge maintained by a polygamous pagan cult, and they attempt to escape as the cult's members decide what to do with them. The film is infamous for its technical deficiencies, especially its significant editing and continuity flaws; its soundtrack and visuals not being synchronized; tedious pacing; abysmal acting; and several scenes that are seemingly inexplicable or disconnected from the overall plot, such as a couple making out in a car or The Master's wives breaking out in catfights.[2]

Warren was an insurance and fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Texas, who produced the film as the result of a bet. He also starred in it, alongside El Paso theater actors Tom Neyman and John Reynolds. Manos was an independent production by a crew with little or no background or experience in filmmaking and a very limited budget at its disposal. Upon its theatrical debut, the film was poorly received, playing only at the Capri Theater in El Paso and some drive-ins in West Texas and New Mexico. It remained obscure until its Mystery Science Theater appearance, which sparked two DVD releases (the original film and the three separate releases of DVDs featuring the MST3K episode of the film).[3]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
    • Obscurity 4.1
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax 4.2
    • Popularity as a cult film 4.3
  • Restoration 5
    • Copyright dispute 5.1
  • Video game adaptation 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 9.1


While on a road trip near

Inside the home, the family sees a disturbing painting of a dark, malevolent-looking man and a black dog with glowing eyes; the man it depicts is the Master. Margaret becomes frightened upon hearing an ominous howl; Michael investigates, retrieving a flashlight and deity and namesake, "Manos." When The Master leaves, his wives engage in further argument that soon degenerates into a fight, and the women wrestle in the sand.

Torgo succumbs to what appears to be a rattlesnake appears in front of them, Michael shoots it, attracting the attention of nearby deputies. Margaret and Michael are later convinced to return to the Master's house, where the Master welcomes them. Michael fires several shots into The Master's face at point-blank range, but they have no effect. The screen fades to black, likely indicating that The Master has again applied his hypnotic power.

An undisclosed amount of time later, an entranced Michael greets two new lost travelers. Margaret and Debbie have become wives of The Master. The film concludes with Michael echoing Torgo's line of "I take care of the place while the Master is away." The production credits are superimposed over past scenes from the film with the words: "The End?"


John Reynolds as Torgo
  • Harold P. Warren as Michael
  • Diane Mahree as Margaret
  • Jackey Neyman as Debbie
  • John Reynolds as Torgo
  • Tom Neyman as The Master
  • Stephanie Nielson, Sherry Proctor, Robin Redd, Jay Hall, Bettie Burns, and Lelaine Hansard as the Master's wives
  • Bernie Rosenblum as Teenage boy
  • Joyce Molleur as Teenage girl
  • William Bryan Jennings and George Cavender as Cops
  • Pat Coburn as Girl in convertible


Still film image showing Torgo wearing a jacket, shirt, and pants bulging at the thighs, carrying a walking staff. The character of Torgo was intended to be a satyr and actor John Reynolds wore the metal rigging backwards under his trousers.

Warren was very active in the theater scene in El Paso, Texas, and once appeared as a walk-on for the television series Route 66, where he met screenwriter Stirling Silliphant. While chatting with Silliphant in a local coffee shop, Warren claimed that it was not difficult to make a horror film, and bet Silliphant that he could make an entire film on his own. After placing the bet, Warren began the first outline of his script on a napkin, right inside the coffee shop.[2] To finance the film, Warren accumulated a substantial, but nevertheless insufficient amount of cash, $19,000 (equivalent to $138,106 in 2016 dollars), and hired a group of actors from a local theater, many of whom he had worked with before, as well as a modeling agency.[2] Because he was unable to pay the cast and crew any wages, Warren promised them a share in the film's profits.[4][5]

Under the working title The Lodge of Sins or Fingers of Fate, the movie was filmed in mid-1966. Filming mainly took place on the ranch of Colbert Coldwell, a lawyer who shared an office floor with Warren and who later became a judge in El Paso County. 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.[6] Footage was shot with a 16 mm Bell & Howell camera which had to be wound by hand and thus could only take 32 seconds of footage at a time,[4] resulting in many editing problems present in the final cut.[7] Rather than using double-system recording, all sound effects and dialogue were dubbed later in post-production, done by only a handful of people, including Warren, Tom Neyman, Reynolds, Jennings and Warren's wife, Norma.[4][8] Later during production, Warren renamed the film from its working title to Manos: The Hands of Fate.[4] What makes this title a discrepancy is that "manos" is Spanish for "hands", which means that the title literally translates to Hands: The Hands of Fate. Warren's small crew became so bemused by his amateurishness and irascibility that they derisively called the film Mangos: The Cans of Fruit behind his back.[4][6][9]

During filming, Warren knew that presenting Diane Mahree as the Texas Beauty Queen would generate good publicity for his movie. He signed Mahree up for a regional West Texas beauty pageant that would lead to Miss Texas and then to the Miss America pageant, but he neglected to tell her about it until she was accepted as an entrant. She went along with it, and soon found herself onstage as one of the finalists.

Warren contracted with a modeling agency to provide the actresses who would play the Master's wives, including Joyce Molleur. Molleur broke her foot early in production, so to keep her in the film, Warren rewrote the script to include a young couple making out in a car on the side of the road who are seemingly completely incidental to the film's plot.[4][10]

A frame of a man and woman kissing in a convertible sports car; the clapperboard is visible in the edge of the frame
This scene shows a failure to edit out the clapperboard, which was momentarily visible for a few frames on the right side of the image.

To portray his character Torgo as a [24][25] Both Forrester and Frank were shown apologizing for showing the film, which they admitted was abysmal and went beyond even their acceptable limits for torturing Joel and the bots.[23]

During a Q&A session at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con International, a question was put to the cast and writers of MST3K about any film they passed on that was worse than Manos, and many cited the film Child Bride.[26]

The Manos episode has been described as one of the best of the MST3K series by Entertainment Weekly.[3]

On February 27, 2012, Mike Nelson's RiffTrax announced they would be riffing on Manos.[27] This was a live event simulcast in film theaters across the United States on August 16.[28] While Nelson and fellow MST3K alum Kevin Murphy were part of the cast when MST3K riffed on Manos, neither their fellow Rifftrax star Bill Corbett nor their writers were involved in the original episode; the riffing was expected to be all new. This live version used a cleaner print of the original Manos, allowing them to joke on things not obvious in the original television episode.[29]

Popularity as a cult film

A woman (left) and a man (right) looking towards the right
Frame from a public domain DVD release.

A woman (left) and a man (right) looking towards the right, the head of a child can be seen at the bottom of the image, this is not visible in the preceding image
The same frame from the workprint discovered in 2011.

The MST3K episode featuring the film was released on DVD on its own in 2001, and in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Essentials collection in 2004.[30][31]

A DVD of the original version of Manos has also been made available through Alpha Video,[32] which also released original versions of other "MST-ed" films such as Teenagers from Outer Space and Eegah.[33] In attempting to explain the film's appeal, the Los Angeles Times hypothesized, "After screening Manos for probably the 10th time, I've concluded it has to do with intimacy. Because it is such a pure slice of Warren's brain – he wrote, directed, produced and starred, and brooked no collaboration – Manos amounts to the man's cinematically transfigured subconscious."[34] Manos buff Bobby Thompson put it more succinctly: "It's like a train wreck; you just can't take your eyes off it."[3] Shout! Factory released a special edition of the film which includes both the MST3K and uncut versions called Manos y Manos [sic].[35]

Manos holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews.[36] The book Hollywood's Most Wanted lists Manos as the #2 in the list of "The Worst Movies Ever Made," following Plan 9 from Outer Space.[37] Entertainment Weekly proclaimed Manos "The Worst Movie Ever Made."[2] The scene in which the seven-year-old Debbie is dressed as one of the Master's wives was included in a list of "The Most Disgusting Things We've Ever Seen" by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew.[38]

Four comedy stage adaptations of the film have been made. The first, by Last Rites Productions, was given in Portland, Oregon in early 2006.[39] The second, a musical titled Manos: Rock Opera of Fate by the New Millennium Theatre Company, was launched in Chicago in October 2007.[40] The third, a puppet musical titled Manos – The Hands of Felt, was performed by Puppet This in Seattle in April 2011.[41] The fourth, by Capital I Productions, took place in Portland, Oregon in April 2013.[42]

In March 2008, the How I Met Your Mother episode "Ten Sessions" featured main character Ted Mosby arguing that Manos is the worst film ever made, even when compared to Plan 9 from Outer Space. The show featured a brief discussion of the film, and a condensed, 12-second screening of the film as part of a two-minute date.[43]

In November 2008, a 27-minute

  • MST3K – 'Manos' The Hands of Fate at the Internet Movie Database
  • Episode Guide: 424- “Manos” The Hands of Fate (with short:Hired!)
  • Manos" The Hands of Fate full episode on Official MST3k Youtube Channel

Mystery Science Theater 3000

External links

  1. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Manos: Hands of Fate (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d Ross, Dalton (June 6, 2005). "The Worst Movie Ever Made".  
  3. ^ a b c d e Ross, Dalton (June 6, 2005). "The Worst Movie Ever Made".  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Brandt, Richard (May 1996). "The Hand That Time Forgot". Mimosa. pp. 35–38. Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  5. ^ a b Ross, Dalton (June 6, 2005). "The Worst Movie Ever Made".  
  6. ^ a b c d e f "424 – Manos, The Hands of Fate". Daddy-O's Drive-In Dirt. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  7. ^ Walker, Albert (August 25, 2002). Manos' The Hands of Fate (1966) Recap"'". The Agony Booth. p. 1. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  8. ^ a b c Ross, Dalton (June 6, 2005). "The Worst Movie Ever Made".  
  9. ^ "Interview with Tom Neyman". Manos Podcast - Talk to the Hand. Retrieved 2015-10-11. 
  10. ^ Walker, Albert (2002-08-25). Manos' The Hands of Fate (1966) Recap"'". p. 5. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  11. ^ a b Walker, Albert (2009-09-13). Manos' The Hands of Fate (1966) Recap"'". The Agony Booth. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  12. ^ a b Manos' The Hands of Fate"'". Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  13. ^ Ross, Dalton (2005-06-10). "The Worst Movie Ever Made". Entertainment Weekly. 
  14. ^ "Manos, The Hands of Fate". March 30, 2003. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  15. ^ a b c Brandt, Richard (August 2003). "'"Growing Up 'Manos. Mimosa. pp. 42–43. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  16. ^ Fashingbauer Cooper, Gael (August 13, 2012). "'"Torgo lives! 'Mystery Science' alums revisit worst movie ever, 'Manos: The Hands of Fate.  
  17. ^ John M. Reynolds, Jr. certificate of death, Texas state file #72646
  18. ^ a b Pierce, Betty (November 11, 1966). "'"Hero Massaged to Death in 'Manos—The Hands of Fate.  
  19. ^ El Paso Herald Post. November 12, 1966.
  20. ^ Ross, Dalton (June 6, 2005). "The Worst Movie Ever Made".  
  21. ^ a b Doug Pullen, Horrifyingly bad, lovingly restored: El Paso-made "Manos: The Hands of Fate" stars at Plaza Classic El Paso Times, Retrieved 2012-08-13
  22. ^ a b Taylor, Pat Ellis. "The Story of Manos, The Hands of Fate". Horror Fan Zine. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  23. ^ a b "SEASON FOUR: 1992–1993". Satellite News. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  24. ^ "SEASON FIVE: 1993–1994". Satellite News. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  25. ^ "SEASON SIX: 1994–1995". Satellite News. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  26. ^ Conaton, Chris (August 7, 2008). "Comic-Con 2008: Bigger Than Ever, But Does That Mean Better?".  
  27. ^ Sampo, on February 27th, 2012 (2012-02-27). "News from RiffTrax… « Satellite News". Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  28. ^ RiffTrax Live: "Manos" The Hands of Fate
  29. ^ Cooper, Gael Fashingbauer (2012-08-13). "'"Torgo lives! 'Mystery Science' alums revisit worst movie ever, 'Manos: The Hands of Fate.  
  30. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000: Manos, The Hands Of Fate". November 19, 2001. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 
  31. ^ Henderson, Eric (August 21, 2004). "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Essentials". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  32. ^ "Manos The Hands of Fate". Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  33. ^ "Teenagers From Outer Space". Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  34. ^ Neil, Dan (August 7, 2005). "Why We Love Bad Movies".  
  35. ^ "Mstie Mall". Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  36. ^ (1966)"Manos, The Hands of Fate".  
  37. ^ Connor, Floyd (2002). Hollywood's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Lucky Breaks, Prima Donnas, Box Office Bombs, and Other Oddities.  
  38. ^ Beaulieu, Trace; et al. (1996). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide.  
  39. ^ Hallett, Alison (January 26, 2006). Manos" The Hands of Fate""".  
  40. ^ Lowery, Tim (October 11, 2007). "Manos: Rock Opera of Fate".  
  41. ^ Irwin, Jay (April 3, 2011). "BWW Reviews: MANOS – THE HANDS OF FELT". Broadway World dot com Seattle. Retrieved 2011-04-24. 
  42. ^ Hughley, Marty (2013-04-05). "Blitzen Trapper's Brian Adrian Koch drags infamous "Manos: the Hands of Fate" from film to stage".  
  43. ^ Cain, Tim (2008-03-24). "How I Met Your Britney". Herald & Review ( 
  44. ^ Hotel Torgo (2004) accessed 22-09-14
  45. ^ Valentine, Genevieve (2015-03-13). """Elementary: "T-Bone And The Iceman.  
  46. ^ Manos: The Hands Of Fate': Carefully Restoring The Opposite Of A Masterpiece"'". NPR 'Monkey See' Blog. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  47. ^ "Why I’m Saving ‘Manos: The Hands of Fate’". Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  48. ^ Hanks, Herny (2012-01-05). "Restoring the worst movie ever made". CNN. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  49. ^
  50. ^ THE BATTLE OVER THE WORST MOVIE EVER accessed 2015-10-03


See also

A video game based on the film for iOS systems was released in 2012. A Microsoft Windows port and Android port were later released.

Video game adaptation

Manos: The Hands of Fate is generally believed to be in the public domain because director Hal Warren failed to include a copyright symbol in the film (in the US in the 1960s this was enough to disqualify a film for copyright). When news broke of Solovey's restoration, the son of Hal Warren, Joe Warren, started exploring the possibility that the film was in fact not in the public domain. Joe Warren discovered in 2013 that the script had been copyrighted, and he believes this means that the film is also copyrighted. However, no precedent exists for this case so the legal status of the film is uncertain. The release of the restored film is going ahead in spite of this.[50]

Copyright dispute

In 2011, the original 16mm Ektachrome camera workprint of Manos: The Hands of Fate was discovered in a collection of 16 mm films by Ben Solovey, a Florida State film school grad. Solovey announced his intention to preserve and restore Manos for a Blu-ray release.[46][47][48] Solovey financed the restoration via crowd funding website Kickstarter, raising $48,000 (nearly five times the initial goal). A 90% finished print was premiered at the El Paso Plaza Theatre, not far from where the original premiere was held in 1966.[21] The new restoration premiered on Blu-Ray on October 13, 2015 with an unrestored version ("Grindhouse") as one of the bonus features.[49]


[45] In March 2015, the murderers on the

[44] The film was featured in the season four finale of

Photo of a man in giving a presentation to an audience in front of a theatrical curtain
Frank Conniff chose Manos to be featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1992.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax

Following these few local screenings, Manos was almost entirely forgotten. When Jackey Neyman attended University of California, Berkeley, her friends unsuccessfully made an effort to track down a copy of the film.[15] A 1981 newspaper article by cinematographer Bob Guidry's ex-wife Pat Ellis Taylor[6] reports the film may have appeared on a local television station, and that it was "listed at the bottom of a page in a film catalogue for rent for $20."[22] The film re-surfaced through a 16 mm print, presumably from this television package, which was introduced into the home video collecting market by a number of public domain film suppliers. One of these suppliers was ultimately the one that offered the film to Comedy Central, after which it found its way into a box of films sent to Frank Conniff in 1992, when he chose Manos as one of the films to be shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000.[8]


The majority of the cast and crew never appeared in another film following Manos. Warren attempted to pitch another script he had written called Wild Desert Bikers, but with the failure of Manos, no one he approached showed any interest in producing it.[6] Attempts to turn the screenplay into a novel were equally unsuccessful.[3]

Following the premiere, Warren claimed that he felt Manos was the worst film ever made, even though he was proud of it,[3] and he suggested that it might make a passable comedy if it were to be re-dubbed.[4] The film was briefly distributed by the Emerson Releasing Corporation. Following its debut, the film had a brief theatrical run at the Capri Theater, as well as a few screenings at various drive-in theaters in West Texas and New Mexico towns, including Las Cruces.[22] Reports that the only crew members who were compensated for their work in the film were Jackey Neyman 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.[4][15] Official box office figures for the film are unknown, if indeed they ever existed. Although the film received poor reception, Warren did win his bet against Stirling Silliphant, proving that he was capable of creating an entire film on his own.[8]

The film premiered at the Capri Theater in Warren's hometown of [18] The review nonetheless noted Reynolds' screen presence by crediting him as the film's "hero".


A brief arrangement of the "haunting" Torgo theme from the film, by Russ Huddleston and Robert Smith, Jr.

Problems playing this file? See .

John Reynolds, the actor who played Torgo, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a shotgun on October 16, 1966,[17] a month before the film was to premiere.[4] Reynolds was 25; Manos would be his first (and only) film appearance.


Warren decided to shoot night-for-night scenes, because many of the cast and crew also held day jobs.[5] In many of the night scenes, the camera and lights attracted swarms of moths, which can be seen in the film's final production.[14] In the scene in which the cops "investigate" Mike's gunfire, they could walk only a few feet forward, because there was not enough light to illuminate the scenery for a panning shot,[4] creating the unintentionally amusing impression that the officers hear the gunfire, step out of their car, consider investigating but then give up and leave before making a proper check of the scene.


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