Manos: The Hands of Fate is a 1966 low-budget Z-Film that is regarded by many film buffs and B-Movie fans as being among the worst movies ever made; with some regarding it as the worst film. The film was written and directed by Harold P. Warren, a fertilizer/insurance salesman from El Paso, Texas. It was his only movie and was created out of a bet he made with screenwriter Stirling Silliphant.
The film achieved no success during its limited run; drifting in obscurity for years. However, in 1993, it found a large audience and cult following after it was skewered by the cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000. The creators and writers of the show have been quoted as calling Manos one of the worst movies they had to review (alongsideMonster a Go-Goand Hobgoblins.) but the episode itself has become a fan favorite.
A small family gets lost on a road trip and end up staying in a small house out in the middle of nowhere. The house is watched by Torgo, a satyr with bizarre speech patterns and behaviors, while his "Master is away". His master, referred only to as "The Master", is the leader of a polygamous cult in the area who worship the deity "Manos".
The Master (center) with Torgo (right)
After young Debbie (Jackie Neyman) goes missing, and her pet dog is killed, Micheal (Harold P. Warren), the father, attempts start the car to no avail. He is later attacked by Torgo, who is trying to keep Micheal's wife, Margaret (Diane Mahree), all to himself. But when The Master awakens, along with his many wives, he decides to sacrifice Torgo (as well as one of his wives) to Manos. The wife is sacrificed and Torgo's hand is burnt off. The Master then turns his attention to the family, who all fall victim to The Master.
We later see that Micheal has become the house's new caretaker and his wife and daughter have both become new wives for The Master.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Joel and the bots riffing away at Manos. The episode has become one of the most memorable and brought the film to cult status.
The film remained obscure in the public domain for years until it was solicited to Frank Conniff, writer and actor for Mystery Science Theater 3000, by one of his suppliers. The film, arguably, then only came to the public attention when it was broadcasted on the season four finale of MST3K. The episode scrutinized the long uneventful intro sequence, the character Torgo, and its amateurish editing, acting, & dialogue. The characters themselves were brought to tears by its awfulness and even caused the show's villains, "The Mads", to apologize for making them watch it.
The writers found the movie to be so bad that it "became the standard by which all other [films for the show] were measured" and among the worst movies seen on the show next to Monster a-Go-Go (which they referenced in the episode) and later in the series, Hobgoblins. Additionally, they were sickened by the final appearance of Debbie: seen in a gown resembling that of the other wives, which suggested to many pedophilia. Conversely, the episode became a fan favorite and the movie itself became a cult classic: sharing the "so bad its good" ideology with Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Goofs and Other Notable Faults
Because nobody for the project, including Harold, had worked on films previously, Manos had its share of poor decisions in writing, directing, and editing.
The clapboard appears in one of the shots of the "make out couple". Additionally, the couple's appearances have nothing to do with the film's plot: being the result of one of the actresses' legs breaking and having her character rewritten.
Scenes were shot during the night, which caused the lighting to attract moths and limit the two investigating police officers, in one scene, to only moving a few feet away from their car.
The extended opening sequence, supposedly, was meant to include opening credits.
In one shot, which literally starts with Micheal and Margret repeating what they said previously, Debbie leaves the set through a door. According to the script, this is the scene when her parents realize that she is missing. But because of the poor editing, right after she is seen exiting the set for her "disappearance", which mind you isn't supposed to be seen, the parents reaction of "hey where IS Debbie" is met with unintentional humor, rather than suspense.
The film was recorded with a camera that lacked a microphone. Because of this, the dialogue was recorded later: mostly by Harold himself.