MST3K Presents Manos: The Hands of Fate (1993) – By Duane L. Martin

Shout Factory has been releasing a steady stream of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, and this month they’ve sent my way the MST3K take on what’s widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time, Manos: The Hands of Fate.

If you’ve been in a box or under a rock and have never heard of Mystery Science Theater 3000, it’s basically a show about a guy named Joel who’s shot into space by a scientist at the Gizmonic Institute and then forced to watch bad movies while they monitor his mind. While in space, he creates several robot friends to keep him company, and together they watch the movies and riff on them the whole way through. So basically, when you see one of these MST3K episodes, you’re seeing the film, along with a silouhette of Joel and his robots Crow and Tom Servo while they rip on the film.

Ok, so that said, let’s get to Manos. This is a film that’s famous for how bad it is. In fact, it’s #3 on the IMDB bottom 100 films. I’ve not only known about it, but I’ve owned it for years, but I never got around to watching it…until now. So do I agree with everyone who says it’s one of the worst films ever made? Oh man…it’s not even in the same league with some of the crap I’ve seen. I actually enjoyed Manos quite a bit. It was fun, and whereas the riffing from Joel and the boys in many of the episodes will tend to fall flat about 80% of the time, with about 20% of it being funny, they were actually funny all the way through this one. Even the constant repeating of the films title, which ran the risk of becoming really annoying, actually went the other way and became funnier the more they said it.

Anyway, Manos is the story of a man, his wife (who’s really hot by the way), their daughter and their poodle who are out driving around looking for a lodge they’re supposed to be vacationing at. They follow a sign, but end up out in the middle of nowhere, eventually coming to a crappy old house. There’s a guy standing out front holding a walking stick with a skeletal looking hand carved at the top. This is Torgo, the caretaker of the house. He takes care of it for the master, Manos, and is probably the most awesome character in this or any other movie. He’s got these misshapen legs with giant thighs and a bend to them that make them sort of resemble goat legs. He walks funny, and talks in this really bizarre manner that’s actually quite appropriate for someone with creepy goat-like legs. He talks like someone who’s stoned, drunk and has a speech impediment, but man, this guy is 100% awesome. The character was played by a guy named John Reynolds, and I have to say that really, he’s about 80% of what makes this movie great. Anyway, it’s late and the family’s been driving all day, and the father insists that Torgo let them stay at the house overnight even though Torgo tried to tell them that The Master wouldn’t like it. Naturally the father’s a total idiot and insists on it anyway. Also needless to say, it was a big mistake.

Then we have Tom Heyman, who plays The Master. The Master is the leader of this little cult, and apparently he has some powers, since bullets don’t seem to affect him and he somehow manages to keep a whole group of women silent while he’s sleeping. Now that’s a neat trick! Anyway, he runs around in this black robe with giant red hand prints on it, so when he spreads his arms out it looks like two hands upright with the thumbs pointing at each other. He also has a big doberman that acts as his guardian. Honestly, I don’t know what the hell’s going on with their crazy cult, but needless to say, it doesn’t end well for the family. I don’t want to tell you what happens though. You’ll have to see the film to find out. It’s actually a fun film, and way better than you’ve been led to believe.

This is a really great release from Shout Factory, and is actually a two-disc special edition. Disc one has the show, includes a special group therapy bonus where Joel, Trace, Frank and Mary Jo relive the horror, as well as MST3K hour wraps. Disc 2 has something I’ve been complaining about in most if not all of my reviews of Shout Factory’s MST3K releases. It has the original feature film by itself, along with more bonus features, including Hotel Torgo: A documentary on the making of Manos: The Hands of Fate, Jam Handy to the Rescue! and an old informative film called Hired!, which actually is the lead in on the MST3K version as well. They riff on that before they get to Manos. Basically it’s an old informative, training drama about how to motivate your sales team and to teach them the best selling techniques so they can maximize productivity. I actually really enjoyed that one as well. It was a nice, cheesy lead in to Manos, with some great riffs by the guys.

I’ve been wanting Shout Factory to so all of their MST3K releases like this, so people can see the actual films without the riffing and edits that go on in the MST3K versions. Hopefully they’ll do more releases like this in the future. It’s not only great to do it that way, but it adds a lot of value to the package for the consumer. Shout Factory puts out consistently awesome releases, and this one’s no exception. This one’s actually even better than usual, and for any fan of MST3K, you’re definitely going to want this one. The jokes are funny, the movie is silly and the whole package is just quality from top to bottom, so definitely do yourself a favor and grab yourself a copy. It’s worth it just for Torgo, but if you order your copy from the Shout Factory website, you’ll get a free MST3K stress ball!

You can find out more about this release and order a copy for yourself from it’s page on the Shout Factory website here.