Manos: The Hands of Fate (American, 1966): Meanwhile, out in the west Texas town of El Paso…

I may not know much about art... but I know what I like!

I may not know much about art… but I know what I like!

Manos: The Hands of Fate was the brainchild of one Mr. Harold P. Warren, an insurance salesman and community theater enthusiast from El Paso, Texas. Apparently Warren produced, wrote, directed, and starred in the film as a result of a bet made during a chance conversation with television and film writer Stirling Silliphant – the gist of which, apparently, was that horror films “aren’t difficult to make.” Its production was plagued by various difficulties, including an inadequate budget, inferior equipment, and the apparent ineptitude of an inexperienced cast and crew. As you might imagine, Manos was poorly received upon its release, and played in only a couple of venues before sinking into cinematic obscurity. Since its rediscovery in the early 1990s, Manos: The Hands of Fate has apparently developed a reputation for being one of the worst films ever made.

Here’s an instance where I must disagree with prevailing opinion. I’ve watched far worse films than Manos. It begins with a fairly compelling story idea, the plot (overall) makes logical sense, and Mr. Warren succeeds at creating an adequately “creepy” atmosphere with the very modest resources at his disposal. The soundtrack music is pretty groovy, too!

Sure, many of the common criticisms of the film aren’t without merit: the dubbing is terrible, and the clapperboard is briefly visible during a scene about six minutes into the film. I’ll also admit the massive catfight between the Master’s wives at the forty-minute mark is clearly… well… a flimsy excuse to work a “sexy” catfight into the film (even though their disagreement does make sense in the context of the story).

Still, I must congratulate Mr. Harold P. Warren, who never made another film, for his work on Manos: The Hands of Fate. I’ll say this much for him: he had a vision, and he made it happen in spite of the circumstances facing him. I do have one little nagging question, though: how did the hapless vacationing family hear about “Valley Lodge,” a place none of the locals seem to know exists, in the first place?

Memorable visuals: I thought the costuming was quite nice throughout the film. The design of the Master’s robes is particularly successful; only when he fully raises both arms do you realize the red accents on the black robe are, in fact, two large, stylized hands. The painted portrait of the Master prominently displayed inside the Lodge is a lot of fun, too – though not nearly as well executed.

Horror cred: I can’t honestly say I found Manos: The Hands of Fate to be scary, but it does display all the trappings of a supernatural-occult horror/thriller.

Is it worth 39¢:  Sure – why not? Like I said, I’ve watched films far worse than this.

Find it here: Manos: The Hands of Fate is another gem from the Pure Terror 50-movie set.

It’s on YouTube as well.