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Manos, the Hands of Fate (1966)



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This has got to be the worst movie ever made. I can't even begin to fathom what writer-director-star Hal Warren thought he was doing, nor do I care. I'm just thankful he never did it again.

There are a lot of bad movies out there, but there isn't a high percentage of incompetent movies that find distribution. Manos, the Hands of Fate forges new territory beyond incompetent. Even the title is incompetent. In Spanish, "manos" means "hands." Yes, the name of this movie is "Hands, the Hands of Fate."

When the movie opens, a husband, wife, daughter, and dog are travelling in a car. The camera is aimed out the window, and we are treated to views of every last field in the entire continent of North America. This goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on, until they pull up to a house that "wasn't there a few minutes ago" (never mind that nor were they) and have a stilted conversation with a manservant named Torgo that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on. Then they go inside and have another conversation that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on. And then comes the bad parts, like a nightgown wrestling match that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and evil posturing that goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on. All this time, the wife telling her husband she's scared and wants to leave this place, and in spite of the fact that Torgo is a demented freak that hits on her and drones on about "the Master" being undead and there's no way to escape, and the dog has been killed, and their daughter has disappeared, and there's a spooky guy in a cape that talks to fire and keeps an unconscious harem, her husband's lines consist primarily of telling his wife that it'll be all right and shut the heck up. By the time they do figure out that, hey, maybe this isn't such a good place to leave, they get five seconds out into the desert and reason that the safest place to be is back at the house where people are trying to kill them.

The movie is A LOT WORSE than my plot synopsis. I could not write a more painful plot synopsis if I tried. As powerful as words are, I'm not sure there exists a more agonizing permutation of words than any one minute of this film. I haven't even hinted at how terrible the acting is, how absurd the editing is, how excruciating the dialogue is, or anything. The camera is always cutting to the wrong places, while people are talking off the screen. People are always having conversations that don't make logical sense. I submit to you, the entire character arc of Torgo, whose most fearsome attributes are having very large knees and always seeming like hiccups are about to come out of the wrong facial orifices:

"You can't come in, because the Master won't like it. He won't like you staying here, but you can come in anyway, because he wants you, he likes you a lot and will be very pleased and displeased. Actually, I want you too, mwahaha, and I am imprisoning you here forever by standing non-threateningly in front of you, actually I'm sorry, oh no, I have betrayed my master."

To which the master replies...well, I can't even summarize anything the Master says, because I have no freaking clue what he was getting at. All I know is he spent a lot of the time looking randomly wide-eyed and extending his arms out so we can look at the hand-themed costume he's wearing. He sentences Torgo to the death for something, then forgets about him, then tells his wives to kill him by standing near him and billowing around for a while. Then he goes outside to look for his visitors, pausing periodically, of course, to extend his arms out.

The entire movie is scored with the same eight bars of elevator music looping repeatedly.

I'm truly at a loss for how and why this got made. Previously, the worst film I had seen was The Dungeonmaster, but at least that movie has incompetence I can fathom. Manos, the Hands of Fate represents the work of mind-boggling stupidity I would not assume of a brain damaged baby gorilla on crack.