By Steve D. Stones
What do you get when a middle-aged Texas fertilizer salesman directs a film with a wobbly legged servant named Torgo, a polygamous pagan cult of women dressed in see through night gowns, and a cult leader called the "Master?" The result is what Entertainment Weekly calls "The worst film ever made!"
Synapse Films has recently released a special edition of Manos - The Hands of Fate (1966) on DVD and Blu-Ray. This special edition contains three featurettes: Restoring the Hands of Fate, Hands: The Fate of Manos and Felt - The Puppet Hands of Fate. The featurette of Hands: The Fate of Manos interviews many cast and crew members, such as actor Tom Neyman, who played the cult leader, and the mother in the film - actress Diane Mahree, aka Diane Adelson.
If you're already a fan of Manos, you may not need the extra featurettes to give you a greater appreciation for the film. However, the featurettes, particularly Hands: The Fate of Manos, do give viewers a greater appreciation, and perhaps even convince you that Manos is not the worst film ever made.
In charge of the restoration and clean up of Manos was Benjamin Solovey, a cinematographer. In 2012, the restored film was scheduled to play at the Plaza Classic Film Festival in El Paso, Texas. The non-profit that ran the festival was contacted by a lawyer representing Torgo Lives, LLC - a company who held the copyright to Manos. The festival was asked to pull the film if certain demands were not made.
Actor Tom Neyman wore multiple hats during the production of the film. Not only was he the Master, but he also served as production designer. Many of his sculptures of hands were also featured in the film. The hand sculptures helped to influence the title of the film. Neyman's painting of the Master and his evil dog was also featured.
Actor John Reynolds, who played wobbly legged Torgo, committed suicide just a few months before the film premiered. The crew suspected him of taking drugs during the production. Torgo's clothes were borrowed from actor Tom Neyman. Six year old Jackey Raye Newman-Jones, who played Debbie, had her lines dubbed into the film after it was completed.
Manos is a masterpiece of bad cinema. It's cult status was reinforced by an appearance on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in the 1990s. For further information about this special edition of Manos, refer to Screem Magazine issue #31 for an article written by Benjamin Solovey.