MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 – MANOS, THE HANDS OF FATE
Reviewed January 17th, 2002 by Dan Jones
“Dead? No, madam. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always.”
(I would like to start this review by asking our readers to disregard my numeric ratings above; as they do not truly judge this release, please just read ahead and hopefully I will be able to better convey my experience.)
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is an interesting brand of show. Essentially, the plot behind the show was that a person was being punished by being sent into space and moreover, while there, made to watch horribly bad movies. So, the show advances with this person, in this case a character name as Joel, and his robot friends (Crow and Tom Servo) he creates, sit down to laugh and make jokes at the worst of the worst in cinema.
I’ve always been a big fan of MST3K and used to watch it quite a bit when it was still being shown on Comedy Central. I cannot say that I have seen a lot of episodes, but I did pop into a number of them. When I heard that Rhino Entertainment was releasing some of the more popular, near cult followed episodes I knew I had to snag a couple. The one I will be reviewing today is quite possibly the most renowned episode for showing the worst movie of all time: Manos, the Hands of Fate.
Where do I begin with this travesty of a film? Well, the general idea behind it is that a couple and their daughter and pet are driving through some desolate town, and end up lost in the boondocks. As luck may have it, they end up at a shack/house being looked over by a creepy man named Torgo while the Master is away and even though the wife does not want to stay the husband finds nothing wrong with the area or Torgo and decides that the family should stay the night. It should also be mentioned that Torgo has horribly disfigured knees and walks extremely slow. Of course, as the movie progresses the pet dies and strange things start happening… it is really just an awful movie…
As odd as what I am about to say sounds, I do not think I can finish writing this review without giving an almost symbolic presentation of how horrible this film is, and perhaps how it affected those that participated in it. According to the IMDB, after this movie completely filming, three of its cast members committed suicide, specifically John Reynolds (I) whom played Torgo, Joyce Molleur who played the teenage girl that made out all film in the car, and finally the model that played the Master’s first wife. Quite a travesty indeed.
Nevertheless, I cannot say enough about how bad this film is, probably why it holds the #1 position on the IMDB for worst movie ever. There are some camera shots that are just inexplicable, plot lines that go nowhere (the people making out in the car and the reoccurring police officers), huge gaps where no one says anything, horrible cinematography, horrible use of any sort of buildup towards conflict, horrible acting, horrible… ugh… it is just horrible. I don’t know what Hal Warren was thinking with his five minutes of driving sequence with nothing but fields and his repetition of dialogue like the quote I started off with… laughable for sure. Also, since the film was shot by a hand-held no audio, camera (that supposedly could only handle thirty seconds of film at a time), all the lines have been re-dubbed in; most pretty poorly.
Nevertheless, this is what MST3K is all about, watching bad movies, and with Manos, Joel and the bots just rip into it. Even after watching this incredibly bad movie I must say that I laughed constantly; the movie is just so bad, and Joel and his bots do such a good job of ridiculing it that I had a lot of fun viewing it. Plus, after you finish it you feel like you have truly accomplished something; survived Manos, the Hands of Fate in all its utter wastefulness.
Now let’s take a closer look at this DVD release by Rhino.
On the video side; MST3K - MTHOF (abbreviations are good) is presented in the original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 and is not much better then you would have found in the broadcast release. For the most part, these shows just show the film with Joel and his bots in theater chairs essentially matted over the presentation. The video quality is just not good at all during the movie and just fine (because of which I gave it an overall 35) during the little skits that break it up (where commercial breaks used to come in). But, overall, don’t expect miracles because you’ll be disappointed. On the plus side, I noticed no digital compression problems. Overall, the presentation is just standard to original broadcast quality.
For audio, go in with zero expectations. Throughout the movie we get basically horrible movie sound with more pronounced dialogue from Joel and the bots. Again, audio during the skits in between the movie is good (because of which I gave it an overall 25). The movie itself is marred by a constant hiss; which many fans of the show have probably come to expect. And no, Manos did not receive a digital remaster into 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound.
For extras, we get a lengthy, thirty-minute gag reel that, at time, is just hilarious. If you are a big fan of MST3K you’ll definitely need to watch this. This, unfortunately enough, is the only extra on the disc, unless you consider a constant loop of the Manos theme music in the menus to be an extra (make it stop!!!).
Overall, Manos, the Hands of Fate as seen through the eyes of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew is, at times, quite painful (why was this movie even made???), while at other times gut-wrenchingly hilarious. This is clearly the worst movie ever made, and Joel and the bots do an admirable job of surviving it. If you are a fan of MST3K this is required viewing, if you’d like to start off in the MST3K experience, Manos, The Hands of Fate should be your starting point. I’ll tell you what should be your second purchase in the series in my next review, so look out for that. Manos, The Hands of Fate is clearly the de-facto MST3K episode. Recommended!
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