The Film (3/5)
If you've read my reviews on EuroCultAV.com you might know I don't really get into declaring extremes. Therefore you will rarely see at least myself declare a best of, worst of, or anything of that nature. Manos: The Hands of Fate was a film made by Harold P. Warren an El Paso fertilizer salesman in 1966 in an attempt to jumpstart a film career. The film bombed, and his career in film never took off. In 1993, the crew at Mystery Science Theater 3000 managed to get a hold of a copy of the film, and deemed it the worst film they had ever seen. They would turn Manos into an iconic episode of the series, creating one of the funniest episodes, at least of Joel Hodgson's era of the show, and turned Manos from an unseen regional horror obscurity into a cult sensation overnight. Where once Plan 9 from Outer Space might have been considered the "worst film ever made" that title was soon occupied by Manos. I sincerely do not agree with that opinion.
I will admit to attempting to watch the film one time about 20 years ago without the MST3K commentary, and I did not make it far. That being said at the time I was so enamored of the MST3K version, that viewing it without the running commentary made it feel like a crucial part of the film was missing. Watching it now I honestly feel this is far from the worst film ever made. Yes, it has it’s issues, but it is an entertaining slice of 60’s regional horror. Manos was made to entertain an audience, and in it's own way it succeeds in doing that. If it failed to illicit any sort of reaction other than drabness and boredom, than we can talk about it's inherent badness, and inability to succeed as a film.
OK, so no one will ever mistake Manos for a well made film. The direction is sloppy, the dialogue is dreadful, and badly dubbed. However, the film has bizarre strangeness that makes it work as a late night cinematic treat with or without the accompanying MST3K commentary. Warren's sense of pacing in how long he holds his shots, and his editing choices creates something that is borderline hypnotic. This is contributed to by the performances by the actors who performed the dialogue in the dub which is either over the top or slow and stilted.
Manos: The Hands of Fate follows Mike, Maggie, and their daughter Debbie on a road trip gone awry. They take one wrong turn and end up at the home of the Master, the leader of a polygamous cult who with his servant Torgo and his wives take an interest in Maggie. The Master, Torgo, and 2 separate warring factions of wives each want her for their own. The family would love, but in true horror movie fashion their car has broken down, and the home is in the middle of nowhere. Their fate is now in the hands of the cults God, MANOS.
This is a hard transfer to grade. I should be marking it much higher if I'm comparing it against the "Grindhouse Version" on the disc or against prior releases of the film. If you’ve seen the film in an any prior edition it is a VAST improvement. It is almost insane how good this looks. The 2k restoration undertaken by Ben Solovey and distributed by Synapse Films looks like no Manos you've ever seen. The transfer here reveals nice textures, and a lot of natural film grain. There is excellent detail in closer shots, and in the foreground. The blacks are very solid, very deep. The brighter colors present in the film really show up nicely right now. That being said the materials used were not in the best shape when the restoration was undertaken, so there are scratches and vertical lines throughout. There is some softness during lighter interiors and exterior scenes, but this is more than likely due to the nature of films production than anything else.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track in English. The dialogue and score come through nicely, and I surprisingly did not detect any issues with the track itself.
Synapse Films have put together a solid extras package together for their release of Manos: The Hands of Fate. We get a commentary track With Tom and Jackie Neyman. This is followed by 3 featurettes the first is a 30 minute look back on the film with surviving cast and crew, the second is a look back on the recent restoration efforts, and third is a documentary on the puppet version of Manos (I did not know such a thing existed). There is also a "Grindhouse Version" of the film showing what it looked like prior to restoration.
Synapse Films and Ben Solovey have taken what is considered the worst film ever made, and given it an amazing restoration. The Blu-ray looks and sounds incredible, and has quite a decent slate of extras. The movie isn't great by conventional standards, but can be fun in it's own weird way. RECOMMENDED.