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Unexpected Remastering Project of the Day: Manos: The Hands of Fate

Our Adorable Past

With the final peals of Blu-ray’s battle horn being sounded across the grassy sward, echoing in the new era of format supremacy; a lot of our old favorites, once released on the best of the best of the format of the day, are getting remasterings and rereleasings in order to introduce them to a brand new audience in as pristine a quality as possible.

Which is precisely why Ben Solovey, current accidental owner of the workprint of Manos: the Hands of Fate, generally considered to be one of the worst films ever made, is trying to raise the money to remaster it and create a Blu-ray release. “How bad could it possibly be?” you ask, clearly having never seen the 1993 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that dragged the film out of obscurity and into the #3 spot on IMDB’s 100 worst movies list? Lets look at some choice clips from its Wikipedia article:

Footage was shot with a 16 mm Bell & Howell camera which had to be wound by hand and thus could only take 32 seconds of footage at a time. This has been suggested as a possible explanation for the many editing problems present in the final cut. The Bell & Howell camera was incapable of double-system recording, and thus all sound effects and dialogue were dubbed later in post-production, reportedly by only three or four people… Later during production, Warren renamed the film from its working title to Manos: The Hands of Fate. Reportedly, Warren’s small crew became so bemused by his amateurishness and irascibility that they derisively called the movie Mangos: The Cans of Fruit behind his back.

To portray his character Torgo as a satyr, John Reynolds wore what would best be described as a metallic rigging under his trousers, made out of wire coat hangers and foam by costar Tom Neyman. Reynolds unintentionally wore them backwards, meaning the effect conveyed made him look nothing like a satyr and more like a man with oversized knees who had difficulty walking.

In many of the night scenes, the camera and lights attracted swarms of moths, which can be seen in the film’s final production. In the scene in which the cops “investigate” Mike’s gunfire, they could walk only a few feet forward, because there was not enough light to illuminate the scenery for a panning shot, creating the unintentionally amusing impression that the officers hear the gunfire, step out of their car, consider investigating but then give up and leave before making a proper check of the scene.

Highlights of the film, about a vacationing family who get lost on a road trip and stumble across some kind of polygamous pagan cult leader with a definitely not-at-all threatening manservant named Torgo, include the clapboard being visibile at the beginning of several shots, an excruciatingly long opening sequence that appears to have been caused by the director forgetting to lay the opening credits over the endless shots of the main characters driving through California desert, and a number of characters who appear in the movie despite never actually becoming connected to the main plot.

Why would anyone want to support a Kickstarter project that would give Manos: The Hands of Fate a new lease on life for generations to come? Well, aside from being a huge MST3K fan, Heather Massey of Tor nails it on the head:

Wouldn’t it be cool to know that for a few shekels, you could turn to your kids or grandkids in the future, show them this film, and say, “See this? I helped preserve what’s probably the worst movie of all time…just for you.”

That’s right… torturing posterity.

You can watch Solovey’s progress on his website.

(Kickstarter via Tor.)

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Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.