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Friday, October 16, 2015

New on Video: Megapixels of the Master in Manos: The Hands of Fate

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 1:00 PM


What’s the worst film ever made? No, it’s not Pixels or Fantastic Four or Jem and the Holograms whatever other movie that the Internet is all cranky about. [UPDATE: I have been informed over Twitter that Jem and the Holograms is indeed the worst movie ever made. Okay, then!] But I would argue that it is also not Harold P. Warren’s 1966 Manos: The Hands of Fate, if only because Barry J. Gillis’ 1989 film Things is far worse. But it’s Warren’s Manos which which Synapse Films has just released on Blu-ray, in a shiny new restoration by a man named Ben Solovey.

The quote-story-unquote of a family of vacationers who run afoul of a demonic cult, I go back a long way with Manos: The Hands of Fate. I’ve argued in the past that it’s not "so bad it's good," nor is it "so bad it's bad." Instead, Manos exists in an inexplicable universe of its own making which that defies all attempts at quantification using such linear biped concepts as "good" or "bad". I’ve watched it countless times on Mystery Science Theater 3000 since that episode’s premiere in January 1993, including a near-religious experience with a packed audience of fellow fans at the second ConventioCon Expo Fest-A-Rama in 1996.

As he explains on both a post called “Why Manos?” on his website as well as in an interview I did with him last year on that one nerd-culture blog, film aficionado Ben Solovey purchased a carload of 16mm and 35mm prints salvaged from the long-moribund Emerson Film Enterprises. Among them were both a theatrical print and a workprint of Manos: The Hands of Fate, and after a Kickstarter which I did my best to help promote in 2012, the restoration was underway.

The Blu-ray also includes the “Grindhouse Unrestored Version” of the film, allowing for an up-close examination of the restoration. For example, here’s a frame in which writer/director/producer Harold P. Warren (standing on the right) demonstrates his keen grasp of the directorial arts. Click the image to see every grain up close!

click to enlarge sc_54_manostherestoration_before.jpg

…and here’s the restored version.

click to enlarge sc_54_manostherestoration_after.jpg

Even though it was shot on a craptacular 16mm camera, one of the things I love about the utter artlessness of the film is that the restoration gives a sort of you-are-there quality that was lacking in the original version. The production values are slightly above that of a home movie, and in the restoration, you always get the sense that you’re watching non-actors making a very bad movie; it’s like a documentary of its own making. And I love it so much for that.

Speaking of me, I had the honor of hosting the San Francisco premiere of the restored Manos: The Hands of Fate at Bad Movie Night last year. (True story: We were originally going to do it as part of that Big Annual Comedy Festival You’ve Probably Heard Of, but the organizers of that Big Annual Comedy Festival You’ve Probably Heard Of nixed it for fear that my show doing Manos might hurt their relationship with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 people.)


And another fascinating thing about me is that because contributed to the Kickstarter at the Sponsor level, my name is in the restoration credits, though I’ll forever be overshadowed — undershadowed? — by the American Enlarged Knee Association.


But new 16mm and 35mm prints of the restored version have been made, meaning there are least two film prints out there that have my name buried deep in the credits. And even if it wasn't, the rebirth of Manos: The Hands of Fate is a thing to be celebrated.

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Sherilyn Connelly

Sherilyn Connelly


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