Saturday, 13 October 2018



Okay, okay. So I rail against absolutely lousy movies for page after page, month after month, and then I voluntarily spend my afternoon sitting through something that's been regularly cited as one of the worst films of all time. It's currently sitting at #3 on the IMDb's bottom rated list and pretty much the best thing that anyone has ever said about it is that it does actually exist. Nobody seems to have a good word to say for it and let me state right now that I'm not going to buck the trend here: it's utterly worthless and a chore to sit through even at a mere 70 minutes or so, it has absolutely no cultural value or artistic merit and is one of the only films ever made that would probably be improved by the Rifftrax or MST3K treatment.

The awfulness of the semi-legendary Manos: The Hands Of Fate is not the Troma awfulness of cynical audience pandering or wallowing in puerile bad taste, but the amateur Ed Wood awfulness of technical shoddiness and an almost awesome level of incompetence. At the same time it has none of the innocent, endearing charm of the best known so-called Golden Turkeys such as Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space: there are no laughs to be had even in the disputed realm of so-bad-it's-good. Manos' terribleness is beyond such things: other films are made by those who just don't care, this is made by those who just don't know what the hell they're doing. Yet you can see that somewhere in the back of it is a halfway decent idea that could - maybe - have been made into something worthy of the second slot on a drive-in double-bill had different hands, hearts and minds been involved. Even half a century ago.

A vacationing family lost in the desert and having to spend the night in an isolated shack belonging to some kind of immortal sorcerer and his harem but run by his simpleton servant Torgo, could be the basis for some kind of watchable throwaway trash. But Harold P Warren, writer, director and male lead, has no more clue about how to go about making a film than I have about building a yacht or writing a cookery book. Acting, script, editing, music, photography and direction are all on the rock-bottom lowest level imaginable: a level beyond underachievement. Grotty, humourless and endlessly dull, it's a less rewarding hour and a bit than even the dreariest of Ted V Mikels, Al Adamson or the mighty Jess Franco: it doesn't even have cheesy sex scenes, dumb sub-Lewis gore effects or a brief cameo by a one-time genre icon like Lon Chaney or John Carradine to leaven the crushing, suffocating boredom. Dialogue is repeated, there are endless silences between lines, the score is dramatically inappropriate and dreary as hell, one of the actors (????) actually looks into the camera, many sound effects are missing (it was shot without synch sound) and the actor playing Torgo was off his nipples on LSD for the whole shoot.

So, seventy minutes and a good mood were lost, but what was gained? A lower benchmark against which badfilm can be judged? A personal best endurance challenge? The knowledge that the next effort by [insert name of wretched actor or director here] will be a breeze in comparison? Manos is complete and utter and total and absolute rubbish, obviously, but the worst kind of rubbish: it isn't even fun. It looks and feels like someone's home movie, because that's mainly what it is (the result of a bet with Stirling Silliphant that Warren could make a film, which on a purely technical level Warren won). It has no heart to it and no life to it: you could point and laugh at it but it's honestly not worth the effort. Some damn fool has made a Fifty Years Later sequel which somehow looks even worse, and has even cast the original's little girl; personally I'm waiting for a major studio remake. Might Michael Bay care to have a bash?


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