12/18/06

424 ‘Manos’: The Hands of Fate

(1966, Horror-ish, color), with:

Hired! Part Two
(1940, Educational-Industrial, b&w)

Flying elves are back!

Rating: Zero Stars

In a nutshell:

Short: A sales manager buckles down and teaches his salesmen how to do their jobs.
Film: A vacationing family pit stops at the burning maw of metacarpal hell.

Short Summary:

Hired! Part Two picks up where part one left off, with the sales manager’s aged, hanky-clad father rocking on the porch and decrying his son’s management style. The manager sees the error of his ways and starts spending time with his salesmen, teaching them how to browbeat befuddled old men into buying cars they don’t need. Ah, the heady field of car sales.

Film Summary:

Apparently, Torgo's duties include 'Peeping at the female guests while the M-Master is away.'In ‘Manos’: The Hands of Fate, a couple (Mike and Maggie), their daughter (Debbie), and her pet poodle drive across the countryside for a long, long time. After some irrelevant encounters with Texas cops and make-out teens, they get lost and stop at a ranch tended by the awkwardly big-kneed goat man Torgo, who “takes care of the place while the master is away.” Mike rather bizarrely insists that they unpack and stay for the night.

It gets dark, and the poodle is killed by something offscreen. The distraught Maggie makes them try to leave, but of course the car won’t start. Torgo makes a pass at her, muttering about the master’s “other wives” while Mike fiddles with the engine. Maggie tells Torgo off and then inexplicably agrees not to tell her husband.

Debbie wanders away and shows up again with a big mean-looking dog. The dog runs off while Debbie shows them a big room with a burning pit, a gaggle of gauzy women, and an evil high priest. The Maggie and Debbie hide in their room while Torgo peeps and Mike tries to start the car again. Torgo knocks Mike out and ties him up.

The high priest and the gauzy women wake up to argue about something vague, and then the women wrestle for a long, long time. Eventually they get around to killing Torgo and capturing the family. Maggie and Debbie dress in gauze and become the high priest’s new wives, while Mike grows big-kneed goat legs so that he can “take care of the place while the master is away.”

Introduction:

Frank is very, very sorry.Joel has reprogrammed the ‘Bots to think everything about him is utterly brilliant. The ‘Bots think it’s a great idea. When Magic Voice tells them how many seconds until commercial sign, she says, “Of course, every second with you is like an apple of gold, Joel.”

Host Segment One:

Free of their new programming, Tom asks Joel, “Did some small animal crawl inside your jumpsuit and die?” Dr. Forrester has invented the chocolate bunny guillotine, sentencing one to death for “[stealing] painted eggs in a time of famine.” Frank, dressed in a black hood and plastic chest, pulls the lever to drop the blade. Joel has invented the Cartooner, which combines old comic strips into funny new ones, such as a combination of The Far Side and Family Circus that shows a dotted line where anthropomorphic jackals have chased Little Billy.

Host Segment Two:

Gypsy plays a redneck cop who pulls over the family of Joel, Tom, and Crow while they drive endlessly through the countryside. Tom and Crow burst into tears, ruining the scene. TV’s Frank stops by to apologize for the awful film.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots wonder if Torgo’s big knees mean that he’s supposed to be a monster. They imagine other possible monsters, including a fiend with one large nostril filled with lots of red, matted hair, and a menacing creep with an enormous ear that would cover it like a shroud.

Host Segment Four:

Joel tries on a sinister mustache and a red and black robe like the high priest in the movie. Crow tags along as his ravening hellbeast. In the end, Joel can’t cut it as an evil villain; his face is just too friendly. Dr. Forrester stops by to apologize for the awful film.

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow don gauzy dresses and wrestle while Gypsy sings. Joel makes them stop. Down in Deep 13, Togo’s Pizza was busy, so TV’s Frank had to order from Torgo’s Pizza. Torgo unsteadily delivers it two hours late, but it still has vomit-inducing warmth.

Stinger:

Make-out girl says, “Why don’t you guys leave us alone?”

Stinger:

Torgo's been hitting the thighmaster really hard.The short reminds me how much I dislike dealing with salesmen. I just want someone who knows about the product and how it works—I don’t want to be pressured into buying. I don’t go shopping for cars very often, so I usually get this with someone trying to sell me a computer component. Of course, by the time I actually get into a store, (if I get as far as the store) I usually know more about what I’m looking for than the gung-ho teenager behind the counter, often provoking an embarrassed silence. Thank goodness for online shopping. As for the short, well, I guess I’m trying to say that I don’t like shopping for cars.

For my money, ‘Manos’: The Hands of Fate is the most painful MST3K episode in the canon, edging out such other dubious contenders as Castle of Fu Manchu, Monster A-Go-Go, and Red Zone Cuba. The above four-paragraph summary does not do the utter wretchedness of this film proper justice—the sparse and stilted script, the long, uneventful silences, the horrible acting, the wretched framing, the long, uneventful silences, the non sequitur plot, and, in addition, the long, uneventful silences. Oddly enough, it’s available on Rhino Home Video, and fans everywhere recommend it to the newly initiated. I think it’s a kind of hazing. No one can really call themselves a true, hardcore fan unless they’ve endured the worst the show has to offer and come back for more.

The host segments work fairly well for such an abysmal film. The best one is the monster discussion, when they figure out all the ways an exaggerated body part can be made disturbing and terrifying. The rest of the host segments are all above average. Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank’s separate apologies for the film are very appropriate. Also, why do they vomit when they find that the pizza is still warm after two hours in delivery? Are we supposed to assume that Torgo was keeping it in his knees?

The film segments will make you suffer. There are some good lines in the short, such as the scene where the old man puts a handkerchief on his head and swats at something invisible while Joel says, “Flying elves are back!” During the film he says things like, “filmed on location in a vacant lot,” and “every frame of this movie looks like someone’s last known photograph.” Did I remember to mention the long, uneventful silences? Often one of the SOL crew is reduced to saying “Manos,” to which another crewmember will reply, “The hands of fate?” The first then responds in the affirmative. Many times there’s not much else they can say. A basic sense of honesty compels me to warn you: this is the worst possible episode you could try to watch. And yet, it’s an episode that you must watch at least once as a rite of passage to true and abiding MST3K fanhood.