SiW now presents the strange and wonderful history of a film entitled Manos: The Hands of Fate. The story unfolds in 3 acts.
|A poster for a puppet production of Manos.|
The Twist of Fate
Once Manos had found its way back into the collective consciousness by way of MST3K, a strange (and perhaps wonderful) thing happened: it became popular. In the age of the internet, any piece of irrelevant popular culture can find a core of fans who appreciate it. While many simply used the film as a cliched example of a bad film, others began to view the film as tragically misunderstood. They started referring to the film as an object lesson on the difficulty of film making rather than the hubris of an amateur. A fascination with the film was slowly growing out of universal disdain.
Various admiring theater troupes performed interpretations of the film’s story during the early 2000’s which included musicals and puppets. Indie video games were even produced and distributed which were set in the world of Manos.
In November of 2008, a small crew produced a documentary about the making of Manos and called it Hotel Torgo (watch it here on YouTube). This 27 minute project gained some notoriety for attempting to excavate the particulars of the 1966 production, but further examination of the facts revealed many inaccuracies in the documentary. Specifically, the producers declared a few of the actors to be deceased when, in actuality, they were alive and well. Diane Mahree, for example, was said to have been killed in a car accident in the 80’s, but was actually still working as a successful model. Still, the release of this production kept the cult of Manos alive and fueled a curiosity about the history of the film.
|A poster for the sequel project.|
It turns out that this 16mm print was one of the originals created from the shoot and copies had been made on 35mm film and copied from that for distribution to theaters. Audiences were seeing a 3rd generation copy right away, which is why the quality was so bad. Worse still, the copies distributed today are VHS copies of the 3rd generation copy.
So it appears that 2012 will be the year that Hal Warren’s vanity project comes full circle with a sequel starring original cast members and a high definition Blu-Ray release of the original film in its original “glory”.
In this digital age, it seems that nothing will ever really die. Long forgotten films, music albums and books are constantly finding new audiences that appreciate them. Before, it was easy for these bits of ephemera to turn to dust, but no longer. Even things that probably deserve to be forgotten are being polished up and lovingly enshrined by a new generation. There is now a sense that nothing ever deserves to be forgotten. There is a philosophy that no matter how bad the art is, it must not be discarded, for there may come a time when someone will see beauty in it. When someone will find it worthy of display. When someone will choose to spend years crafting an tribute to it. When hundreds of people will pitch in to help bring it back to life.
So while Manos can hardly be called “good art” in and of itself, I find the arc of its existence to be strangely beautiful. And yes, I will probably purchase a copy of the restored film.