Manos: The Hands of Fate changed my life. There, I said it. It literally changed my life and I truly mean it. Manos is one of those films that you see and never ever forget.
Like many children of the nineties, I grew up on a healthy dose of The Sci-Fi Channel obscurities and wonders on the weekends and late nights. One of my favorite past times was watching Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo tear apart old horror and sci-fi films. Unfortunately I missed when Joel Hodgson was the lead and wasn’t even aware the show had ever featured a different host. That aside, MST3K helped shape my sense of humor and taught me to appreciate films with lower budgets. MST3K would end in 2001 and I would move on with my life, but I would never forget those smart-ass little bots.
A few years later I was in a local CD shop and ran across MST3K: The Essentials on DVD. This was the first time I had ever seen MST3K on DVD so of course I had to snatch it up. The DVD included two episodes I had never seen on Sci-Fi, Manos: The Hands of Fate and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to witness. I got home, popped the DVD for Manos into my player, and was blown away.
Not only did Manos re-introduce me to my favorite show, but it got me into the MST3K Digital Archive Project which was a community of fans who ‘kept the tapes circulating’ online. During this time, I grew closer to this episode. It was one of the only two episodes I had physical copies of and it was watched on a more than regular basis. Up late? Watch Manos. Having relationship hang-ups? Watch Manos. Car problems? Watch Manos.
So what is Manos: The Hands of Fate? Well, it’s a pretty simple plot. A family of three (husband, wife, and daughter) and the family dog get lost on a family vacation and wander across a creepy old Inn in the wilderness of Texas. There they meet the unsettling servant Torgo (John Reynolds) and later, The Master (Tom Neyman). The father (Dir. Harold P. Warren) must escape with his wife (Diane Mahree) and daughter (Jackey Neyman Jones) before the Master can claim them all as his new followers.
Manos has quite the history. The film was created on a tiny budget, released to less than stellar reviews, and falling into obscurity/public domain. Most of what is known about the film now is because of the resurgence brought on by MST3K and it’s army of fans. This fan; like many others, went one step beyond. Not only did we love the episode it was featured on, but we loved the actual movie. Some fans have even taken the time to track down the original house and cult “ruins” used in the film and document what is left of it.
Due to this resurgence, much of Manos’ history is well known. Jackey Neyman Jones has gone on to write a book going into detail of the film’s production and how it has affected her life. Shout! Factory has re-released the MST3K episode on DVD with the original film un-riffed, a documentary, and interviews with the MST3K cast discussing Manos.
Manos isn’t like your average Hollywood flop. It was a small, intimate production. There weren’t boardrooms full of fat cat producers. It was a small group of friends and hired hands trying their damnedest to make a cheap, yet-effective scary movie. Because fans have become aware of the heart and love put into this film, an almost familial feel is prevalent among them. Jackey has also been very vocal with the fan base, making memorabilia, and producing. All while keeping the fandom alive.
Oh, did I mention that Jackey is the real life daughter of the Master?
The Manos fans have been so obsessed with this little cheap film that a card game, video game, prequel, and sequel have all seen light. Manos has even been restored for a beautiful Blu-ray. Jackey and Tom will even be returning for the sequel Manos Returns. Jackey used the power of crowd funding to bring Manos and her father back to shock us once again.
Unfortunately, 2016 struck with a vengeance and took Tom Neyman from us. Like fellow horror icon Angus Scrimm, Tom was able to film his scenes for his newest film before his passing. Social media and fan groups across the internet have all felt the shock wave of Tom’s passing. Though this fan never got to meet The Master, he shed a tear for him.
For those of you reading this who have never seen Manos: The Hands of Fate, do so now. Close this article, go to Shout! Factory TV and watch the MST3K version. Once you have heard the Master’s calling, go get yourself the Blu-ray and Jackey’s book.
A special thanks to Joe Paz and Donald Thompson from “The Manos: The Hands of Fate Fan Club” on Facebook for the on site photography.
Tribute Poster credit: Movie Vigilante