Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents Manos The Hands Of Fate
Director (of original film): Harold P. Warren
Cast: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy and others
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Yes! I loves me some MST3K and this horrible stinker, Manos The Hands Of Fate, is one of the worst movies ever made and therefore one of the best episodes of the much missed comedy show. Seriously, if you Google “Top 10 MST3K episodes” this will always be in the top five no matter who did the list. Considering that there are almost 200 episodes, that’s saying something. Well the fine folks over at Shout! Factory has given this horrible movie/horribly brilliant episode its due by putting out a two disc DVD and I guess by now you can tell that I loved it. So if you’re in a hurry, then you can stop reading now and go get this when it comes out Sept. 13. But hey, if you’ve got more time to kill, please by all means keep reading.
I’m assuming you know what Mystery Science Theater 3000 was. If not, stop reading, give yourself a good smack for missing out on comedic greatness for all these years, and by God, start watching them. You can find a ton of episodes on DVD, if you have NetFlix then there’s a bunch available for instant streaming, and there are even some just floating around the internet, wild and free. When you’re done with that, come back and we’ll continue.
Ok, so you are now, or always have been, familiar with MST3K. Good. Then you know it was an amazing show where a guy trapped in outer space on the Satellite of Love was forced to watch horribly cheese-tastic flicks until driven mad as part of an insane experiment. Luckily for the victim (first Joel and later Mike, and in this episode’s case it’s Joel) he made some robots to help him deal with the relentless onslaught of schlock by making fun of them. And thus movie riffing was, if not born, at least brought to the masses and it was good. The show was hugely popular for a time because it was very good and it ran for 11 years.
As for Manos The Hands Of Fate, it is a dreadfully made, acted, shot, and everything else piece of cinematic waste made as a bet. No really, this movie was made as a bet, and it shows. In it, a man, woman, child and poodle travel (for far, far too long) through some empty landscape before coming to a rundown house that I guess they were looking to stay in. The questions why and how are left vague. There they meet the caretaker, the wonderfully weird and over the top Torgo who steals the show every second he’s on screen. He tells the travelers that “the Master” isn’t going to be happy about this, but sure they can stay there. Then the poodle gets eaten by a devil dog, just before the daughter adopts said hell hound. Torgo tries hitting on the wife in his own hilariously awkward way and dad’s in denial about everything. By the time the Master shows up as some undead wizard type with his bevy of undying brides, you are far beyond caring in this dreadfully dull and inept flick. That is, unless you were watching it with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys. Then you would be laughing yourself silly as Joel and the bots are in top form slicing this stinker up and taking it down. Rarely was MST3K ever better than this, and as a big and longtime Mistie (as we fans of the show call ourselves) that’s high praise indeed.
Being one of MST3K’s best episodes, Shout! has done it justice with a nice 2-disc DVD set. Disk one includes the original episode of the TV show, a featurette called “Group Therapy” with many (but sadly not all) of the people involved with the episode. Yeah there seems to be a very noticeable rift in the once happy MST3K family where one half doesn’t want anything to do with the other. So here you get Joel, both of the classic “mad doctors” and Mary Jo Pehl who would later play the comedic villainess “Pearl.” Oh and there are some commercial bumpers tossed in for good measure. The second DVD has the original, un-riffed Manos movie, although why on God’s green earth you would want to watch it that way is beyond me. There’s a half hour doc on the making of Manos called “Hotel Torgo,” a short, weird, and funny little film called “Jam Handy to the Rescue” about a guy who did educational films that actually has its own set of special features (no, really). And in that vein the educational film “Hired!” is also found here. Why? Because, as they say on the DVD case, they could.
If you’re a fan of MST3K then you already know how good this episode is, so what are you waiting for, go get it! If you’re new to Mystery Science Theater 3000 and want to see what all the hubbub was about, then this is a great place to start.