For the first installment of B-Smitten, I wanted to start you off with a real gem of a film. I've long held that the best bad movies are made in earnest. They are not made to be bad films; they are made because a filmmaker truly believes he can pull it off. For me, a lot of the intentionally bad films fall flat. More than that, they can become boring as you sit through schtick after schtick and moments the filmmaker thinks will be funny. Manos: The Hands of Fate has only one single "humorous" sequence involving a young couple making out in a car. The rest of the film is deadly serious, and as a result... it's a scream.
Manos was the brainchild of Harold P. Warren, a fertilizer salesman from Texas who claimed that it was easy to make a horror film, and that to prove his point, he was going to make one of his own. He raised barely enough money to get the job done and the result is a film that has become a legend among lovers of B-movies.
Briefly, it follows the adventures of a couple (Mike and Margaret), their whiny daughter and their dog as they try to find the Valley Lodge. Despite following a crudely hand-painted sign pointing toward the Valley Lodge, they end up on a ranch owned by The Master and overseen by his lackey, an incredibly creepy satyr named Torgo. Unable to escape the ranch, they are pursued and eventually captured by The Master and his harem of wives.
1. Mike ineptly looking for the dog and trying to get the car to start.
2. Torgo lusting after Margaret, making clumsy, jittery passes at her and peeping at her through the window as she changes.
3. Torgo defying The Master and claiming Margaret for his own, but then looking really remorseful about it.
4. Long, awkward moments in which the characters stare at each other, saying and doing nothing. I think these were meant to build suspense, but they're hilarious.
5. The epic slap fight between The Master's wives.
6. The wives attempting to "massage" Torgo to death.
I will say here that a lot of people have trouble sitting through Manos: The Hands of Fate. It's understandable; it's a truly awful film, and the beginning is very slow. But if you can make it through to the halfway point, I think you'll find the rest of the film truly enjoyable in a way that only bad movies can be. If you need a little help, the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000 have you covered; Manos: The Hands of Fate is considered one of the essential MST3K episodes, and Joel and the bots are really on fire with the wisecracks. If you've only seen the MST3K version, try to track down the unedited version of the film. There's actually a lot of nuance that you'll otherwise miss. I found my copy on a 50-film box set from Mill Creek Entertainment called Pure Terror.
Until next time... don't do anything if The Master wouldn't approve!