The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The study of film has hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of cinema that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Mankind, in its folly, has long attempted to catalogue the best of the worst of films. We celebrate The Room for its ineptitude, and laud Plan 9 From Outer Space as a classic. We never suspected the harm that could come from digging up such relics of terribleness, but with Manos: The Hands of Fate, the worst example of film-making that the world has to offer, I have realised how vital our ignorance is to our continued existence. Hardly anyone knew of it before 1993, when Joel Robinson, along with his associates Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, revealed it to the world. If only it had remained buried in the earth as it should have been.
For while we long to categorise such cinematic atrocities, Manos defies such logic and reason. The very title seeks to baffle and confound us: manos means hands in Spanish, meaning that its full title is Hands: The Hands of Fate. And the plot… truly, insanity lies in trying to make sense of it. I believe it concerns a young couple trying to repair their car, who accidentally stumble upon a bizarre polygamous cult led by the mysterious Master and his servant Torgo. That is all that can be said with certainty, for the impossible confusion of the script and baffling attempts at editing only serve to befuddle the viewer, and make any conjecture as to the film’s true nature a daunting task. It has been theorised that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is in some sense a parody of Manos, since the two films’ plots are indeed very similar.
I have no doubt that Manos would laugh at us, had it but a mouth with which to laugh. Any attempt to examine it by the normal standards of film-making must surely fail: there is no discernible structure to the mass, failing to conform to the accepted three acts which are expected. It begins with ten full minutes of landscape footage and nothing else; according to the forbidden Cinemanomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, this is because director, writer, producer and star Harold Warren intended for the credits to go there, but forgot to put them into the final cut. For no readily apparent reason, the film keeps cutting back to footage of a young couple engaged in amorous activities in a car, which has no bearing on anything else that is happening. The entire film is scored with repetitive, maddening music of the sort one might hear in a tedious elevator ride. Attempting to catalogue such a morass of failure is a futile endeavour; suffice it to say that any mistake which could possibly have been made, has been made. Manos may run for a paltry 70 minutes, but trust me, it will feel like thrice that to any poor soul who is subjected to it.
If anyone discovers this record, I implore you, inform no one of it. There are things which mankind was not meant to know, and Manos: The Hands of Fate is one such. Even now, as I think on it for the purpose of writing this, I can feel my mind and my resolve crumbling. There are those who believe such films as Troll 2 and Birdemic to be the worst that exist… I envy them their ignorance. As for Manos, in the end, the Thing cannot be described “ there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. I only pray that none other may suffer the fate of witnessing it.