Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Manos: The Hands of Fate 1966 **1/2

Dir: Harold P. Warren
Stars: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Harold P. Warren, Diane Mahree

One of the most polarizing films in b-dom, some b-aficionados consider it too genuinely bad to be a b-classic, others regard it very highly, including one Quentin Tarantino who according to IMDB actually owns an original print of it. It's almost a dead cert that it influenced David Lynch in some way with its long shots, surreal qualities and creepy characters. My own feeling is that it is a b-classic but that unlike say Plan 9, Spider-baby, or Faster Pussycat, is not one that can be watched over and over, at least within a short span. Partly this is due to what makes it so distinct, the very loooong slowly paced scenes, which are kind of mesmerizing in their bizarreness, and may be some unintentional realism you don't see in most movies, in the sense that life often happens at a slow pace. I seem to remember that Hitchcock once said something about how melodrama is life with the boring parts taken which definition Manos may not be melodrama, but it is a distinct work, and how many things can you say that about?

Some performances deserve credit. Tom Neyman plays the "Master", and is quite genuinely intimidating with his glaring eyes and his scowl. He is a cult leader who has a whole bevy of wives who go into some kind of trance or standing coma during the day time. One of the things that is most made fun of in the film is how strange the speech of the wives is, as when one is discussing the fate of some intruders into their secret hideaway and first wants to spare the woman, then in the next sentence declares that they all must die. But I rather think that, while it may be due more to ineptness than design in the writing, it actually reflects the off-kilter mental state of thralls of a cult, so is actually more convincing than if everything they said was consistent.

Probably by now the films most famous element is the unforgettable character Torgo, portrayed by John Reynolds in a reported drug induced stupor. His uneven way of phrasing such lines as "The master would not approve" have become iconic. Reynolds sadly died shortly after the shoot, so it is nice he has achieved some immortality as a subject of - if I can juxtapose these words - fond derision.

No comments:

Post a Comment