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"Manos: The Hands of Fate" (1966) Is Destined to Fail

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.

"Manos: The Hands of Fate" is shocking and beyond your imagination, though not in the way the filmmakers intended.

"Manos: The Hands of Fate" is shocking and beyond your imagination, though not in the way the filmmakers intended.

"The hands of fate have doomed this man!"

— "Manos: Hands of Fate," 1966

While on a road trip with their young daughter, married couple Michael (Harold P. Warren) and Margaret (Diane Mahree) encounter a sinister cult in the desert. At least, the cult would be sinister—if it wasn't so stupid. Let’s put it this way: when a character proclaimed that "This foolishness must stop," I wholeheartedly agreed. (Sadly, they weren’t referring to the movie.) Then again, if it weren’t for films like Manos, the horror genre would be a lot less entertaining.

Torgo: A Pathetic Henchman

There’s no better way to begin a discussion of Manos than with Torgo (John Reynolds), the world’s weirdest—and most incompetent—henchman. First of all, the poor guy’s legs are so swollen that it looks like he stuffed watermelons in his pants.

To make matters worse, Torgo staggers around like a drunken sailor, taking an agonizingly long time to cross even small distances. (I assume Reynolds is attempting to emulate someone with a disability, but his performance is more hilarious than realistic.) And if Torgo can hardly walk, I imagine his ability to commit evil acts is rather limited. After all, it’s hard to hunt and kill people when they can just power walk away from you.

Dressed to Unimpress

Then there’s Torgo’s attire. Now, I understand that leading a cult isn’t the most lucrative business—at least not if you’re in the middle of the desert—but surely The Master (Tom Neyman) can afford to buy Torgo a uniform, or at least clothing without holes. (I mean, the dude commissioned a portrait of himself. He’s got to have some disposable income lying around.)

Not only does Torgo seem to have been wearing the same outfit for decades, it appears to have been at least that long since he last bathed. The Master should probably have a talk with him about the importance of hygiene. Even cult members shower (I hope).

Torgo Not Much of a Talker

Of course, we can't forget about the staff Torgo carries; there’s a hand on the end to reinforce the theme, which he thoughtfully uses to poke Michael instead of, you know, talking to him.

Though to be fair, words aren’t Torgo’s strong suit. In fact, he’s no more skilled at speaking than he is at walking, taking almost as long to string together a sentence as he does to cross a room. (Seriously, is there anything this guy is good at? I'm starting to feel sorry for him.)

Apparently Torgo's never heard of privacy.

Apparently Torgo's never heard of privacy.

Sister Wives

Like all good cult leaders, The Master has a group of beautiful and obedient wives—who also happen to be wearing (very) sheer nightgowns. If you suspected this was a result of someone’s fetish, you’d be right; the wives’ main contribution to the plot involves wrestling on the ground in said nightgowns, with plenty of closeups to show off their silhouettes (among other things). At least they're acknowledging that people weren't watching this movie for the plot.

Freddie, Is That You?

So, the henchman and the wives are a disappointment, you might be thinking. But what about the boss? Alas, The Master is no more intimidating than his underlings. A pasty and inferior version of Freddie Mercury, he spends most of the movie sleeping? hibernating? before finally making his entrance, yelling at his wives to awaken as if he didn’t just get up from his own nap. (Hypocrite much?)

And if you thought Torgo’s outfit was bad, The Master’s is even worse. (Guess it's a good thing he didn't buy his henchman a uniform, after all.) Clad in a poncho which vaguely resembles a skydiving outfit, The Master is fond of stretching his arms so that the sleeves resemble bat wings while making half-hearted death threats to whoever happens to be pissing him off at the moment. I have to give the guy some credit, though; ridiculous though his poncho might be, it does feature a pair of hands. (Consistency is important.)

Painting of The Master (Tom Neyman) and his dog in "Manos: The Hands of Fate."

Painting of The Master (Tom Neyman) and his dog in "Manos: The Hands of Fate."

Who is Manos, Anyway?

Despite serving as a justification for our Freddie Mercury lookalike to entice women into his desert love nest, we never learn exactly who (or what) Manos really is. His followers make many references to the so-called “prince of darkness,” but it’s unclear whether Manos is a demon, a deity, or something The Master made up (my money’s on the last one).

However, we do know he’s fond of women—though not so fond that he’d allow one to lead his worshippers, of course. Gotta keep the girls in their place. Otherwise, they might get ideas.

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