Where does one begin when speaking about one of the worst movies ever made? Well, when you’re the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew, you riff the ever living hell out of it, therefore making it one of the greatest episodes of the series decade long run. And with Shout! Factory putting out all of the MST3K episodes in box sets, tins and even bare bones releases, “Manos” The Hands of Fate gets something new. A 2 disc treatment, with loads of extras and something more surprising than any other supplement: the original film itself!
This is the third time this particular episode has been released on DVD, and as the old saying goes, the third time truly is the charm. This is a Joel episode, just in case you didn’t realize, Experiment # 424 to be precise. He and the bots are given a short video to watch first, the conclusion to Hired!, one of the Jim Handy shorts that is probably my favorite of all time (and many other fans would agree). There’s just something funny about the training films when they are riffed upon, and this is no exception.
The feature presentation is of course the classic ‘so bad, it’s amazing’ film. “Manos” The Hands of Fate is a doozy in horribleness, and the Satellite of Love gang do not disappoint. Considering this aired back in 1993, at the time this film was completely forgotten and was a film that not even the people who made it remembered as well. The film was made on a micro budget by a manure salesman named Hal Warren (who also stars as the father Michael) and it shows, but that’s where the hilarity stems from. A family is on a long ride and get lost and when the father refuses to ask for directions, they end up at a lodge and meet Torgo, who is just creepy as hell and has his own theme music that you will never be able to get out of your head. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Michael doesn’t notice this insanity and his wife Margaret and daughter try to convince him that they should leave. Torgo makes sure to tell them the master does not approve of them being here, let alone staying the night which Michael insists on doing. Torgo seems to has set his eyes on Margaret, the family dog is killed by a demonic doberman and we see the master’s portrait (which seems to be where a lot of the budget went). When we finally are introduced to the master, we find out he’s a polygamist who worships Manos and wants to take Margaret as his next bride which means he needs to get rid of Michael and their daughter. There seems to be plenty of plot, but we aren’t watching for the plot. We are just here for Joel and the bots to rip this one apart, which consist of many jokes about the poor acting, Torgo’s theme music and his specific walk and the title just repeating itself.
Shout! Factory not only releases this as a stand alone release, they give it a 2 disc edition. I was worried originally when I heard this was getting a sole edition, thinking it might just be like the many other out of print episodes they’ve been releasing by themselves, but they didn’t do that this time. Instead we get a plethora of extras, each one an integral part to a fantastic movie, in this case one of the worst films of all time. On Disc 1 we have Group Therapy is an 18 minute interview session with Frank Conniff, Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, and Mary Jo Pehl discussing the episode and how they chose this film for the season finale and how it’s become one of the most popular episodes. We also get the hour wraps for this episode when it was the syndicated version with Mike Nelson in his Jack Perkins character.
Disc 2 is pretty stellar, considering you get the original film without the riff, something that they did on the really old releases when Rhino put it out. It doesn’t have the long driving sequence from the beginning and is in horrific shape, but it’s great to actually see the film the writers had to watch in order to make comedic gold. Hotel Torgo is a close to half hour documentary on the making of the film, with a Manos historian and Bernie Rosenblum, the last cast and crew member known to be alive. Jim Handy to the Rescue is a 23 minute look at Jim Handy’s company that produced industrial videos. It tries a bit too hard to be funny and one wishes they focused more on the documentary side for this topic. We also get a blooper reel and a fake trailer for that segment. My (Educational) Short Life: An Interview With Joel Hodgson is a return to form, a 9 minute interview with Joel about the shorts that were featured on the show. Rounding out this special edition is Hired! (Parts 1 & 2 Together Again), which puts together the complete short that aired over 2 episodes.
I’ve now watched this release form Shout! Factory 5 times since it came out with various people and the laughs are always plentiful. That’s the magic of Mystery Science Theater 3000 essentially, where it’s a proven formula, dating back to the old horror hosts of yesteryear (check out the fantastic documentary American Scary on Netflix Instant if you don’t know what I’m talking about… or watch Elvira still do wonders with her puns galore, who has a few on Hulu too), and will always make you laugh. This is one to show someone who has never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 and if they don’t laugh out loud during the duration, then they’ll never like the show. This is an amazing release and if you’re a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, you already own this or are waiting for Christmas. Get this now!