As I began to wrap up my Halloween “ridiculist,” I realized that there was one “monstrous failure” that I’d overlooked completely. I’ve been blogging about crappy movies and other geek obsessions for nearly seven years, yet I’ve never brought up one of the most infamous.
Throughout this series I’ve attempted to avoid the ground covered by the late, lamented movie-riffing anthology Mystery Science Theater 3000, partly because it would be too easy to fill a month of cinematic turkeys with MST3K fodder, and partly because approximately 300 skidillion words about the travails of Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot already clog the pipes of the Internet. (A few “Mistie” monsters–Megalon, Zigra, The Creeping Terror and The Giant Spider Invasion–have crept in because, really, who could stop them?)
Which is my way of saying that I’m going to break my self-imposed rule and write about Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Manos is widely regarded as the Platonic ideal of MST3K, but what makes it such amazing material for Joel and the Bots is its stultifying pace. A number of movies have been put forward as the worst ever, but Manos campaigns hard for the title. Its rambling speeches, endless driving scenes and disconnected cutaways to a couple making out in a parked car make for excruciating viewing, but the lack of anything happening on screen only elevates the game of the Satellite of Love crew.
Yet, the real star player is the limping housekeeper known as…
Torgo, who, like Cher, needs only one name, “take(s) care of the house while the Master is away.” That’s what he tells the lost family who show up on the doorstep of his desert home. The ominous furnishings inside include a number of hand-shaped knickknacks and a creepy painting of the aforementioned Master.
There’s really not much to tell. The Master is some manner of devil worshipper with a bunch of “wives” who lounge around the nearby altar dressed in negligees and granny panties. Always eager to add to his harem, he sets his sights on Margaret and her young daughter Debbie (ick). Torgo has his eye on Margaret as well. The Master does not approve. Hilarity and death ensue.
The film’s lore has it that Torgo’s strange gait and outsized knees are due to his being a satyr. If so, the film never bothers to mention it. According to the legend, the young actor who portrayed Torgo incorrectly wore the handmade braces that were intended to make him satyr-like, leaving him with chronic pain that persisted until his self-inflicted death by shotgun only a few months later. Best not to dwell on that.
As this year’s Halloween countdown comes to a close, let’s play ourselves out with Torgo’s theme music…