DVD Review Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Manos” The Hands Of Fate DVD Review

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  1. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Cinematographer
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    The third time may be the charm for what many MSTies consider to be one of the classic episode of the series, “Manos” The Hands Of Fate. Previously released (twice) by Rhino and long out of print, Shout! Factory has re-issued this fourth season episode in a 2-disc special edition with newly created bonus features along with the original feature in its unMSTed form.




    Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Manos” The Hands Of Fate



    Studio:Shout! Factory
    US DVD Release Date: September 13, 2011
    Original Broadcast Year: 1993
    Rated: Not Rated
    Running Time: 92 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 full screen
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
    Subtitles: None

    In the not too distant future, next Sunday AD.....

    Movie: 3.5 out of 5
    Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) was the brainchild of Joel Hodgson, a former prop comic and frequent guest on Saturday Night Live and Late Night With David Letterman. Basically an extension of the popular hosted movie format made famous by Vampira and Elvira, the original premise was that Joel (and later Mike Nelson), along with his robot companions Crow and Tom Servo, were sent into space, orbiting the planet and forced to watch bad movies by Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu). The show first aired on local Minneapolis-St. Paul UHF station KTMA in a very crude form in 1988, but was picked up by the Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) as one of its first series a year later. The series survived for seven seasons, then moved to Sci-Fi for three additional seasons, finally falling out of first-run orbit in 1999.

    One thing that Mystery Science Theater 3000 was good at was bringing some of the worst movies ever made out of obscurity and into the public spotlight. “Manos” The Hands Of Fate was a film that, in 1993, was mostly forgotten, especially by the cast and crew that made it. Made on a minuscule budget and financed, produced, directed, and starring El Paso, Texas manure salesman Hal Warren, the film opens with an overly long driving sequence, with a family out on a vacation ride, searching for the hotel. When the father, Michael (Hal Warren), takes a wrong turn and refuses to stop for directions, they end up at a run-down lodge and are greeted by servant Torgo (John Reynolds). Torgo is creepy, and speaks and walks funny (and has his own theme music that plays whenever he’s walking), but this doesn’t seem to phase Michael in the least, despite the observances of his wife, Margaret, and daughter. No, they are stating here for the night, despite the fact that Torgo tells him that the master does not approve, Torgo makes advances on Margaret, the master’s self-portrait looks like something straight out of Night Gallery, and their dog is killed by a demonic Doberman. We eventually find out that the master is a polygamist and worships Manos, and wants to take Margaret as his next wife while killing Michael and his daughter. The movie is laughably bad, with no real artistic sense whatsoever, something that terrifies most first-tine independent film makers (this writer included) who pray their film doesn’t end up looking like this.

    In Experiment #424, Joel and the Bots are, thankfully, given the chance to watch and riff on the conclusion to the Jam Handy short, Hired!, a sales training film made for Chevrolet dealerships in 1940. This is perhaps one of the funniest shorts ever shown on MST3K, and when Grandpa puts the handkerchief on his head, I almost always find myself laughing until it hurts. But the riffs in Manos are just as funny, such as when the wives are cat-fighting, Tom Servo quips “I’m guessing this is the whole reason this movie was made,” while Joel responds “You know, this is the alternate ending to Beaches.” Tom Servo even manages to sneak in a Sandy Frank reference at one point. And their riffs during the opening driving sequence is classic:


    Joel: So, it’s Manos

    Crow: The Hands of Fate?

    Joel: Yes.


    The host segments are equally inspired. Joel regrettably programs Tom and Crow to agree with everything he says. The Mads demonstrate their chocolate bunny guillotine while Joel shows off his Cartuner during the invention exchange. Joel and the Bots discuss why Torgo is a monster. Joel pretends to be the Master dressed in a cape adorned with feet instead of hands. Finally, Frank orders pizza from Torgo’s, and Torgo himself (Mike Nelson) delivers.

    Video: 3.5 out of 5
    As I’ve stated in my previous reviews of these sets, judging the video quality of an episode of MST3K is difficult. The movies are usually in fairly bad shape, with sub-par transfers that the series’ producers had to contend with. The only fair thing to do is to judge the host segments, and this re-issue is a slight improvement over the prior Rhino release, with increased detail and well-defined colors.

    Audio: 3 out of 5
    As with the video, the audio quality is best judged by the host segments and the actual riffing during the movie. Dialogue is intelligible and overall the track has good fidelity. This is a slight improvement over the prior Rhino release, which sounded a tad muddier.

    Special Features: 4 out of 5
    The previous Rhino releases only included the Poopie Reel, 30 minutes of bloopers from various episodes of the series. Sadly, that feature is missing here. What we do get in this new 2-disc Special Edition from Shout! Factory is very good, with a few exceptions.

    Disc One:
    Group Therapy (18:04): Frank Conniff, Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, and Mary Jo Pehl discuss the episode, how the film was chosen, why they think it has become one of the classic episodes, how they wrote the episode, and the legacy of the episode at various conventions. This is a nice piece, but I wish the audio had been mixed down into mono. Instead, Frank and Trace are dominant in the left channel, while Joel and Mary Jo are in the right channel. Also, whoever is taping the interviews that have appeared on the last few MST3K releases is choosing rather noisy environments. This interview looks and sounds like it was recorded on a patio adjacent to a cafeteria.

    Mystery Science Theater Hour Wraps (5:11): Mystery Science Theater Hour was a short-lived hour-long version of the series for syndication (splitting each original episode in half), with Mike Nelson, in his Jack Perkins character, bracketing each episode.

    Disc Two:
    “Manos” The Hands Of Fate (1:08:40): The (mostly) full-length feature in its original form, taken from what is obviously an analog tape transfer, many generations removed from the original master. Missing from this cut is the lengthy opening driving sequence, but a few tidbits here and there appear that were cut from the MST3K version. The print and transfer is nearly unwatchable, worse than what Best Brains had to work with when they created the episode, with an overly dark image.

    Hotel Torgo (27:19): This is a very interesting documentary on the making of Manos as told by Richard Brandt (credited as a Manos historian) and Bernie Rosenblum, the last remaining member of the cast and crew known to be alive. Rosenblum does most of the talking, and has lots of stories to tell about what happened on the set and the local reaction to the film upon release. He also visits the location where most of the film was shot, and takes in a screening of the film at the University of El Paso, chatting with fans after the show.

    Jam Handy To The Rescue (23:21): There were four companies that churned out hundreds (if not thousands) of industrial and educational films in the 1940s thru 1960s: Coronet Films, Centron, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Jam Handy Organization. What set the Jam Handy Organization apart from the likes of Centron, Coronet, and Encyclopedia Britannica was that they were the main producer of training films for General Motors and its various divisions and subsidiaries, including Fridgidaire, Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, etc. One of the more famous training films Jam Handy produced was Hired!. Larry Blamire and Ballyhoo Productions have produced some wonderful documentaries that have appeared on previous MST3K DVD releases, including featurettes on Coleman Francis and the making of the film Robot Monster. It is rather sad to report that Jam Handy To The Rescue is a major disappointment, spending way too much time trying to be funny (and failing) than provide us with facts and tidbits about this once prosperous film production company. Much of the film features a kinescope interview with Jam Handy himself, but the interview is intercut with Blamire playing the dim-witted interviewer, and the result is just short of a train wreck.

    Bloopers from Jam Handy To The Rescue (2:11): This blooper reel is almost as funny as the film itself, with Blamire and Tommy (Avery Murphy) blowing their lines.

    Archival “Look Over” TV Spot (0:22): A faux promo for the interview featured in Jam Handy To The Rescue.

    My (Educational) Short Life: An Interview With Joel Hodgson (8:54): Hodgson sits down and discusses not only some of the Jam Handy shorts that appeared on MST3K, but how the shorts ended up as filler for many of the episodes due in part to a deal Rick Prelinger and Prelinger Archives had with Comedy Central.

    Hired! (Parts 1 & 2 Together Again) (18:28): When Hired! was first shown on MST3K, it was divided into two parts and shown over two episodes. Now, you can watch this classic short in its entirety. I just wish they had included the original short.

    Overall: 3.5 out of 5
    Long-time fans of the series likely already own the previous Rhino release of this episode, and the slightly improved video and audio are not necessarily worth trading up to this new release, but the new bonus features may be worth the triple-dip. Hopefully, the missing Poopie Reel will find a new home on a future MST3K release.
     
  2. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Cinematographer
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    Here is Shout! Factory's trailer for this DVD release:
     
  3. matson45

    matson45 Auditioning

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    Story Science Building 3000 (MST3K) was the production of Prophet Hodgson, a other hold comical and haunt temporary on Sat Period Untaped and New Period With Painter Letterman. Basically an phone of the touristed hosted film change prefab famous by Vampira and Elvira, the example premiss was that Joel (and after Mike Nelson), along with his golem companions Crow and Tom Servo, were conveyed into character, orbiting the planet and unnatural to follow bad movies by Dr. Clayton Forrester (Indication Beaulieu). The simulation honours ventilated on localised Minneapolis-St. Saint UHF displace KTMA in a very stark change in 1988, but was picked up by the Comedy Channelise (now Comedy Center to Sci-Fi for digit further seasons, finally descending out of first-run orbit in 1999. Mitsubishi Power Steering Gear Box
     
  4. matson45

    matson45 Auditioning

    Joined:
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    Story Science Building 3000 (MST3K) was the production of Prophet Hodgson, a other hold comical and haunt temporary on Sat Period Untaped and New Period With Painter Letterman. Basically an phone of the touristed hosted film change prefab famous by Vampira and Elvira, the example premiss was that Joel (and after Mike Nelson), along with his golem companions Crow and Tom Servo, were conveyed into character, orbiting the planet and unnatural to follow bad movies by Dr. Clayton Forrester (Indication Beaulieu). The simulation honours ventilated on localised Minneapolis-St. Saint UHF displace KTMA in a very stark change in 1988, but was picked up by the Comedy Channelise (now Comedy Center to Sci-Fi for digit further seasons, finally descending out of first-run orbit in 1999. Mitsubishi Power Steering Gear Box
     

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