Manos: The Hands of Fate is a horror film that currently resides at # 3 of IMDb’s Bottom 100 list. If you’ve seen this “hallmark” film, it was almost certainly because of the much-deserved lambasting given to it by Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Every shot of the film is pure amateur hour with continuous continuity errors, out-of-sync sound, and abundant bad acting. When is the last time you watched anything with swarms of moths in the nighttime shots (outside of the occasional YouTube video, that is)? Well, they’re here in all their Mothra-lite glory.
And yet despite the multitude of flaws — or more likely, because of them — one man has taken on the challenge of restoring this paragon of bad cinema for 21st century viewers. By chance, he has stumbled across a rarity among rarities — a workprint of this 1966 film. Fate selected him to restore this classic disaster, but to accomplish this Herculean task, he needs your help.
Who, I’m sure you’re wondering, is this celluloid superhero in our midst?
What you need to know: Ben Solovey, a cameraman, likes to collect 16mm films as a hobby. While clicking around on eBay recently, he stumbled across a collection from Emerson Films, the now-defunct distributor of Manos: The Hands of Fate. The owners were moving and wanted to dump these relics, so our man Ben took them up on their offer.
Little did he know, he had acquired more than just a 16mm print of the film. In fact, he had obtained the incredibly rare workprint.
What’s a workprint, you ask? Simply put, it’s a very early version of a film — a rough assembly edited from the original negative. (For example, the comprehensive Blu-ray edition of Blade Runner contains the workprint with scenes not present in the final deliverable.)
In the case of Manos, it means a refreshed release could include new scenes (perhaps inadvertently showing even more equipment or crew in the background?!), and deliver a much cleaner print than some public domain transfer from a 9th generation VHS dub that’s sat in swamp muck for two years.
Ben is working now to resurrect Manos and protect it from the ravages of time, delivering clarity not seen since its 1966 premiere and preserving the film for future generations.
Here’s how you can help: Even with a pristine workprint, restoring a film as old as Manos is going to take some serious elbow grease. To help cover the costs, a Kickstarter page is now live. Take a look. The images there say it all and describe the work involved.
$10,000 is needed to make this transformation happen. Pledges as low as $1 are accepted, but higher amounts will net you some goodies — even a film credit in the restoration if you act fast.
If this film is so bad, who cares? Why should I help?: Granted, there may be about a few, um, hundred thousand or so causes out there more deserving of your attention. Restoring the electric shadows of Torgo and the Master doesn’t exactly trump ending world hunger and disease. But Ben Solovey’s project does present a unique opportunity in film history.
Film deteriorates over time. And if nothing is done to save Manos, the only surviving elements of it — and indeed any film — will be lost to time.
Think about how many hours and hours of entertainment movies have provided you. Sometimes, they need a little love back.
And besides, wouldn’t it be cool to know that for a few shekels, you could turn to your kids or grandkids in the future, show them this film, and say, “See this? I helped preserve what’s probably the worst movie of all time…just for you.”
Hear that sound? It’s fate calling again!
She’s also an author: Her latest sci-fi romance is Queenie’s Brigade from Red Sage Publishing.