"Manos" The Hands of Fate (1966) (part 3 of 7)

Inside the Unabomber Shack, mother and daughter are sitting on the sofa and molesting the poodle. We get a shot of the fireplace, and on the mantle are some mahogany sculptures of hands and an African-looking bust. For no reason, we hold on the fireplace for three seconds of dead silence until that same “ominous” piano chord thunders on the soundtrack. (I guess this is supposed to be the most… terrifying… fireplace… ever.) However, when we cut back to mother and daughter, they’re both still playing with the poodle. So, was Mom looking at the fireplace? If not, why did they insert a shot of it just then? And why am I giving this more thought than anyone involved with the movie?

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Mike comes in and pats his daughter on the head. Then he takes his wife by the hand and walks her over to the other side of the room. He says, “Look at this!” and we cut to a painting of a guy who resembles Freddie Mercury circa the “Another One Bites the Dust” video. Of course, we’ll never actually see this painting in the same shot as any of the characters, giving me a crazy hunch that it was painted long, long after the scenes with the actors were filmed. The couple just stands there staring at the portrait until Torgo hobbles in carrying their bags, once again accompanied by “The Love Theme from Torgo”. The wife says, “Mike, I’m—” and never completes the thought. They watch in complete silence as Torgo walks into a back room and shuts the door.

"Manos" The Hands of Fate  (1966) (part 3 of 7)

“Get your own damn luggage! My gout is killing me!”

Then we get a random shot of little Debbie, looking quite happy as she plays with her poodle. Gee, I sure wish I had a poodle to play with right now. That would be about a million times more entertaining than this movie. We then get another shot of Mike and his wife still blankly staring at the painting. Upon closer inspection, it appears the Frank Zappa-looking guy in the portrait is wearing a black robe with big red hands clumsily painted on it. Meanwhile, an evil looking Doberman sits on his left. After a couple more cuts back and forth from the couple to the painting, Mike finally guesses it’s a portrait of the Master. You know, the one who “wouldn’t approve”? The wife says she’s scared because he’s got “the meanest look” and that she’s not so crazy about the dog, either. Mike says, “I’d hate to run up on him in the dark, or even in the light for that matter!” Given how well the rest of this movie will be lit, I doubt Mike will have to worry much about the latter.

"Manos" The Hands of Fate  (1966) (part 3 of 7)

If you like this painting, I’m sure you can find the remainder of this artist’s work hanging on the walls of your finer Howard Johnson motels and Shoney’s restaurants.

We silently hold on the painting for a few more seconds, until we cut back to the two of them still [!!] staring at it. Boy, does this kill a lot of time (and audience brain cells). In a very strange segment, even for a movie of this caliber, Torgo slowly creeps up behind the couple, and as he does this, the music builds up to a crescendo where Torgo… gently taps Mike on the shoulder with his staff. The horror! Mike and his wife jump like they’ve both been hit by lighting (which, truth be told, is something I wouldn’t mind seeing). Finally, they breathe a sigh of relief and smile at each other, and Torgo goes wandering off, without so much as one word passing between the three of them. Please, please, somebody tell me what the hell that was all about.

We get yet another random shot of the daughter playing with the dog, and she looks like she’s having a great time. (I’m glad someone is.) Meanwhile, Mike and his wife interrogate Torgo about the portrait of the Master, asking where the guy is.

Torgo: He has left this world. But he is with us always. No matter where he goes, he is with us.

And no matter where you go, there you are. Around here is where they finally give the wife a name: Maggie. Maggie nudges closer to her husband as we get another [!!!] shot of the painting. Christ, I’ve seen it!! Maggie puzzles over Torgo’s statement (join the club) and again mentions how vicious the dog looks in the portrait. Mike says, “Boy, I hope he goes where the Master goes!” What’s the hang-up these two have about the dog, anyway? I mean, did Dobermans beat them up and steal their lunch money when they were kids? We then get a prime example of the Torgo style of speaking, wherein every idea and/or notion is repeated at least twice:

Torgo: There is nothing to fear, Madam. The Master likes you. Nothing will happen to you. He likes you.
Maggie: Likes me? I thought you said he was dead!
Torgo: Dead? No, Madam, not dead the way you know it. He is with us always. Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always.

I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Do you know what I mean? I think I sense a pattern here. Do you know what I mean? (While we’re on the subject of dialogue, the person who dubbed all of Torgo’s lines sounds like he seriously needs to take a hit off his inhaler. Or, at the very least, go down the road and get some Robitussin from Make Out Guy.) Maggie flips out, but Mike assures her it’s “only your imagination!” No, Mike, it’s not her imagination. The guy is a goddamn freak.

Then, still for no particular reason, we again cut to Debbie playing with the dog. This time she’s got it up on its hind legs as she feeds it a Scooby Snack. Then, incredibly, we see Maggie and Torgo making what I can only describe as goo-goo eyes at each other. After this, we get just what everyone was pining for, another useless shot of Debbie playing with the dog.

Torgo offers to take them into the bedroom, walking like Young Forrest Gump as he shuffles towards the rear door. Suddenly, the couple hears something howling, so Maggie practically jumps into Mike’s arms. Mike tells her it’s just “some animal in the woods”. Either that, or the next-door neighbors are playing their Yoko Ono LPs really loud. There’s yet another shot of Debbie, and this time she’s asleep on the couch. The poodle, however, perks up when he hears the howling. Maggie makes Mike go out and see what’s making that noise, and as he heads out, he passes the couch and we see Debbie is now wide awake. (Continuity? What’s that?)

Mike pokes his head out the door and sees nothing, but unbeknownst to him, the poodle has quietly slipped past him. I don’t know if this was planned, or if the dog just got fed up with the script and stormed off the set. We hear more piercing animal howls, followed by a sudden yelping. Just then, we get this movie’s scariest moment as a huge moth flies directly into the camera.

Maggie comes out to see what’s happening, but Mike pushes her and yells, “Stay here! Get back in the house!” So which is it, jackass? We never find out, because we immediately cut to Mike running to his car. He opens up the glove compartment to retrieve a flashlight and a gun, and then he takes off. Abruptly, we cut to a tight close-up of Mike looking horrified. As it turns out, he’s staring at a black furry lump on the ground which I’m guessing is supposed to be a dead poodle. Hilariously, Hal Warren actually tries to emote here, but the expression on his face instead conjures up memories of constipation sufferers in laxative commercials.

Maggie comes out and is horrified. She asks Mike what happened. “He’s dead!” Mike says. “Peppy’s been killed!” (But playing with him has still gotta be about a million times more entertaining than this movie.) Mike then starts to usher her back up to the door, but in the next shot, she’s suddenly facing in the opposite direction. “What kind of place is this?” she sobs. “My God, what kind of place is this?” I’m not sure, but it’s definitely not an acting school. Mike taps her affectionately with his gun and tells her he’ll take care of everything, and we next see him picking up Peppy’s carcass and dumping it out in the brush.

"Manos" The Hands of Fate  (1966) (part 3 of 7)

Hey Mike, come back and get the script when you’re done with that.

I’m guessing that tossing the poodle’s corpse ten feet away constituted “taking care of everything”, because in the next shot, Mike’s back in the house, and he and Maggie are hovering over a still sleeping Debbie. The child gets her cue to wake up, and does so like a cartoon character, vigorously rubbing her eyes with her fists. Maggie sits down next to her and, appearing to forget that the girl is about two inches away, wonders aloud about what could have killed Peppy. After another much-needed random shot of Debbie, Mike pulls Maggie up from the couch, assuring her it was just “some animal from the desert!” Then there’s another pointless shot of Debbie. Wow, we haven’t gotten one of those in a whole ten seconds. Of course, when we cut back to Maggie a split-second later, she’s sitting on the couch again. (Continuity? Huh?) Maggie explains the poodle’s absence to her daughter by telling her that Peppy “went away”. Debbie, apparently realizing she wasn’t so lucky, lays her head down in her mom’s lap and cries.

Mike finally agrees that they should leave, so he yells for Torgo. The rear door slowly opens and Torgo shimmies out. Comically, Mike just silently stands there for fifteen seconds, seeming to actually wait for Torgo to get all settled and comfortable against the door frame before speaking. Mike tells him that they’re leaving and that he wants Torgo to put their luggage back in the car.

Suddenly, we cut to Mike sitting in the car, turning the ignition. It turns out the car won’t start. What are the odds, huh? Of course, this effect is accomplished through a poorly-recorded sound effect of a car refusing to turn over. Amusingly, they don’t even bother to fade the sound out; It just shuts off when somebody hits the “stop” button on the tape deck. In response, Mike gets that constipated look again.

Multi-Part Article: "Manos" The Hands of Fate (1966)

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