424. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

MST3K touches us as few programs can. Hilarity, irreverence, comaraderie, pain. Certain shows accomplish specific things. Cave Dwellers (1984) and Pod People (1983) were all-arounds. Good at everything, not too terrible, and great for beginners. Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966), Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964). They were romps with a specific theme in this case the monsters or title character. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) stood as the torture test and holy grail of enduring the unfathomable and pioneering that as entertainment.

Sure Fu Manchu (1969) preceded it. Though while many here can’t remember Fu, none of us forget Manos once we’ve seen it. Eegah (1962), The Creeping Terror (1964), Red Zone Cuba (1966). More torture tests were to follow and a few came before. Where Manos reigns is in the catharsis of the terrible heightening the recipe of the proceedings into a whole new understanding altogether. Fu Manchu and Monster a Go-Go (1965) as awful as they were never made you love them like Manos. THAT is its hold. It pulls you in and keeps you.

This is MY episode. The messiness of its triumph may not be as tidy as Cave or Pod but it has lasted my whole life. While the topic of a number of threads recently, Manos is arguably the most transformative episode. The one that always pops up and never stays dead. There’s a reason for this. It broke the mold and raised the ante on what passed as possible in riffing. Its influence and stamp stayed with us ever since. Masterpiece or one-off?


Motor Tour of Southwestern States Skit.


Torgo Is A Monster Sketch.


Along with the episode, probably my favorite. The Invention Exchange.


Masterpiece! Through and through!

And “the dog is sharp again, Mommy!” So it’s got that going for it!


[thinks on that]

I’d say that it’s a very good episode, perhaps the most important episode in the show’s run, but MST3K somehow managed to pull off even better installments.

I was super-excited to get the Rhino VHS after hearing about how godawful the movie was in Mary Jo Pehl’s summary in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. And it did not disappoint!

Satellite News has a great intro about it in their episode guide write-up that goes along with what you said:

“Whatever else they study, every Civil War buff has an opinion about Gettysburg. Whatever else they grow, every gardener has an opinion about tomatoes. No matter which team they root for, every baseball fan has an opinion about the Yankees. And every MSTie has an opinion about Manos: The Hands of Fate. So much has been written about this awful, awful movie, and this justly famous episode…”


Also, that Hired: Part Two short is EVERYTHING.



And the REAL fun comes with trying to zero in on the best riff.

A possible contender? “You know, every frame of this movie looks like someone’s last known photograph.”


I respect that. I’d contend in what Manos (1966) did very few episodes approach it. The comic plight of the unkthinkable and making light of it compellingly. This IS what wows me about the episode. The overcoming of the impossible. Sure Cave Dwellers (1984) and Pod People (1983) were further varied and tighter in reacting to the experiments and keeping some distance from the movie. Manos insisted on an altogether different formula of executing MST3K and while it is sloppier than sleeker shows it also has more heart and investment into their experience than almost any other episode in the history of the show. It truly depends on what you prize most in the format what you are most drawn to.


This may be a Quarter Pounder vs Big Mac argument. Either is a heck of a sandwich and in a club all by itself.


[nods in thought]

And I respect that. There really is something into how we got a fantastic episode from staring into the abyss, and not having the abyss stare back but provide some great comic fodder. It’s STAGGERING

It has a real feel to it, yeah. You get this sense of the episode being lived in, for lack of a better descriptor, with this one being on a different wavelength from the others.

I’m really glad that you dig it as you do!


To me, this is the MST3K GOAT riff.

It just works on so many levels.




I feel as strongly about it as I do “It’s Gloria Estefan and the Catalina Deus Ex Sound Machina!” from Catalina Caper.

Also, “Solipsism is its own reward” from Gamera Vs. Barugon.


Two reactions I’d toss in the fray as all-time MST responses. "So what are we about a half hour into this movie? “No I’m afraid not it’s more like a minute.” “No…” “Yeah…” “Huh…” and “IT’S STARTING OVER!!!” “NO! NO! NO!” “THIS REALLY BITES!!!”


We also gotta show some love for “Yeah, here I go, VROOM.”


Also, I showed this episode to my best friend at the time in the hopes of converting him to MSTiedom.

And it worked! But heh, YIKES, I would never try to use this one as an introductory episode again. You have to build your way up to Manos.


No matter how many times I watch Manos, hearing Joel just shout “DO SOMETHING! GAH!” still startles me a little.


The name-dropping of the movie proves significant too. No other experiment has the host and bots named as often as Manos (1966). Joel said it was what they devised to fill the gaps of nothing occurring onscreen. The effect raises the status of the movie and is distinctive compared to any other film they did.


this episode is an experience unlike any other episode in the show. The movie just made me feel weird. Like it could end up being a snuff film even though I know logically it wouldn’t be. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of dread and the feeling of ‘I shouldn’t be seeing this’. It will always be a classic for that reason but it doesn’t hit my top 25.

couple reasons:

I’m not a big fan of the short. It has it’s moments but overall not a strong one for my tastes. I usually skip it when I rewatch the episode

Not a top tier riff. The laughs run out of steam once the women start wrestling and then after Torgo dies it comes to a complete halt for me.

frequent viewings of it robs the movie of it’s natural power to make me feel uncomfortable.


A device reused with great effect in Rifftrax’s Birdemic: Shock & Terror – if I recall correctly.