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?
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…”
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.
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!!!”
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.
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.