Manos is not a bad film...

Hal Warren really needed an editor for this film.


Yeah, I agree with you there. The Beast of Yucca Flats is film-adjacent. Attack of the The Eye Creatures just didn’t care.

Manos is a classic because it does have a plot that’s…discernible, fascinating characters, an actually compelling soundtrack that underscores the weirdness, and just enough filmmaking skill.

It’s an off-kilter movie. As MSTies, we’ve seen so much worse.


I think you can tell when someone is earnestly trying to tell a story or make a statement. I hold Ed Wood is fairly high regard (at least in his earlier years) because you can tell he was trying to do something, and he had some knowledge of what he was doing, but inexperience overshadowed his grander vision.

Anyone who has made an amateur movie with their friends will definitely recognize themselves in the mistakes we see in a lot of these B-movies, and I think that’s what draws many of us to them. Many riffs in MST3K’s history are based on a knowledge of film making. I’m thinking right now of the too long shot of a car wheel and the riff “was the hubcap dating the second unit director?” A normal everyday person writing that same joke would have said “director” or maybe “producer,” but never “second unit director.” A riff like that demonstrates a camaraderie with those ostensibly being roasted.

Along that area of thought, I’ve often felt the dividing line between the Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax crews was precisely this. (Just to be clear before I continue: I am not making a value judgement or attempting a rehash of the deadly Joel vs Mike Fandom Wars of the mid-90s; both camps are perfectly valid avenues of riffing). To me, Cinematic Titanic are the lovers of film, and champions of the DIY attitudes that gave us some of the most riffable targets. And RiffTrax seems more to hold films in disdain, a “you really could and should have done better” attitude. And so for me, I think CT was perfectly suited for old B-movies, and RT best with the big budget films. (Shorts, incidentally, equally at home with either group).

That’s not to say there aren’t film lovers in RiffTrax or that the Cinematics didn’t hate some of their subjects. It’s not a stark line I’m drawing here, but I feel I can reasonably argue which way the needle points in either direction. I feel, for example, on the one side Frank loves most movies despite their faults, and on the other side Kevin WOULD love most movies if only they were better than they are.

If my hypothesis holds water, I suppose a good exercise would be to compare the three riffs of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (maybe running a sentiment analysis over the jokes). We might see that CT is more playful ribbing, RT more judgemental, and MST somewhere in the middle.

So if anyone is working on a final project for their Linguistics degree, you can run with that. (I got mine a million years ago and won’t be needing this fab idea). I only ask that you share the results with us.


Birdemic is the greatest movie ever made and you can’t convince me otherwise.


And yet CT has a grimmer setting than MST3K does. Our heroes are trapped underground instead of being in space. They never see their real “mads,” but instead deal with some corporate middleman who doesn’t even have the decency to stay a few parsecs away when he’s doing his bait-and-switch act. :smiley:


As a lover of art and a booster of cinema, I find value judgments like “good” and “bad” to be rather unhelpful and the sign of a dilettante or a critic.

That said, Manos is a bad movie. :laughing: It’s hard on the ears. It’s hard on the eyes. It’s hard on the brain. It’s hard on the butt. It’s exploitation that even fails to exploit.

To the extent that the word “bad” has meaning for a work of art, we can apply it here. This is also true of Ed Wood, whom I love. Could you say to an average joe, if they asked you about Manos (or Plan 9, for that matter) that “This is not a bad movie,” and they went off and watched it, do you think they would look to you for further movie advice?

We’re in a kind of rarified space here in that we know how bad “bad” can get. We know there’s a scale below which normal human experience is barely cognizant. And while we might debate where the bottom of that scale is, we all know, when we’re down there, that Ed Wood’s charming quirks seem positively witty and delightful.

If you’re standing on a Feeders or a Things and look up, you might indeed see Manos. Where any movie might end up on this scale is of course entirely subjective, as we see in Worst movie you saw in the theater.

And all that said, to call Manos a “decent” movie, simply because you’re aware of the depths to which film can sink, calls into question what “decent” means. Many shots are out of focus, almost all are badly framed, the meagre plot is confusing, the sound is punishing both in terms of what it does to the actor’s voices and its mangling of the soundtrack (which, in fairness, may be an artifact of film deterioration), and the editing feels like it’s driven more by the need to pad the film than anything.

But if you simply mean “there is much, much worse”, that would be hard to disagree with.


I think it’s objectively a bad film. I think there could have been a good movie made from its underlying premise, but it’s so technically inept and poorly executed in virtually every way that it just becomes an example of “it’s not what it’s about, it’s how it’s about it”.

All that being true, it’s not without its charm, but much of that charm relies on you knowing more about how it was made and why it was made more than the film itself having intrinsic charm.


The whole film was shot MOS because the camera Hal Warren got to film the picture wasn’t capable of recording sound and they didn’t pick it up any other way, knowing all along it would be done in post.


Manos to me always felt like the closest thing we’ll ever get to the video tape in the Ring, or the subject of some esoteric creepy pasta. The Lament Configuration made into a lost movie.
You watch it and wonder if you’ll forever more be haunted by demons or followed by s spectral dog that no one else can see for the rest of your life.
It’s not as much a” bad movie” as it is insidious.


Matt basically just said the same thing in the after Manos live chat (I’m watching hours later)


Very much a case of writing a cheque your body can’t cash. It would be like me trying to build a house.


I agree with others that Manos is a bad movie, but the one thing it definitely succeeds at, whether intentional or not, is creepiness. There’s a real sense of dread that pervades the film. I don’t know if that is because Hal Warren did it on purpose or failed into it, but it’s there.


The precipice of danger around every vacant shot is ACUTE. You fear the movie may actual!y hurt you. Specially the first time you see it.


This is exactly how I described Winterbeast when I reviewed the RiffTrax.


You have a form Stockholm syndrome.
Let’s call it Manosholm syndrome.


I tend to agree with Cleggster here. Considering some of the things that Jackey Neyman-Jones brought up last night, it is actually amazing that “Manos” is as good as it is. The biggest thing that struck me was that the camera only held enough film for 32 SECONDS of shooting. It is amazing that it has any coherence at all. Also agree that it does actually have a dramatic narrative arc.

Family goes on vacation. Lands at horrifying AirBNB. Discovers devil cult. Gets subsumed into the cult. Actually a pretty standard horror movie arc. Unfortunately they didn’t know how to the tell the stories of each part, except maybe the horrible BNB. Each part is just telegraphed.

Finally throw in no budget, silent film stock, no knowledge or equipment for lighting, etc. It is really a kind of miracle that there is anything to show on the screen at all. And another miracle that it has any kind of coherent storyline, which it does.

Someone said “Manos” needs an editor, which is technically true as another thing Jackey said was that pretty every scrap of film shot had to be used in the final cut to come anywhere near feature film length.

I have often commented to my SO that part of the brilliance of the MST3K/Rifftrax gang is that just when you thought you had scraped the bottom of the cinematic barrell, they find a film that makes “Manos” look like “Citizen Kane.”


I stand firm in my belief that nothing will ever make this film look like Citizen Kane. Every time I’m tempted to cut it some slack, I just think about the women dirt-wrestling in crinoline and red Sumo belts for half an hour, plus the half-hour-long scene in which Manny repeatedly slaps one of them (later restored by RT). Nah. I’d still trip Hal Warren face-first into a mud puddle if I only could.

Someone should really have given him the “Must disguise your hate just a little” speech from The Final Sacrifice before the script was finalized. :confused:


Of course “Citizen Kane” is just a phrase here, but I do agree with your original premise. For example, the Coleman Francis trio of films strike as MUCH worse than “Manos” because of the waste of some rudimentary movie making skills (for the most part they are lit and framed correctly, etc.)

Same way with “Birdemic.” If Hal Warren had the resources that put to “Birdemic,” “Manos” almost be watchable.


Indeed there is a coherent horror/cult plot that can be pieced together through close or multiple viewings. But most audience never got there because of frustration or confusion over the film’s ultra slow pacing and meandering (i.e. being a bad film). It was a gift that MST3K gave more people reason to watch the film all the way through and discover these hidden … pennies(?) (“hidden gems” seems too strong a phrase).

After multiple viewings, sure, some of us have developed something like “a mother’s love” for the film, finding some of the bad charming. I now view its flaws from sort of a filmmaker’s or editor’s viewpoint (though I am neither). I think it was JNS who said a college filmmaking class actually used the film for examples of what not to do. But I think a lot of the “bad”, for me, was the director including so many multiple takes and lengthy scenery or facial reaction shots in the final film, reportedly only for the purpose to achieve a feature-length runtime.


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even the godawful and chronically depressed Francis gave us a shot of a plane or some mediocre rock 'n roll now and then. To uh… if not exactly liven things up at least to create the illusion of variety. :dizzy_face: