Friday, January 25, 2013

Manos, in the Hands of Rifftrax

When Mystery Science Theater 3000 unearthed the cinematic blasphemy that is Manos the Hands of Fate 20 years ago next week (January 30), no one realized how society would be changed, infected or just stunned by the existence of this movie. Torgo, a strange creature, would be a folk hero. The term "Master" would take on a new meaning that would never be considered by Doctor Who fans. What's worse, someone would make a short documentary about the making of this, uh, "movie" which turned out to less than accurate, another would restore an old print, and a crew would work on making a sequel, which somehow involves the little girl, Debbie.

What could be next?
How about riffing the movie again?
That's what the Rifftrax trio of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett did last summer in Nashville. It was recently shown again through Fathom Events as part of the Best of Rifftrax Live series. 
This isn't unusual. Rifftrax re-riffed a short about juvenile delinquency, while Cinematic Titanic took on Santa Claus Conquers the Martians again. So, why not take on Manos again?
OK, trick question. After all, it makes subsequent "movies" like Hobgoblins and Werewolf look like Pan's Labyrinth. It's still the only movie Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank regretted.
Still, Mike and the boys went all the way with this production. They even revived the skit from the original MST edition where Torgo delivered pizzas, but this time the Master was there, too. It was part of an effort to publicize the sequel, and a nice touch.

Rifftrax expressed how painful it was to revisit this movie, from the muddy cinematography to the dubbed voices, bad editing, bad acting and just the creepiness of it all. It's a bit darker than how Joel Hodgson took on this movie in 1993. Let's compare:

The family gets pulled over by a highway patrolman...

MST: Sorry, but you're not filming Manos the Hands of Fate in our town
Rifftrax: We're arresting the movie so soon?

They go to the road to the Valley Lodge, while we hear singing

MST:  Honey, please, not while I'm driving. OK. What about the Valley Lodge?
Rifftrax: Dionne Warwicke is drunk again

Of course, there's that couple who parks, makes out and drinks all through the movie, despite the highway patrolman interrupting. The couple's compared to a "typical job interview in Texas" and a white trash version of Edward and Bella (a classic bit, trust me, and another reason why Buffy beats Twilight...FOREVER!)

Torgo makes his move on Margaret, mentioning how the Master wants her as his wife

MST: (as Torgo) Look, lady, I got the moves of a wallaby
Rifftrax: Your husband's a corpse, and he likes you.

The Master's wives fight each other over whether they should kill the little girl

MST: Next on ESPN, Full-Contact Nightgown Wrestling
Rifftrax: It's compared to what happens in a book club when someone admits to not liking 50 Shades of Grey.

The Master confronts Torgo, who takes an hour to stand up

MST: Do something! God!
Rifftrax: Torgo, don't get up

They both see the wives fighting.

MST (Torgo to the Master) When are you going to kill me, boss?
Rifftrax: $10 on Wife #4

Torgo gets his hand burned off before he runs away.

MST: The Jamaican wings are ready, or "Charred Finger"
Rifftrax: ...and that's how a McRib is made

We also get jokes on The View, Thelma and Louise, The Wire, Texas in general (not just Fort Worth), Nick Nolte, Taken and Aerosmith. On top of that, they end the picture before the long closing credits. This is "quitting while you're ahead."

For some reason, they also portray little Debbie rather tipsy after she lays down in the couch at the lodge. It would have made more sense if the wives were drunk.
The best thing, though, is that the Rifftrax crew took on ALL of the movie. The MST version cut out several things, including the Master slapping his first wife severely, even drawing blood. You could also see and hear the movie better, which doesn't help actually.

Seeing Manos on the big screen was quite the experience, helped out by the commentary of the Rifftrax crew. Hopefully this, and the Plan 9 From Outer Space showing on January 31, will be available on DVD soon.

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