A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 397 – Manos: The Hands of Fate

Manos: The Hands of Fate – April 1st, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk about this movie over the years. We first found out about it through MST3K, which is how I expect a lot of people found out about it. After all, it truly epitomizes the concept of indie filmmaking. Made by a fertilizer salesman on what amounts to a shoestring budget, it’s famous for being thoroughly unwatchable without riffing. The problem is that most people who watch this movie aren’t watching it in the right way. With the proper background, this movie takes on a completely different character.

The trick to this movie is interrogating it from the right perspective. As a horror movie it’s lacking a little something, but as a mythological allegory? It’s truly fascinating. Watching it with the MST3K jokes is all well and good, but it means that a lot of the little things get lost under comments and singing. And much as I love MST3K, that’s really a shame, because it’s given this movie a reputation it doesn’t entirely deserve.

You do need to look closely to see the mythological implications in this movie, but once you look you can’t help but note them. And who wouldn’t think to look into the mythological content here once you know that the character of Torgo is a satyr? Really, I don’t see how anyone could miss it. It’s sort of like The Matrix, though, in that it’s not one single allegorical story. It’s combining many different elements from a number of myths. Which is really pretty masterful, when you think about it.

The story follows a couple and their daughter, lost in the desert and stranded at a remote house where the sinister Master lives with his brides and Torgo, his satyr assistant. The wife, Margaret, is clearly a Persephone figure here, wanted as a bride by the Master, who is the Hades figure. He represents death and fate and is inescapable and invulnerable. And yet he also seems to have elements of Zeus, what with the number of women he’s seduced. One of his wives is clearly Hera, loudly proclaiming her authority over matters when the Master appears to be contemplating taking Margaret for a wife. Just imagine if Hera had been let loose on all of the women Zeus impregnated over the course of Greek mythology. This movie poses that precise situation, set in what is clearly Hades’ realm, a remote realm only reachable by some.

The whole movie incorporates themes from the Persephone myth, which I mentioned, quest tropes like in the Odyssey, a touch of Orpheus. It’s fascinating to pick through the representations to see how they’ve all be recombined to relate to each other in what was at the time a modern setting in the desert outside El Paso. I wish I had more knowledge of the area at the time so I could look into Warren’s possible allegorical connections between his own personal experience and the mythology he was so clearly drawing his inspiration from. I hope that in the future more people will be able to look at this movie with a fresh perspective.

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April 1, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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