Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why I love Manos

My dad and I have a pretty weird relationship.  Honest to God.  I know, I know.  Everyone says their family is weirder than everybody else's and it's true that I've heard some really bizzare family tales but I just need to know that mine is not a regular family type story.  I mean, seriously.  I don't see myself as a drama queen or someone who is insecure enough to inflate things to a degree that the story is unrecognizable to anyone else, so I think I'm fairly on target with my statements.

He feels so fragile in his love.  I know he loves me but there is so much history and pain and separation in it that we don't know how to be.  We just dance along the edges and surfaces.  How is it that a 54 year old woman becomes a child in her heart when she sees her dad?  How is it that our conversation seems so at ease and yet hides such depths of things unsaid.  It's a test.  Don't you see?  For all of us.  The last two times I saw my dad was by chance at Safeway.  Once in produce and once in the meat dept.  We chatted and kept shifting to allow other shopper to work around us.  Today, I saw him a third time as I worked in my home studio on paintings, I looked out and saw him slowly drive by.  I ran out hoping he would go around the block and come back so I could flag him down.  Waiting in the cold without my jacket because I didn't want to miss him.  I saw him on the corner, hesitating, while I went into the road to wave.  That is our relationship.  It's all by chance.  So much love that has no way to be expressed.  No freedom to just spend time together.  I cherish it because it is all I have with my dad.

Manos: The Hands of Fate is our connection now.  It is really the one thing that gives us permission to be together.  Ever.  So when I say I love Manos, believe me, I mean it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Manos Rocks" Part One

Greetings Manos Fans. 
Today, I would like to introduce you to a guest writer, Matias Nicieza.  Matias lives in Spain and has been a Facebook friend for some time and a Manos fan for much longer.  He came up with an idea for me to list the top 15 reasons why "Manos Rocks".  I thought that was a great idea and I posted on The Official Manos: The Hands of Fate Fan Club asking for listing ideas.  In the meantime, he sent me his own list of 13 reasons why Manos Rocks.  It was so good, I thought I would share it, unedited.  He wanted me to let you know that this particular list is devoted only to the film itself and doesn't include the community of wonderful people united by Manos fandom.  That's a whole other list! 
Next post will be the list the fans are working on.  Feel free to chime in.  Why do YOU think Manos Rocks?

  • For an amateur production, it’s actually pretty well made. Believe me, I know my stuff. I’ve watched a good number of amateur movies, and collaborated in quite a few. In that respect, I’d say Manos blows most of them off the water both technically and narratively. It has a well-sustained plot, pretty good continuity (including color and light being consistent from shot to shot –with the exception of the borrowed snake footage, that is- something really unusual in this kind of production) and, contrary to popular opinion, the camerawork is quite good and stays in focus. Just check the restored version. And the sound quality is also pretty good, despite some unfortunate cases of dubbing (hello, Debbie).
  • It’s about a cult. This is, of course, totally subjective, but I’m a sucker for movies about twisted religious cults. Everything from the original The Wicker Man (I refuse to watch the remake, thank you very much) to Beneath the Planet of the Apes. So, I was born to love Manos.
  • The ending. Yes, for a lot of people this is the final nail in the coffin, so your mileage may vary. But for me, the fact that they dared to do something this creepy and downbeat in 1966, with the Studio System and the Hays Code just making its exit, is quite remarkable. If made in Hollywood, the producers would have forced a happy ending on it, thus destroying the achievement.
  • The dreamlike quality of it all. The effect watching Manos produces, is of witnessing a movie made on Mars. Out of this world. It has the feeling of a dream (or should I say nightmare), which makes it captivating despite all its shortcomings, or in fact because of some of them. Dreams don’t have total coherence, and don’t need to.
  • The found footage-like look. MST3K said that every frame of the movie looked like someone’s last known photograph. Which, to me, just adds to the eerieness of it. There’s just something about that look (usually believed to be 8mm) that I find hypnotic. And it makes it work like a neat time capsule.
  • The setting. Particularly the altar/columns area, which is like watching a cross between a Church of Satan ritual and a 1920s silent film extravaganza. Manos does play a lot like a silent, despite having sound and dialog. The stylized acting of Tom Neyman as The Master helps.
  • The music score. It’s a really excellent jazz/easy listening/bossa nova blend. Some parts may seem at odds with the images, but it works for a movie that’s well described by the word “odd”. Even the much-maligned “haunting Torgo theme” was in the style of horror movies of the time. Just check the beginning of Hammer’s The Revenge of Frankenstein, which includes a few notes that seem to be announcing the arrival of our favorite big-kneed henchman. And “Forgetting You” is a terrific love song.
  • The art. Apart from playing the Master, Tom Neyman did provide the art pieces we see through the movie, and the Master’s robe. Which all add to the atmosphere. We can believe this is a real cult, with all that hand symbolism. And the robe is quite a sight. One of my favorite pieces of horror wardrobe, ever.
  • Diane Mahree. It’s not fair to judge her acting since her voice was dubbed, but gosh, did that woman have screen presence. She made the camera fall in love with her. And Torgo, too.
  • The Master. Manos is frequently criticized for its acting. But there are two performances that I genuinely consider to be more than half-decent. Tom Neyman’s is one of them. His previous experience on stage (on more than one kind of stage – more on that later) does show. I don’t know if that was the intention, but his performance does channel both Boris Karloff in The Black Cat and Christopher Lee’s Dracula to me. He had great presence and became an unforgettable villain.
  • Torgo. Who doesn’t love Torgo? Puffy knees aside, he’s a character to pity. He may be part of a demonic cult (probably reluctantly) but all he wants is a little love. Like everyone of us. He may be creepy but he’s also an underdog to root for. And, of course, John Reynolds is that other decent piece of acting I referred to. I do believe that he could have had a career in movies as a reliable character actor. Which makes his sad ending twice as unfortunate. Imagine him working under a professional director with real talent for actors.
  • "Well, whatever it is you're not doing, go don't do it somewhere else." The necking couple scenes are useless and would be better off excised from the movie. Except for the fact that one of them includes this line. Don’t tell me it’s not a great quote.
  • The Master’s speech. “O Manos, thou of primal darkness…” This is my favorite scene in the movie by far, ever since the first time I watched it. It does have all the flavor, mannerisms, and inflections of a real sermon/prayer, of no matter what religion, which is what makes it so effective and one of the creepiest moments of the show. Of course, years later I learned through Jackey two things that make it even more awesome: that Tom Neyman was at one point an ordained minister, which explains why he does the scene so perfectly, and even more amazingly, he did write the whole speech himself, to have something to say during a scene that, in the script, only required him to stand there and display the robe. So, with anyone else than Mr. Neyman in the role, my favorite moment from the movie and one of the main reasons I’m a fan of it would have never existed. At all.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Manos Story: List of Posts

Here's your chance to see the list of all my Manos Blog posts so far with convenient links to each post. 
Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to our Manos journey in 2014!

October 9, 2012          Part 1. The inside story of Manos: The Hands of Fate

October 11,                   Part 2. The inside story of Manos: The Hands of Fate

October 13,                   John Reynolds/Torgo Story 1  

October 16,                   Torgos Death Anniversary

October 18,                   Manos Tidbits of Info

October 23,                   The Masters Wives

October 25,                   The Masters "Hand" in Making Manos

October 31,                   1966 World Premiere of Manos Hands of Fate

November 2, 2012       Hero Massaged to Death in Manos

November 3,                 Hotel Torgo

November 8,                The Master Creator

November 13,               Manos VS Curse of Bigfoot

November 16,              What a Long Strange Trip it's been.  Manos Style

November 23,              Happy Birthday Master

December 4, 2012      Debbie Does Los Angeles

December 12,              The Official World Premiere of Manos

December 13,              The Continuing Story of Hotel Torgo

December 18,              Growing Up Manos

December 26,              Dedicated to Hal

January 7, 2013         Manos Hands of Fate Puppet Theater

January 24,                  Debbies Back in the World

January 31,                  Diane Mahree is With Us. She is With Us Always

February 6,                How Diane Met Hal

February 14,                Howdy Sheriff

February 15,                Great Article in My Local Paper

March 5,                     Manos On Stage in Portland

March 12,                    Manos/ Route 66 TV Show Connection

March 19,                    Diane. The Texas Beauty Queen

March 26,                    Manos Fame Continues

April 9,                       The Masters Other Life

April 19,                      Debbie Does Portland

April 26,                      The Blessings of Manos

April 28,                      How it all Began 

May 17,                      Manos; Hands of felt Kickstarter

June 17,                      Diane Mahree is Very Much Alive

June 21,                      "Recasting Manos" A Graphic Novel

July 13,                       Tom and Jackey Raye Neyman Present Day

August 2,                    Debbie Answers a Few Questions

August 5,                    Debbies Seattle Appearances

September 6,              Debbie Does Seattle

September 13,            Debbie and The Master Watch Manos Together

September 19,            Before Manos

September 26,            When Things Fall Apart

October 3,                  Torgos Burning Hand

October 11,                John Reynolds as Torgo

October 17,                The One and Only Master

October 24,                Manos Podcast Interviews

November 1,              Manos Happenings

November 15,            Happy 47th Anniversary, Manos

November 22,            Happy Birthday, The Master

November 28,            The Hands of Fate Wish You a Great Thanksgiving Day

December 13,             Happy Manos Holidays

December 23,             Another Manos Film



Monday, December 23, 2013

Another Manos Film

There are always rumors and snippets and thoughts on the idea of Manos remakes, sequels and
 prequels.  However, the only serious efforts in film that I know of, are the attempt at a sequel "The Search for Valley Lodge" in 2010 and currently a prequel in the works.  Can't say anything yet about the latter but I will tell a story about the former.

I suppose I could think of the sequel as a May December romance, of sorts.  It started with a self named star, director, writer, producer who said he wanted to make this epic film.  Sound familiar?  Funny thing is, both my dad and I said yes to this one too. 
So anyway, this fellow got us to agree to all sorts of things and without any firm promise in return.  My dad was to do a cameo as the aged Master and I was to star as current day grown up Debbie.  He was quite persuasive at first but in a short time we began to question why we had become involved.   We did some filming in Oregon in May of 2010 and then did some more filming in
 El Paso Texas in December of the same year.  Things went down hill after that with money issues,  disagreements and many of the other perils that relationships have.  It ended completely with a paraphrased dialogue that went something like this...
 Him  "If you don't do as I say, you don't have to be part of this project.  We will just go find another Debbie." 
Me "Good luck with that.  I am Debbie"

I know that sounds a bit prima donna of me but if you knew the whole story, you would ask why I didn't stand up for myself sooner.

Anyhow, a lot of good things did come out of that.  I met and re met some really great people and have the honor of remaining friends with many of them.  Diane Mahree, who played my mother in Manos was one.  We spent a week together in El Paso and became good friends.  I met Bryan Jennings, son of the Sheriff in Manos, William Bryan Jennings.  He and I and his wife Wanda continue to meet up at various Manos events around the country.  I also took the opportunity to open doors for healing fractured relationship within my family.  It's not like my family is hanging out now but I did have a nice visit with my dad, The Master, in the meat department at Safeway yesterday afternoon.  He was marveling that a roast could cost nearly $100.00. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Blessings to you all.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy Manos Holidays

I tend to get introspective this time of year.  Even more introspective than usual.  I can hardly live with myself.  One thing I'm introspecting is this whole Manos phenomena.  I've been  paying attention and sticking myself into every little Manos thing going and it's been really fun.  Believe me, I've kept tabs on this Manos stuff for a while now and truly, this year felt different.  I'm a bit starry eyed with wonder at what 2014 holds for our beloved gem.

Manos was filmed in about a week and a half during the summer of 1966 on the back property of Judge Coldwell.   It was then edited in about 6 hours, at night in one of the local television stations after closing. (Television stations used to shut down at night).   Contracts were signed in May and June, it was filmed in July and premiered in November of the same year.  None of the cast got to see much before the premiere, other than maybe a couple times at  Hals to see a bit of it on his home projector.  I remember going with my parents to Hal's and we saw some of the scene where Torgo is massaged by the wives.  For kicks, Hal ran the film back and forth a few times when Torgo was pushed off the stone bed so that he fell and rose back up.  We all cracked up.   After the premiere everyone went their own way and basically never spoke of it again. I personally looked for Manos most of my youth and had pretty much given up when it showed up on TV in January of 1993.  MST3K gave my dad and I the chance to see it for the first time since 1966.  We were shocked to say the least.

As time went on, a strange thing seemed to be happening as Manos fame continued to grow.  It began inspiring things outside of film.  It brought a wide range of talent and expression to the fore and a dizzying array of ideas.  Play, Opera, Podcasts, Blog, Game, Restoration, Art, Music, Clothing and list goes on.  It has also unleashed a dark side...but, I can't talk about that now.  I could but I won't.  Not yet anyway.

As everything Manos continues to build, I am struck with the thought. "Be careful what you wish for"  My personal Manos dreams are coming true and that also means I gotta get my act together and become more organized.  This thing could get out of Hand. 

Be safe during this busy distracted season.  Whatever your traditions, I wish you many Blessings.

P.S.  If you're looking for a perfect gift for your favorite Manos fan, check out my etsy store.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hands of Fate Wish You a Great Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all, whether you celebrate for traditional reasons or make your own traditions.
Today I am thankful for many many things and before this day passes I want Manos fans to know how thankful I am for how great you all are.  I've met the most interesting people through this experience of being part of Manos: The Hands of Fate.  You come from every demographic.  Young, old, rich, poor, conservative, liberal and everything in between and yet you have a common link in "off the main path film".  You are quirky with a great sense of "Cosmic Humor".  I love your insights, observations and conversations.  You have enriched my life and infused it with more joy than I thought possible.  You are a fun crazy extended sort of family and I thank you.

For fun, I wanted to share a couple questions that came my way through a MST3K Discussion Board

 A lot of folks, J&TBs included, were squicked-out by the sight of you becoming one of the Master's Wives despite being a cute little child. In the movie, was the Master supposed to be a pedophile or was he simply saving little Debbie for later when she grew up?

I will have an opportunity to read the original script soon and I hope to find much enlightenment there.  It certainly does freak people out when they see sweet little Debbie dressed as a wife.  I'm thinking the idea was purely for shock value and that Hal wanted to leave that to the audience to decide, which displays an odd sort of genius...or, just a sick mind.  Lol.

Also, didn't it feel kind of weird having that happen to your character when the nefarious Master was played by your dad. I know it's just acting and two were playing different imaginary people but as a CHILD, did it seem kinda...weird?

I was accustomed to my dad playing many roles in theater so it was no different this time.  I was just happy to be there and spending time around my dad.  Also, truth be told, I loved that mini wife dress.  The other dress I wore came out of my closet and was nothing special.  I was pretty excited to have something like what the big girls were wearing.

Finally do you think Mr. Warren was a weirdo for coming up with that? I'd also imagine he had issues with women.

  I think that the 60's allowed many ideas to cross previously held boundaries, and in an artistic bohemian context, no subject would be off limits.  I have heard various private stories that indicate Hal had certain views of women that many might find offensive but I don't think he was any sort of weirdo concerning children. 

Have a great Holiday and travel safe!  See you next week.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, The Master!

November 23rd is my dad's 78th birthday and I must say, he looks pretty great, even if he doesn't always feel so young any more.  He's my dad, but out amongst cult film fans and most anyone reading this, he is The Master from Manos, The Hands of Fate, the 1966 independent amateur earnest worst movie ever made film.  Or so it's been said.

Me and my dad 

To celebrate his birthday I would like to share a couple interesting things about his life
 before he became famous for being an evil polygamist Master.

This is a photograph of little Tommy Neyman at 2 years old on the beach at San Padre Island near Brownsville Texas on the Gulf of Mexico.  His mother, my grandmother took this shot and when she sent it in to be developed, she was contacted by Kodak.  They wanted to know if they could use the photo of the little girl on the beach for their National ad campaign in 1935.  My grandmother was so incensed that they called her son a girl that she refused...Never mind the Shirley Temple curls and one piece bathing suit.

On the morning of November 22 1963, President John F. Kennedy was  in Fort Worth Texas where he had stayed the night before heading on to Dallas.  We lived in Fort Worth at that time so my dad got up early and went to join the crowds to catch a glimpse of the President while thinking "What a great early birthday present to myself".  He would be turning 28.  He felt fortunate to see even if he couldn't get close.  It was no more than an hour after getting back home that the phone rang.  It was one of my dad's college friends calling to say that the President had just been shot and though I was only 4 years old, I do remember that day.

Tom Neyman is a gentle, kind and humble man.  Quite the opposite of The Master character he portrayed in Manos.  How ironic to be known so widely for something so different from yourself. and yet how appropriate for someone so private.  Happy Birthday dad!  May you have many more and in good health.