Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Master's "hand" in making Manos

Tom Neyman, the actor who played the part of the Master, in Manos The Hands of Fate, had a hand in more than one aspect of the film.  Tom, Hal Warren, the writer/director/producer and John Reynolds, Torgo knew each other from their involvement in The Festival Theater, a community theater in El Paso now known as The El Paso Playhouse.
Tom acted in, directed and often designed and built sets for the Festival Theater productions.  He was also a professional artist.

I certainly couldn't say for sure, but I would imagine that Hal had my dad in mind when he began thinking how he would get his movie made.  As it turned out, Tom supplied the sets, the artwork, the costumes, the doomed family's convertible,  the Master's dog, and even the child.  That was me, of course.  I got the part simply enough.  He came home one day, got on my level, looked me in the eye, and said, "Honey, I'm going to do a movie and they need a little girl.  Would you like to be the little girl?"   Well, up to that point in my short life, acting had never entered my mind and I was a pretty shy kid to begin with, so I quite naturally replied, "I don't know."  He said "That's OK, Honey, if you don't want to.  We can get another little girl."  I recall clearly, my little kid mind thinking the 6 year old equivalent of "Hell no!  No other little girl's gonna spend the summer with MY daddy."

The Masters dog was our family dog, Shanka.  He was a very sweet gentle doberman.  I love watching him now in Manos.  I remember him as "not so smart", "not so trained", and somewhat insecure.  Perfect for a demon dog and he did have the look.  Pepe the poodle was the Warren's dog.

 The dress I wore came from my closet and it was one my mom had made for me.  My mom was a really good seamstress and made most of my clothes when I was young and then my sister's clothes.  I learned how to sew in self defense when I was 12 so I could make something a bit more fashionable than matching mother/daughter outfits.  The clothes that John Reynolds wore as Torgo came from my dad's closet.  The overalls were big enough to compensate for the Torgo leg braces because my dad is 6'2" and John was around 5'7".  Both my parents worked together to design and make the Master's robe and wives dresses, but more on that next time.

When I saw the Manos The Hands of Fate restoration in August, I was struck by how clear everything is and how many new memories surfaced from seeing it that way.  I noticed things from our home that we brought for the set.  The bed spread in the bedroom.  A side table, etc.  Bizarre, seeing all these things that are long gone but were a part of my life.