Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Manos Fame Continues

Here are a few of the many  highlights and milestones that Manos: The Hands of Fate has enjoyed in just the last few years.  After it's initial release, the 1966 film was remembered only by those who took part in it and was quickly forgotten by those who had actually bought and paid for a ticket to see it.  Many years passed until  in 1993, Mystery Science Theater 3000 brought it to public consciousness on Comedy Central where it quickly became a cult movie favorite lovingly referred to as "The Worst Movie Ever Made".  It maintained it's status through the years as more people shared it or forced their friends to watch all or at least part of it. Alcohol was often involved in the coercion.

In Jan 2006, Brian Koch presented his  stage production of  Manos.  It debuted to friends and family and ended up playing to sold out crowds in Portland Oregon. Manos: on Stage in Portland

 In 2010 Rupurt Munch cast a Manos sequel that included all the original living able bodied Manos cast members and a few other notable folk. www.torgolives.com (That project appears to be on hold indefinitely)

 Rachel Jackson adapted the film for puppet theater. In April 2011 Manos: The Hands of Felt played to audiences in Seattle, Washington.   Manos: The Hands of Felt Big Finish

July 2012 A retro Mario Bros. style Manos: The Hands of Fate game was released for iPhone and now for iPad, Android and PC Manos: The Hands of Fate Game

August 4th 2012 Ben Solovey's Restoration of Manos premiered at the Manos birthplace of El Paso, Texas  Manos in HD

and later that month on August 16th, Rifftrax did a live riffing of Manos in Nashville Tennessee and simulcast it to 500 theaters nationwide. Rifftrax Live "Manos" The Hands of Fate

I've heard of this one.  Manos: Rock Opera of Fate in Chicago but don't currently have any more info.  I'm inquiring however, and will keep you posted.  Manos: Rock Opera of Fate

The stage production is back in Portland Oregon again and this time, I get to be involved.  The character of Debbie will be played by a puppet (not to be confused with the puppet theater version).  For the first time in 46 years I get to do the voice of  Debbie.  Of course, now I'm the middle age woman dubbing myself.  Poetic justice.

Manos: The Hands of Felt will also be back on stage this year in Seattle, Washington in August.  I will absolutely be there.  Maybe, if I'm really lucky, I'll be allowed to have a hand in it somehow.

My deepest thanks to all you followers of Manos and readers of my blog.  Interestingly, for the last few days, the country with the most readers after the United States is Latvia. Hmmm.  My readers are all over the world and I'm simply stunned at the interest, creativity and community this film has inspired. Thank you so very much!  The Master Approves.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Diane The Texas Beauty Queen

Hey all.  I had another great phone visit this weekend with Diane Mahree who played the part of Margaret in the iconic and classically bad 1966 film, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and am hoping to visit with her in person at the up coming Manos: The Hands of Fate stage production  in Portland, Oregon next month  capitaliproductions.com .  In the meantime, she was gracious enough to tell me another great story I would like to share with you Manos fans.

This one is about how Hal Warren signed Diane Mahree up for a beauty pageant without her consent in order to gain publicity for his up coming film, Manos: The Hands of Fate.  For a bit of background, first read my post  How Diane Met Hal  and then come back.

During the filming of  "Manos: The Hands of Fate", in the summer of 1966, Hal Warren, ever the salesman, decided that presenting Diane Mahree as the Texas Beauty Queen would make some pretty good publicity for his movie.  So he signed her up for a regional West Texas beauty pageant that would lead to Miss Texas and then to Miss America but he neglected to tell her about it until she was accepted as an entrant.  She went along with it and soon found herself onstage as one of the finalists.  In those days, after the formals, the bathing suits, the talent displays and everything else, they would ask each girl a different question.  Usually, they were rather simple to answer in a way that would make everyone smile and feel good.  When it came to Diane's turn, the question was, "What part do you feel religion should play in your life?"

Alright.  So now lets take a pause for a moment and put it all in context.  This is West Texas in 1966.  This is a beauty pageant that leads to Miss America who, by definition MUST believe in God. O.K.  Here's Diane, a young adult who was raised as a Christian and who has just spent her summer questioning her family and her communities long held beliefs. In fact, not just questioning but actively seeking out church leaders for help only to be told "You must have faith".  Of finding herself being answered with the claim of truth while they contradicted one other. Of becoming completely unsatisfied with the results of her queries.

Back on stage, she didn't hesitate.  She knew she was throwing the contest but didn't care.  They asked a question and she would answer.  She began giving her opinion on the hypocrisy of the church and just what she thought of  religion in general.  Fortunately, her mother was out of town and unable to attend but her father, who was in the audience told Diane later that while she was talking, the audience went dead silent and when she finished, you could have heard a pin drop for a few seconds...until the audience erupted in the loudest and longest applause of the evening.  Afterward each of the judges came to her individually and said they had really wanted her to go on and win but were not able to vote for her under the circumstances.  The  contest had been televised and broadcast to all the cities in the region which greatly increased the fallout that began the next day.  Probably not of the type that Hal had been hoping for in terms of publicity.  There were stories in the El Paso Times, editorials, preachers preached, letters sent and phones ringing off the hook.

Diane told me that the strangest thing for her was that of all the questions, they gave that particular one to her.  The girl after her was asked. "If you were traveling at 90 miles an hour and a truck was coming at you what would you do?"  The girl answered sweetly (Texas sweetly), "Well.  First of all, I would never be going 90 miles an hour but if I were, I would try to avoid the truck at all costs."

Thanks for reading and see you next week.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Manos/Route 66 TV Show Connection?

One of the Manos: The Hands of Fate stories that has always intrigued me is the one that tells of Hal Warren making a bet with Route 66 TV show writer/producer Stirling Silliphant while in a bar.  Hal bet that anyone could make a movie and he would prove it by making one himself.  The story goes on to say this encounter occurred when Stirling was in El Paso scouting locations for his television program.

 I decided to see if I could learn any more.   Route 66 was on television from October 1960 to March 1964 and was known for it's cinematography and locations.  The entire cast and crew were transported to locations around the United States for filming as every episode was in a different place.  Stirling and his production manager Sam Manners traveled the country scouting locations several months before filming.  An interesting side story... " His famous production manager, Sam Manners, called him from the road unit of Route 66 from El Paso, Texas. He told Stirling they could save perhaps a hundred thousand dollars if Stirling could write an extra story for the show that could be shot in El Paso while all the production trucks and crew were there  Silliphant obliged and had the script ready to shoot in a couple of days. The guest star was a famous character actor, Albert Dekker, who was flown to do the part over the weekend."  The interesting thing is that that episode "The Newborn" was filmed in New  Mexico and aired in May 1961.  The only other episodes I could find that were filmed in the El Paso area were the following:
    "A Fury Slinging Flame"                 December 30, 1960         Stirling Silliphant
Based on perceived clues from a mysterious stranger, an atomic physicist (Leslie Nielsen) and his handpicked followers take cover in Carlsbad Caverns fearing a possible nuclear attack at sunset on New Year's Day.
  "Sheba"               January 6, 1961                 Stirling Silliphant
Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) and Buz Mudock (George Maharis) search for the truth behind a "David and Bathsheba" situation in El Paso, Texas between a paroled widow (Whitney Blake) and a manipulative cowboy (Lee Marvin) who had framed her for embezzlement.

So now, the speculation.  When and how did this monumental Hal/Stirling meeting take place?  Possibly through Hal's insurance business?  "Hey!  I see you doing some filming here.  You need insurance?  I got insurance. Why don't we discuss it over a coupla drinks?" 

Most likely, we will never know for sure since both parties are beyond an interview but we can see that the time they met would have probably been fully five years before Manos began filming.  Was the idea percolating in Hal's head that whole time?  Was it a dream that finally found life when Hal became involved in Community Theater?  Was he accessing and gathering his key people until he was ready to make a move?  I obviously have more questions than answers but find it all fun to think about.

I'll leave you with this final mind bender.  Watch this clip of the Route 66 Pilot Episode.  Maybe it's just me, but I would swear that Hal Warren found more than a touch of inspiration from it.
 Route 66 Pilot Episode

If you haven't yet, be sure to read last weeks post about Manos coming to the stage in Portland, Oregon next month.  I'm in it!  Whoo Hooo!  Get your tickets.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Manos on Stage in Portland April-May 2013

Hello again,  Today I have the honor of introducing a guest writer and an amazing new friend.
 I cannot tell you how excited I am that he has invited me to be part of his upcoming project.
If you are in the Portland, Oregon area mid April through early May, be sure to get tickets to
 the show and come see me.

Brian :  My name is Brian Adrian Koch, Artistic Director of Capital I Productions and I'm addicted to "Manos": The Hands of Fate
Everyone:  Hi Brian! 

Like most people, I first saw Manos in 1993 when MST3k unveiled it's hidden magic to the world and riffed away in one of their greatest riff jams ever.  It all worked in their favor, the movie was horrible on so many levels (sound, lighting, editing, story, plot, pacing, rhythm, dialogue, acting, cinematography) that it provided them a unique and spacious platform to riff.  It quickly became my favorite at the top of a list of their amazing movie enhancing experiences (Daddy 0, Time of The Apes, Teenage Strangler, Pod People, Fugitive Alien and Santa Claus just to name a few).  I repeatedly returned to Manos over the years and at some point along the way thought it would be a blast to adapt it to the stage.  I graduated from Portland State University's Theater Arts program in mid 2004 and immediately fell back into the depressing world of restaurant customer service that had been my main means of earning a living.  After a soul sucking year at an evil, greedy NW Portland Deli Chain I realized now was the time to do Manos.  So I started a theater company of my own, Last Rites Productions, with co-worker Ryan Cloutier who liked my ideas and agreed to produce the show. 
   The show ran for three weeks in January at Theater! Theatre! in SE Portland and was, by my standards, a smash.  I had hoped and expected that my friends would come see this theatrical oddity but never expected to sell out the bulk of the shows.  By closing weekend we were way oversold and still turning away a hundred people a night.  It seemed audiences were having as much fun as we were.  Since then I've wanted to re-mount the show but the timing has never really been quite right.  I continued doing some more theater and in 2007 my band, Blitzen Trapper, was signed to Sub Pop Records (our high school fantasy label) and started touring all over the USA and Europe, making theater a difficult if not impossible time commitment to manage.  So the dream to re-mount went on the back burner but was never forgotten. 
   Fast forward to 2013.  I've long since parted ways with Last Rites, the band is taking it's longest break in years to make it's seventh record and I am ready...It's time to re-mount Manos.  In order to do it right, my partner, producer/designer Jen LaMastra and I have started a new company Capital I Productions.  We're so excited to have an amazing and talented cast of actors and technicians as well as an all star band to play the live score (members of Blitzen Trapper, Viva Voce and The Parson Red Heads). 
   While in pre-production, I remembered that I had heard that Jackey Raye Neyman-Jones (little Debbie!) lived nearby so I decided I would try and reach out to her.  I am delighted to say that I found her (thank you Internet) and we hit it off immediately and have been having some really fun and enlightening conversations on all things life, art and Manos related.  Not only is she a sweet and gracious person as well as an accomplished artist in her own right, but she is also as excited as I am about being the voice of Debbie in our play!   That's right, after 47 years, Jackey will get the opportunity she never had, to be the voice of her own character Debbie.  We here at Capital I Productions are so excited to have Jackey on-board and hope that if you're in the Pacific Northwest you'll try to come see this once in a lifetime show.  It's gonna be magical.  Here's the info and more is sure to come: 

"Manos": The Hands of Fate, Live Onstage. 
April 11th - May 5th
@ IFCC (Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center)
5340 N. Interstate Ave.
Tickets:  ay http://manoshandsoffate.brownpapertickets.com/

Capital I Productions 



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