Thursday, October 3, 2013

Torgo's Burning Hand

If you've been a constant reader, you'll know my family's involvement with Manos: The Hands of Fate.  The synopsis is that my dad, Tom Neyman who characterized The Master, and despite the films deplorable ratings, is a multi talented guy and one to rise to any creative challenge.  A perfect guy for Hal Warren to connect with in order to get his movie made.  My dad designed and supplied costumes, sets, props and artwork.

Today's story is about one particular prop.  Torgo's Burning Hand.

As a child, I spent every possible moment with my dad, as many little girls do.  At my home, his art studio was a place I always felt welcome and  I would sit many hours perched on a stool out of the way while he worked.  I was often included in his discussions with himself about how something was to be done and I could observe the process.  I recall the Torgo hand was made from stiff upholstery foam carved and sculpted into a hand shape.  The skeletal structure was a wire coat hanger bent to look like bones when the foam melted away.  He only made one  They had only one chance to get it right on film...Manos style.
He planned to soak it in lighter fluid right before the cameras rolled so it would burn dramatically when lit on fire.  In their haste, the crew left the can of lighter fluid in the shot, at the column base right behind The Master as he holds the hand aloft while laughing maniacally.  I'm not sure of the Mst3k version but it's clearly seen in the Restoration of Manos.

That burnt hand was one of the few props my dad ended up going home with, sort of.  After the night's shoot it was tossed into his car trunk and promptly forgotten for a couple weeks.  My dads day job at the time was as Director of the South El Paso Boys Club (now known as the Boys and Girls Club).  One of the job duties was to collect food donations and bring them to the Club for distribution to the community which was located in the poorest part of the city, right on the Rio Grande River across from Mexico.  The residents were very traditional Catholic, multi-generational, humble people living in abject poverty.  One day, as my dad pulled up and popped the trunk to unload food, an elderly Hispanic gentleman approached and asked, in Spanish if he could help.  As the man approached and reached into the trunk, he spotted the flesh colored, scorched and melted hand carelessly tossed in the corner.  The man's eyes grew huge.  He immediately stepped back as his hands flew into the air and then covered his mouth.  He rapidly looked to my dad's face and back to Torgos hand.  With a mumbled prayer and sign of the cross, he took off in terror, running as fast as he could .  Nothing was ever said or done about it after that and life went on. One has to wonder the stories the old gentleman told and if that Manos legend still continues.

Coming up.  More about John Reynolds... 

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