"Manos": The Worst U.S. Film Ever Made Deserves to Be Restored

Categories: History, Movies

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Film buffs and/or devotees of Mystery Science Theater 3000 know that the worst American film ever made is not Plan 9 From Outer Space, or anything else by Ed Wood. It was made by an El Paso resident by the name of Harold P. Warren, and it's called Manos: The Hands of Fate.

It's not "so bad it's good," nor is it "so bad it's bad." Manos exists in its own little inexplicable universe that defies all attempts to quantify it using such linear human concepts as "good" or "bad". I've seen it countless times on MST3K, including a near-religious experience with a packed audience of fellow MSTies at the second ConventioCon Expo Fest-A-Rama in 1996.

And now, Manos: The Hands of Fate is being restored.

The reasonable question is "Restored to what, exactly?" All the versions of Manos that have been available since its disastrous premiere have been based on cropped, faded and generally lousy Nth-generation prints -- and as a result, like Joel Hodgson said in the MST3K episode, "Every frame of this movie looks like someone's last known photograph."

Thankfully, a man named Ben Solovey acquired a 16mm workprint of the film and is returning it to its former glory.

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Okay, so Days of Heaven it ain't, but I sincerely believe that film preservation should not be merit-based. Either all films are worthy of preservation, or none of them are, and I vote for "all." Besides, as Solovey explains: "When you divest Manos of its grimy, unpleasant patina, you are still left with a weirdly dubbed, strangely edited, small-town, outsider horror film."

That's one of my favorite genres, and why Manos: The Restoration is the only Kickstarter thingy I've ever contributed to.

Exhibitionist readers who've contributed should let me know via exhibitionist@sfweekly.com (or just come to Bad Movie Night and tell me), and we'll have a special private screening of the restored Manos: The Hands of Fate Blu-ray at The Dark Room later this year.

I'm sure The Master would approve.

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Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer. She also curates and hosts Bad Movie Night at The Dark Room, every Sunday at 8pm.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF (follow Sherilyn Connelly on Twitter at @sherilyn) and like us on Facebook.

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