Manos: The Hands of Fate~ 1966, Harold P. Warren

ManosposterIt’s a commonly held belief that Manos: Hands of Fate was made as part of a wager. Certainly, even relatively credible sites, such as IMDB, attest that director Harold P. Warren made the film on a bet, and human culture is happy to accept this explanation, because Manos: The Hands of Fate NEEDS and explanation; it’s so horrible that many sources feel comfortable with calling this the single worst movie of all time. So, how did this happen? And why? True or not, we have our answer; it was all an elaborate wager between industry outsider Harold P. Warren, and an unknown second party, who had been working inside of the American independent film community in the 1960’s. Warren did win this wager, of course, by virtue of the fact that Manos: Hands of Fate exists, but I really don’t feel comfortable suggesting that Manos: Hands of Fate is in any way, shape, or form a success. Having made this film makes Harold P. Warren a director in the same way that a summer job at Taco Bell makes one a chef.

But I digress; like many near-fatal pieces of soul poison that have been lazily splattered into the filthy slop-trough of American pop culture, Manos came and went in 1966 like a fart in the wind, garnering no acclaim, and soon fading into complete and utter obscurity, where it rightfully belonged. Shockingly, this would not be the end. In 1993, cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured Manos: Hands of Fate in what would go on to become one of it’s more popular episodes, thereby hoisting it back up, into the spotlight, and giving Manos an unexpected second lease on life; one which would prove much more generous than it’s first trip around the block thirty years prior. Today, Manos: Hands of Fate has an actual cult following, which is nothing less than unthinkable. Manos: The Hands of Fate has a fan base.

THE PLOT~ After driving aimlessly for like, a million years (which we are generously allowed to watch) a family of three winds up stranded at a strange secluded house out in the middle of the desert. It is here that America first meets Torgo, and don’t you worry, we’ll come back to him.


Here’s Torgo. Does he somehow have two sets of eyebrows simultaneously?!

Apparently Torgo serves The Master, who owns this house. The Master is a very religious man, but his religion is some bizarre hand-obsessed branch of Demon worship, focused on a deity called Manos; it involves polygamy, large bonfires, human sacrifice, and constant bullshit. This house is like, Manos central, complete with scary demon trinkets adorning every wall, mysterious creatures baying mournfully somewhere out in the darkness, and a damn sacrificial altar in the backyard. “Whatever,” our family says. “Let us stay here, Torgo, we’re tired of driving.” Torgo really tries to hammer home that this is a bad idea, but they ignore his opinion and pretty much demand a place to crash for the night. Should have listened to Torgo, folks.

The movie drags on for the rest of your natural life. The pace is agonizingly slow, and it’s filled with sequences that serve no purpose, and where pretty much nothing happens. When it finally does end, it does so with a deliberately open ended conclusion, you know, just in case it was a hit and Warren wanted to do a sequel. Honestly, I don’t know how there isn’t a Kickstarter for Manos 3D: Retribution, starring Sean William Scott right now.

As I mentioned before, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a staple of “Worst ever” lists you might see bouncing around the internet, but the truth is, there are hundreds of low budget genre films from the 1960’s which are all just as bad. Manos gets to wear this glorious crown of trash because we KNOW Manos, but if MST3K hadn’t come into the picture and elevated it to the level it now enjoys, there would be some other movie popping up on all those lists, and this one would have remained forgotten, possibly forever. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a horrible movie, and it deserves the infamy it has earned, but Manos is also a product of a very different environment; Small, crude productions helmed by inexperienced first timers were actually very common back in the American 60’s, and the lion’s share of these flicks are just as unwatchable, and in some cases, even more so. I would wager there are still many films out there, waiting to be rediscovered, which could blow this one out of the water. Is Manos; The Hands of Fate the single worst movie of all time? No, but it does belong SOMEWHERE on that list… Maybe just a little further down than most might place it.


In the three-ring turd-circus that is Manos: The Hands of Fate, Torgo is, for sure, the star attraction. This is a character absolutely riddled with peculiarities, none of which are ever addressed in the film, and very few of which make any sort of sense at all. Firstly, his damn knees: torgo2

Never mind why!

Torgo possess massive, swollen, fantastically giant knees, which impede his movements, and the movie never addresses or explains this. They kinda just ignore it, Torgo’s knees are a serious Elephant in the room, so to speak. There is a very popular myth on the internet that Torgo is actually supposed to be a Satyr, which would explain the knees quite nicely; he doesn’t have giant knees at all, he’s goat legs! We just don’t see them, because he’s wearing than Khaki colored Parisian Nightsuit all the time. This is, sadly, wishful thinking, and there is no truth to the satyr explanation. The reality behind Torgo’s suspicious getaway sticks is much less logical; according to IMDB, Harold P. Warren has stated in the past that Torgo was first meant to be a hunchback, but that felt particular deformity seemed too cliché, so instead, they gave him enormous, illogically swollen knees, thinking that this was an untapped cinematic goldmine, and Torgo would be first in line to cash in. “Knees, that’s where it’s at!” Thought Warren. Yeah. As a result, Torgo is barely even able to walk, but the first few times that you see him hobble around, an odd little piece of music plays as he meanders feebley about his bleak surroundings. This music stops when he stops, and resumes when he starts to walk again. There’s even a point at which the music picks up before we see Torgo, and then he wanders into frame, as if the tune is heralding his clumsy arrival. This gives us the impression that this is in fact Torgo’s walking music, and that’s hilarious. He can barely walk, but he has special music that plays whenever he does. I’m a big fan of that, actually.

Torgo also squirms uncomfortably at all times and repeats nearly everything he ever says. He’s easily the most memorable thing about the movie, and googling Torgo will show that I’m not the only person who feels that way; Torgo cosplay is a very real phenomena in 2015, something no one could have foreseen when this thing premiered back in the 60’s. And that’s not the only unexpected way that Manos: The Hands Of Fate’s influence is felt in the post-modern, media-saturated world we live in today, this movie has been the subject of a great deal of fan generated media. There’s fan art, there have been stage adaptations, and Manos was even remade with puppets in Rachel Jackson’s awesome MANOS: THE HANDS OF FELT.

Manos poster

If you’re mind isn’t blown yet, nip on over to your smartphone app store and pick up a copy of the Manos: The Hands of Fate video game. I did. It cost two bucks.


It’s absolutely bizarre that this film has managed to gain such traction decades after it’s disastrous unveiling, and it’s all thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000. I definitely recommend the Manos episode, without question, if you insist on watching this film, that’s the best way to do it. If, however, you want to see Manos the way nature intended, then be forewarned; Without Joel and the Bots putting this thing on blast, Manos: The Hands of Fate is no walk in the park. You might be laughing for the first twenty minutes, but then it’s a steep downward slide into the deepest circle of hell. Tread lightly.


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Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla

Godzilla VS Spacegodzilla – 1994, Kensho Yamashita – Japan



“Dude…We’ve had Godzilla fight like… lots of stuff already.”
“Yeah, I know….”
“… What if we just had him fight… like… another Godzilla?”
“…You mean, like, Mechagodzilla?”
“Uhhhhh…. I dunno, man. We just did that…”
“Okay, okay, not like, a Mecha one… What about, like… Like….Ummmmmm….. Oh, how ‘bout like, a space one?!”
“……..A spacegodzila?”
“…Can it have like… A shit load of crystals all over it?”
“Hell yeah, it can.”
“….Okay. Sure, we can do that.”

AND…. it was underwhelming. Spacegodzilla, the character, is face-palmingly over the top. If you wanted an illustrative comparison between the shift in how the original Godzilla was designed in 1954, and the school of thought informing the creation of Spacegodzilla 40 years later, I offer forth this comparison; Consider that the original Godzilla from Gojira is like Japanese Kabuki theater; Strange, grim, and haunting, yet somehow beautiful and understated. Now, in terms of the energy that went into the conceptual design behind Spacegodzilla, on the other hand, consider every track ever recorded by the band Dragonforce playing simultaneously at a volume that would guarantee hearing loss. That’s what it would be like. Have you seen those crystal poking out of his damn sholders? Freaking ridiculous. And while we’re making comparisons, if you were looking for an appropriate forerunner for this film from the Showa era, Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla is both the Godzilla Vs Gigan, and the Godzilla Vs Megalon of the Heisei series. That’s not great, guys. And you’re about to know it.

THE PLOT~ Japan has two plans now; and they’re gonna try them both. We’ve got Project T, and Project M. Breakin’ it down:

PROJECT T- Remember Mikki, the psychic girl who has been in every damn one of these movies but hasn’t really contributed in any solid way whatsoever? Well, they want to lodge a damn satelite dish in Godzilla’s neck and see if she can hijack his brain. Spoiler alert; She can’t.

PROJECT M– Remember how we just did the whole Mechagodzilla thing, and it failed? Well, how about sinking another couple billion tax yen into a second giant, metal robot to fight Godzilla? “Thought you’d never ask,” Says G-Force. What we end up with is Moguera, and yes, it’s another giant, vaugley monster shaped robot, but Moguera is different. What’s strange about Mogera is that he sort of seems like whoever designed him had weird priorities. Like, yeah, he’s got some weaponary on him, but he really seems like he was intended for 50% monster combat and 50% digging hella tunnels. I’m not sure why he would ever need to dig hella tunnels, but hey, who knows? Maybe if they had outfitted Mechagodzilla with the ability to just burrow like a mother fucker we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. And anyway, Moguera represents progress, because it’s a sign that G-Force is finally starting to understand that you don’t necessarily have to design your weapon to look exactly like your target for it to be effective. I mean, a gun isn’t shaped like a human, but it sure can put one down real good. Just food for thought, G-Force.


So, in hopes of getting things under control and eliminating the need to deploy an enormous mechanized war machine on a highly populated city, Project T kicks off their Godzilla brain hijacking mission first by sending a small group of G-Force personnel off to Birth Island, where Godzilla kinda sorta lives. Among this group we have:

Miki – Who cares? (Actually, Miki sucks a lot less in this movie than she does in any other Heisei film.)
Shinjo and Sato – Two knucklehead soldiers who are sorta like the Merry and Pippin of the Godzilla cannon. These two are actually kinda fun, and I like them quite a bit.
Dr. Gondo – This lady is the sister of Lieutenant Goro Gondo, who got Godzilla’d to death back in Return of Godzilla. Naturally, she hates Big Green, and she wants his scaly ass six feet under… Or, I guess, six miles under?
Other people– who cares?

When our rag tag team of G-Force bozos hits the beach on Birth Island, they encounter it’s two full time residents. They are:

Little Godzilla– “Baby” has grown up a little, which oddly enough has made him look drastically more infantile. Whatever, it’s an improvement, when he first appeared in Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II, he looked both stupid, and hideous. This redesign has him looking a little bit more like the baby from the Dinosaurs sitcom, but also a little more like Minilla, which I think is a plus, somehow. That being said, he still looks cartoonish, and not very believable. Really, Toho did a better job pulling off Minillia way back in Son Of Godzilla, and in general the special effects in Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla feel shabby as shit.

Major Yuki– This character is the real star of Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla in my mind. Yuki is a grizzled, angry old bad ass/maverick who has been camped out on Birth Island with the intent of murdering Godzilla single handedly, because Godzilla killed his best friend, the previously mentioned Lieutenant Gondo. Damn, Gondo was apparently just the wrong dude for Godzilla to kill, I guess.

Anyway, the failure of Project T (Yeah, it fails) really just serves to bring this group of people closer together, and they form our core characters throughout the rest of the movie.

Actually, it’s maybe worth mentioning that when our team gets to Birth Island, there are also these giant, moving, jagged crystal protrusions that shoot green lightning into the sky in the middle of the island, but none of our characters really seem to think they’re anything special. I would have been alarmed, but I guess what do I know? Except that I was right, these would have been worth investigating, because pretty soon Spacegodzilla turns up and this formation is apparently his space dragon landing pad. Birth Island really isn’t big enough to support two skyscraper sized battle-monsters, so pretty much immediately Godzilla comes face to face with Spacegodzilla, and he does not fare well in the confrontation- it ends with Spacegodzilla depositing Little Godzilla inside one of his weird, crystal chambers, which seems like a bad thing since Godzilla definitely did not want him to do that. These two are now enemies.

So, just what in the fuck is Spacegodzilla? Well, I’ll tell you; he is, theoretically, some sort of weird, galactic anomaly formed from wayward Godzilla DNA carried into space via Mothra or Biolante (Even though Biolante never happened at this point, as it was undone in the events depicted in the utterly stupid Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah) which mixed with like, space gasses, or crystals, or slime, or something. Some kind of space stuff. So, he’s genetically similar to Godzilla, but spacier. This is bad for our decidedly less-spacey Earth Godzilla, who ends up slugging it out with Spacegodzilla again on mainland Japan. Godzilla may not have stood a chance against his interplanetary sibling, but luckily control of Mogera had at this point been handed over to Shinjo, Sato and Yuki, and the three manage to work with Godzilla to kick the shit out of Spacegodzilla until he freaking dies. Awesome, actually. I can’t believe how cool Moguera ends up being in this movie, and it even gets to dig some tunnels, which is useful to our team, believe it or not.

So, what’s good, and what’s bad? This movie has a healthy portion of both, so we need to sift through it before he iron out an assessment.


Moguera! More accuratley, Shinjo, Sato, and Yuki, the three soliders tasked with the job of piloting Moguera in his attack on Spacegodzilla. When Mechagodzilla frumped on out to throw-down on Big G in Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II, it had several pilots, and we only really knew and gave a shit about one of them. Hell, even he wasn’t that likable, to be honest. This time around, we keep our crew small, and we’ve already spent a bit of time getting to know each of them before they suit up and hop behind the wheel, so in this way the fate of Moguera feels like something we’re much more invested in. And Moguera doesn’t come out unscathed, this confrontation feels desperate and dirty in a way that I haven’t seen done this effectively since Destroy All Monsters, and we actually care about the outcome.

Also remarkable is how much better Miki is in this film than she has ever been before. She plays into the plot in a way that doesn’t feel nearly as unnecessary or tacked on as it has in the past, plus she ends up with an emotional investment in another human character, and contributes to the outcome of events in a way that felt warranted, and valuable. So, that’s one out of six, Miki… Still a failing grade… But this is your movie.

The bad, on the other hand, mostly comes down to production value… And it’s sort of a long list. Here we go.


Number one; Spacegodzilla… You suck. Spacegodzilla is both super, super over the top, and surprisingly boring. It’s like the whole “X-TREME!” thing from the tail end of the 90’s, just being “X-TREME” really isn’t enough, you also have to not suck ass. That’s the lesson of Spacegodzilla, who feels neither original, nor well developed enough to hold our interest. The one hope you have of giving a shit is if you somehow have a weird, psychological malfunction that makes you just fucking gaga for Space Crystals, because that’s one thing Spacegodzilla does do, he brings the Space Crystals like no one else. Beyond that, this is a snooze fest- population: Spacegodzilla. You’re garbage,

Secondly, the effects…. Holy shit, they’re terrible. This movie feels cheapier, shoddier, and more like an episode of Power Rangers than any Godzilla movie ever before or since. This really is the relative low water mark for special effects in a Godzilla movie. Firstly, the composite shots- wow. Maybe the technology just wasn’t there in the 90’s, but these stand out as being fails unworthy of the franchise, without question. Next, all of the outer space sequences in this film are unforgivably hokey and dated. Spacegodzilla’s assault on the Nasa spacestation, and Moguera’s subsequent outer space battle with Spacegodzilla are both embarrassing and look like they belong in the non-theater sequences of Mystery Science Theater 3000– the black sheet background with dangling planets and monsters on strings just can’t be pardoned. This is an example of an effect that has been obsolete since the 70’s, and I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that we see them here in a film from the 90’s. It’s just pitiful how badly these sequences were done, given the quality we expect from Toho at this point.

And it’s far from isolated just to those sequences, all of Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla is just sorta shitty looking all over. This film is so much closer to a 1960’s B-movie than any ACTUAL Toho 1960’s B-movie ever was, and it doesn’t feel like this was done deliberately at all, there is an element of crappiness that just permeates this film’s production value completely and cheapens it beyond redemption, which is a total shame, because Godzilla deserves better.

That being said, there is one arena where this film shines, and that is in it’s tail puppetry. Godzilla’s tail is like, freaking miles long, and it wiggles about like a live trout, stranded on a rock. Toho did not let the quality of their tail puppetry droop with the rest of the production value, and it has to be acknowledged, they are the absolute unrivaled masters of tail puppetry on this planet. All hail the true Tail Puppetmasters.

So, GvSG sucks in all the areas you’d expect it to excel, but somehow manages to kind of break even in the least predictable way; by giving us human characters we like and care about, including one who has been around a while now without much to show for it before this film (that would be Miki, of course.) Additionally, Moguera, who sucked like crazy in The Mysterians, is kinda cool in this, so Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla is a real curveball. In the end, it’s still one more nail in the coffin for the underperforming Heisei series, which honestly, I wanted to enjoy a lot more than I do.


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Godzilla Vs. Megalon!

Godzilla VS Megalon ~ 1974, Jun Fukuda – Japan

godzilla-vs-megalon-japanese-posterEven the poster is lame.

The trajectory of the Godzilla franchise has never been a straight line. Sometimes these movies are real home runs… Other times Jet Jaguar shows up. Now, I don’t want to blame everything on Jet Jaguar, but 100% of the movies he shows up in suck. Anyway, moving on; one year after Godzilla VS. Gigan, we have Godzilla VS Megalon, another kinda sorta almost recycled Godzilla film, which is still much better than the full on totally definitely recycled Godzilla films we often see. This time, the aliens who use a monster to destroy us aren’t aliens, they’re humans, from the Earth’s core… So, kinda sorta new, but not really. This movie is pretty mediocre, and that’s probably being generous…

 Godzilla-Vs-Megalon-PosterTHAT’S a poster.

THE PLOT~ The people of Earth have begun conducting all their nuclear bomb tests underground. They think this is totally no big deal, but unbeknownst to them, all these subterranean H-Bombs are really pissing off the people of Seatopia, a lost, Atlantis style civilization, which exists beneath the Earth’s crust. (Also, Seatopia looks like a “Ancient civilization” themed Las Vegas casino, and their leader is an aging swinger in a toga.) Seatopia has had enough of this surface people bullshit, so they launch their defender, Megalon, which is basically a giant humanoid cockroach with drill hands that can spit fire bombs. “That outta take care of it,” they think.

Meanwhile, up on the surface, we have our three human characters, Goro (Apparently before growing a pony tail and two extra arms) his constantly present, loyal, male companion Hiroshi (are these dudes a couple?) and their young child Rokuro, who they probably adopted together. When we meet these three, Goro and Hiroshi have brought Rokuro to a nearby lake for a nice afternoon of recreation, and Rokuro is out on the lake piloting what can only be called some sort of Aquatic Goof-Mobile.


Just then, a fissure opens in the lake bed, creating a whirling maelstrom of danger and death. Perhaps this was caused by Seatopia, the subterranean bomb tests, or perhaps the lake was just tired of something so stupid looking as Rokuro’s Goof-Mobile splashing about on it’s surface and chose to commit suicide. Regardless, just when it looks like his goose is cooked, Rokuro is saved by Goro and Hiroshi, who employ the use of a Liferope Gun that they had with them. LIFEROPE GUN!? What kind of technology is Japan holding out on us? They gave us Playstation, but not the Liferope Gun? Bizarre. Not only that, but check it out, Hiroshi and Goro have also built a humanoid robot called Jet Jaguar, presumably for sexual purposes. Jet Jaguar attracts the attention of some secret agents from Seatopia who are concerned that the robot might thwart their Megalon related plans. They must not know that Jet Jaguar is totally lame. Anyway, there are some twists, some turns, Jet Jaguar is highjacked by these spies briefly, but then escapes their control and somehow gains sentience. He then zooms off to Monster Island to ask Godzilla for help clobbering Megalon, and Godzilla happily agrees because by this point he has completely turned the corner from menace to hero. Anticipating Godzilla’s involvement, Seatopia sends for Gigan’s help, because they apparently work with whatever cosmic temp agency manages him, but they couldn’t afford Ghidorah. Jet Jaguar grows to kaiju size (he can do that, I guess), and the four players beat the shit out of each other for the rest of the movie. It’s not that awesome…

Monster role call!

  • 936full-godzilla-vs_-megalon-photoGODZILLA- Just a big ol’ softy. In this one, Godzilla’s head has been redesigned, 713875-vlcsnap_2010_10_31_12h22m27s8his eyes are much larger, and more frontal, which gives him a more humanoid and friendly appearance. Godzilla also observes different human customs, such as the shaking of hands, and feeling insulted when Megalon taunts him with his weird monster butt-slap dance. Things were getting a little Gamera by this point.
  • JET JAGUAR– A giant piece of garbage.
  • MEGALON– A giant bug.
  • GIGAN- Hey! Gigan’s back!Godzilla-Vs-Megalon-1973

So, yeah… The movie has like, several car chases in it, which is new. There’s also a lot more human on human violence, some of which is kind of goofy. The whole film is much more light and silly than recent entries, and this is the movie where Godzilla does his much despised flying missile kick, a fighting move so ridiculous it was immortalized in the opening of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a program designed to mock cinematic insolence. In fact, Godzilla VS Megalon, as a whole, was riffed left, right and center by MST3K in 1991.


GvM is a lull, an awkward misstep between the introduction of the relevant and much loved Gigan in the previous film, and the introduction of the relevant and much loved Mecha Godzilla in the sequel the following year. It’s a fumble, but it’s not super terrible. Really, GvM isn’t much of anything.


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