“MANOS”: THE HANDS OF FATE (Harold P. Warren, 1966)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Saturday, November 18, 2:00
Series runs through February 28
There aren’t a whole lot of movies that get skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (aka MST3K) and later have the privilege of being shown at the Museum of Modern Art. But one of them, “Manos”: The Hands of Fate, universally considered to be one of the very worst films ever made, is receiving that honor as part of the MoMA series “You Are Now One of Us: Film at Club 57,” held in conjunction with the gallery exhibition “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983.” And no question about it, “Manos”: The Hands of Fate, which translates as “Hands: The Hands of Fate” and was written, directed, and produced by fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren, who also plays the lead, is thoroughly atrocious; it really has to be seen to be believed. Michael (Warren), his wife, Margaret (Diane Mahree), their young daughter, Debbie (Jackey Neyman), and their doomed dog, Peppy, get lost on vacation in Texas, searching for Valley Lodge but instead winding up at a creaky house with a jittery Renfield/Igor-like caretaker named Torgo (John Reynolds) who worships the Master (set designer Tom Neyman), a caped creep with a bushy mustache and a bevy of wives dressed in white (Stephanie Nielson, Sherry Proctor, Robin Redd, Jay Hall, Bettie Burns, and Lelaine Hansard) who participate in crazy rituals when not getting into an utterly ridiculous mass catfight. Each scene is more absurd than the one that precedes it, getting worse by the second as the really stupid family gets deeper and deeper into trouble. All technical aspects of the seventy-minute horror show, from the cinematography (Robert Guidry), editing (James Sullivan and Ernie Smith), and writing (Warren) to the sound (Bruce Shearin), score (Robert Smith Jr. and Russ Huddleston), and lighting, are amazingly atrocious.
All of the dialogue, which often gets lost behind the terrible music, was poorly dubbed in postproduction by only a few actors. Shots could not last more than thirty-two seconds because of the type of handheld camera used. Reynolds was high on acid through the entire shoot and committed suicide shortly before the film’s premiere. At various moments you can see the “Action!” clapboard flash by and Warren mouthing the word “Cut!” Warren added completely unrelated scenes of a teenage couple (Bernie Rosenblum and Joyce Molleur) making out in a convertible because he wanted Molleur in the movie even though an injury prevented her from playing one of the Master’s wives. The 2004 documentary Hotel Torgo claims that since the movie was released, “the cast and crew have all passed away or mysteriously disappeared,” except for Rosenblum. (Actually, several are indeed still alive and have been looking into making a prequel or a sequel.) The movie was made for less than twenty grand, with Warren offering cast and crew percentages that totaled way more than one hundred percent of the take. And just wait till you see the Master spread out his arms and reveal his costume, which was designed by Thomas Ivy, whose grand plans for the wives’ attire was thwarted by the actresses, who refused to wear more revealing outfits. One of the film’s only redeeming elements is the philosophy spouted by a local police officer (William Bryan Jennings; no, really) who states, “If you’re running late, you should have started earlier” and “Well, whatever it is you’re not doing, go and don’t do it somewhere else.” “Manos”: The Hands of Fate is so bad that it’s hard to love it the way so many movie fanatics do Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space and Phil Tucker’s Robot Monster.
“This may indeed be one of the most inept films ever made,” explains “You Are Now One of Us: Film at Club 57” guest curator John “Lypsinka” Epperson in his program notes. “But it points toward some other disturbing horror films that became classics of the genre: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, and all of their many derivations. In “Manos,” a family is tormented by a heathen group of bizarre characters. The exposing of the Manson ‘family’ came three years later. Many of the Club 57 members were impressionable teens when the Manson murders took place. Ten years after, at the basement club in the East Village, mocking a questionably tasteless film about ‘family vs. family’ could have been a way of purging the fears.” You’re more likely to purge your lunch than your fears when watching this disorientingly dreadful flick, in which Torgo fatefully declares, “There is no way out.” The wide-ranging MoMA series continues through February 28 with such other films as Andy Warhol’s Vinyl, Luis Buñuel’s El, Phil Karlson’s Kansas City Confidential, and Joseph H. Lewis’s The Big Combo.
The Center for Book Arts
28 West 27th St., third floor
Friday, November 17, suggested admission $10, 6:30
“I work with the book. It is my chosen medium for the simple fact that it can contain and embrace all artistic media and expressions. Within the book, an infinitely complex array of materials and techniques come together and combine with a history as rich and diverse as we who create and use it. I often refer to the book in its totality as Alchemy.” So declares Mark Cockram, a faculty fellow at the Center for Book Arts, where on November 17 he will participate in an artist talk and reception in conjunction with his exhibition, “Beyond the Rules.” The show features several of his unique, multidimensional books and bindings, including The Lysistrata of Aristophanes, Wine from My Garden, Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday, and Iskandar Jalil: Kembara Tanah Liat (Clay Travels). The exhibit continues through December 16; also currently on view at the center are “Felicia Rice: Collaboration and Metamorphosis” and the interactive “The Internal Machine,” consisting of pieces, many of which visitors can touch and activate, by Doug Beube, Ranjit Bhatnagar, András Böröcz, Caroline Bouissou, Gillian Brown, Brian Dettmer, Juan Fontanive, Arnaldo Morales, Bruno Munari, Alexander Rosenberg, Claudia Schmitz, Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson, Kaethe Wenzel, Benjamin Wright, Nick Yulman, and Mary Ziegler.
You don’t have to wait for their next season at the Joyce to catch the Trocks, aka Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, here in New York City. On November 15, Canadian director Bobbi Jo Hart’s ninety-minute documentary, Rebels on Pointe, opens at the Quad, an intimate look at the “the World’s Foremost All-Male Comic Ballet Company.” Founded in 1974, the Trocks specialize in parodying classical ballet and gender identity. “In the early years, the company was blackballed because of the gay element,” notes one troupe member, while another says, “I can be myself. I can wear tutus; why not? Little things change the world.” Named Best Documentary at several film festivals, Rebels on Pointe follows the troupe as it travels around the world, presenting its unique flair and talent, going behind the scenes and showing them perform onstage. “When that curtain goes up, it’s just electric,” another dancer declares. Hart (Rise, I Am Not a Rock Star) and members of the troupe will be at the Quad for a Q&A following the 7:00 screening on November 15.
In conjunction with the excellent exhibition “Proof: Francisco Goya, Sergei Eisenstein, Robert Longo,” which equates primarily black-and-white etchings, drawings, and films by Spanish painter Francisco Goya, Russian auteur Sergei Eisenstein, and American visual artist Robert Longo as they relate to the socioeconomic and -political issues of their times, the Brooklyn Museum is hosting an artist talk with Longo and American art critic and historian Hal Foster, author of such books as Compulsive Beauty, The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century, and The Art-Architecture Complex. The exhibition features stunning large-scale, multipanel charcoal drawings by the Brooklyn-born Longo that resemble photographs, including “Untitled (Black Pussy Hat in Women’s March),” “Untitled (Bullet Hole in Window),” and “Untitled (Mecca).” Longo and Foster will discuss how art and activism, and particularly photography, can have an impact in times of emergency, like what is happening right now in the United States and around the world.
Conference: NYIT, 1871 Broadway, $45 - $215, 8:00 am - 12:30 pm
Festival: Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall Street, $95 - $215, 6:00 - 9:00
Thursday, November 16
The Politics of Food will bring together more than 250 chefs, politicians, experts, and policy makers, examining the current state of nutrition in New York State and serving signature dishes. Held on November 16, the day begins at 8:00 in the morning at the New York Institute of Technology for a conference that includes the panel discussions “Future of food programs for NYC’s vulnerable communities,” with Barbara Turk, Donna M. Corrado, Margarette Purvis, and Joel Berg, “Legislating Nutrition and Sustainability,” with Charles Platkin, Elizabeth Balkan, Gale A. Brewer, and Kim Kessler, and “Food Dialogue with Farmers and Consumers: Common values? Common ground?” Richard Ball will deliver the keynote address, with closing remarks by Julia Turshen. The fun really begins at 6:00 at the Museum of American Finance for the Taste of Lower Manhattan Food Festival, hosted by Wylie Dufresne and boasting samples from chefs Jay Strauss, Jin Ruan, Joseph Mallol, Louis Goral, Mark Rosati, Matt Deliso, Nicolas “Nico” Abello, and Shaun Acosta and restaurants Amada, Benares, Blacktail at Pier A, Brushstroke, the Dead Rabbit, Blue Ribbon Federal Grill, Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, Harry’s Cafe and Steak, Harry & Ida’s Luncheonette, Jing Fong, L’Appart, Pier A Harbor House, Shake Shack, the Tuck Room, and Westville. Tickets for the conference are $45 and the food festival $95, with various VIP incentives at higher prices.