The horror classic Manos: The Hands of Fate turns 50 this year. That’s right; the infamous so bad it’s good movie is now almost half a century old. To commemorate its big 5-0, there are not one, but two new Manos films currently in production. One of them is the sequel Manos Returns, which we reported on a few months back, and the other is an unrelated prequel called Manos: The Rise of Torgo.
As we’re all big Manos fans here at Dread Central, we naturally can’t wait to see both films. We even had the opportunity to speak with David Roy, the writer/director of The Rise of Torgo, to find out why he choose to expand the Manos universe.
DC: What makes the original Manos: The Hands of Fate such a huge part of our culture?
DR: Good question. I don’t know that I’m qualified to answer, but I’ll take a swing.
Hal Warren poured his heart and soul into his film. I think people respond to that. It’s true that without MST3K’s resurrection of Manos, it would have disappeared into the past, but that was in ’93 and the Manos wave continues to grow.
There’s an ethereal quality about Manos, something I feel when I watch the movie but struggle to describe. The film is such an interesting succession of awfulness that it manages to entertain regardless of its illogical storyline. It’s like that kid with a limp that is trying to finish the big race. No one takes him seriously, but everyone cheers him across the finish line.
Hal Warren did what he had to to get his film made. He was the singular point of vision, and he would have it no other way. I think we, the audience, see his accomplishment, awful or not, and know that we can accomplish something as well.
I just want to say that Manos was Hal’s first (and only) film. For a first attempt at a film, let alone a feature film, he really didn’t do too bad. If he had done some rewrites and taken a little more time in pre-production, this might have been a horror classic. In the end he got it shot, finished, and shown’ and that’s saying a lot.
DC: As some viewers may not be familiar with the story of Manos, can you explain who Torgo is, and how this relates to the story of the first film?
DR: Torgo is the outcast. He’s the kid no one wants in their group, but they let him tag along so he can guard the bikes when the rest of the kids go see a movie. If you’ve seen the original Manos: The Hands of Fate, then you must be at least part nerd, and if you are in any part a nerd, you know what it’s like to be Torgo at some point in your life.
In Hands of Fate, Torgo is the caretaker of “The Place.” He is a servant to the Master and his women, all of which serve Manos, the god of primal darkness. Not much is explained about what duties Torgo performs for them. I assume he feeds and cleans up after the Master’s doberman and does other caretaker stuff.
He was originally supposed to be a hunchback, but Warren felt that was overdone in Hollywood so he made the call to give Torgo big thighs. Torgo’s distinctive wobbly walk and his equally wobbly speech are unique to him and instantly identify the character. Since Hands of Fate is a slice of life movie, nothing is explained about how things came to be or where they came from or what they’re doing there. So I took it upon myself to make the prequel to Hands of Fate, Manos: The Rise of Torgo, and tell how Torgo came to be the caretaker.
DC: Is anyone from the original involved?
DR: Yes. Jackey Raye Neyman Jones plays Manos. Though not actually involved in the original, Bryan Jennings, the son of William Bryan Jennings, who played the Sheriff, voices the Sheriff in Rise of Torgo. Tom Neyman was approached, but he declined to participate.
DC: Stylistically, will this match the original film?
DR: Kind of. I tried to follow what I called “Hal’s rules.” No shots over 30 seconds, no audio, 1-3 takes, pay minimal attention to focus and framing, and fix it in post (which is killing me now). The characters are similar with clunky conversations and awkward dialogue.
Manos: The Rise of Torgo has grown into its own thing, like a sibling to the original, similar in so many ways yet different.
DC: I understand that you shot without recording audio?
DR: Correct. We’re doing a complete sound design front to back. All dialogue has been recorded separately and laid in. To my knowledge no sound from production will be used. Brian Hoff’s Art House Sound is doing the sound design, and I’m grateful for it. This is the only aspect of producing the movie that I’m not involved in.
DC: And you have well-known Marvel artist Bob Wiacek on board to handle the poster and DVD artwork?
DR: Yeah! How cool is that? He left a message on the Rise of Torgo Facebook page asking about the film! His profile read “Marvel Entertainment” so I checked him out and was floored. Not so much that it was the famous Bob Wiacek (which is still way cool) but by how much of my massive comic book collection he’s had a hand in creating. I’ve been looking at his art/inking for like 37 years, it’s crazy.
I decided to ask him for help with the artwork; I mean, why not? Worst he can do is say no. Instead he replied saying he’d love to do the artwork. Again, how cool is that? I’m going to have an original Wiacek Manos poster hanging on my wall!
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