Bad movies, strange movies. If you’ve been listening to our FILMS OF 1985 podcast (as well you should), you know I’m a big fan. From way back, I’ve been a fan of cult and exploitation cinema. The stuff that sends people running for the exits is the same stuff that calls me home. Always comforting, always a pleasure. There is an inherent enjoyment in one of these films that you can’t find elsewhere.
Today, I revisit two notable bad movies. One of them is still obscure while the other has been rescued from obscurity and has since become notorious.
DAY 17: JANUARY 29, 2013
MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (1966) – A family on their first vacation gets lost on the dirty Texas roads and ends up at at lodge rundown shack. They meet the caretaker squatter Torgo, a strange and filthy man who speaks rapturously of “the Master” and makes a few groping passes at the wife. The family soon discover that they have stumbled onto a cult, worshipping the demonic god, Manos (which means “hands” in Spanish and sure enough, hand iconography is everywhere). The Master has risen from his slumber, as has his harem of captive wives.
If you already know about MANOS, you know about it because it is so terrible. Chances are, you even saw it on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. Of the nearly two hundred films riffed on that show, MANOS is often cited as perhaps being the worst of the bunch. They actually saved the film from obscurity in a way since the film has developed its cult status since then. They even did a great Rifftrax Live event surrounding the film, which was rerun in theatres last week.
As for me, I’ve seen this film every which way – MST3K, Rifftrax and yes, all by itself and on multiple occasions. It’s an endurance test. Sitting through MANOS without accompaniment, you need to put your brain in what I call “zen mode.” That means who just absorb everything as it comes without passing judgement. The sound doesn’t work? I am at one with the world. There’s endless shots of driving? I am at one with the world? The whole film should make you want to shower? Don’t bother me, I’m at one with the world.
If you picked up a camera, or even your phone, and started filming a movie without any preparation, you have a 50-50 chance of making a better film than MANOS. If you at any point decide to shoot multiple takes, cut when people forget their lines or even do the smallest amount of editing once filming has wrapped, that figure increases to one hundred percent.
The dubbed acting is terrible. Much of the film is out of focus. The film seems to stumble in even the most basic tenets of competence. And that’s why it’s so deliriously entertaining. And I’m talking with or without the riffing. With the riffing is great, because both the MST3K and Rifftrax versions are hilarious thanks to the contributions of the former Best Brains gang. Without it, you’re on your own. But if you are a glutton for punishment, if you eat these films up like I do, MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE holds a special place in your heart. Riffed versions: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★) / Original version: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★)
There is currently a project underway to digitally restore MANOS from a recently discovered negative. From the look of the images, the results are incredible. Click here to check out Manos in HD!
THE MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE (a.k.a. THE MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE, OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY NATURE) (1964) – Speaking of hard films to sit through there’s always this. This is one of those old “nudie cuties” that got shown in theatres before the roughies, softcore sexploitation and eventually hardcore pornography came on the scene. It’s remarkably one of only two films to combine the nudist camp formula with a monster movie (the other film, THE BEAST WHO KILLED WOMEN, is available on the same DVD). Well, maybe there were only two. Only two survive at any rate, according to Something Weird and these are guys who usually know what they’re talking about.
If you’re wondering when I’ll get to the plot, I already have. A gardener at a nudist camp turns into a monster and terrorizes the camp. That’s it. And no, the film isn’t violent. Like many nudist films, this one involves the people at the camp enjoying nature, playing sports, sunning themselves, throwing birthday parties (careful with those sparklers) and whatnot. These films didn’t have a very high erotic content, but I guess back then you took what you could get.
Like MANOS, this film was shot without sound. Unlike MANOS, they never dubbed any of the actors, presenting the film instead like an old school silent film, complete with title cards to convey action and dialogue. This gives THE MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE a unique charm that helps it stand out. Also, the film never gets too grim for its own good which is a plus. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND (1985) – An anthropologist and her long suffering husband (Sean Young and William Katt) discover a family of brontosauruses living in the African jungle. Initially intrigued by this scientific discovery, they try to protect the youngest dinosaur, Baby, from their unscrupulous and murderous rival, Eric (Patrick McGoohan).
MASK (1985) – Peter Bogdonovich’s film focuses on Rocky Dennis (Eric Stoltz), a teenager with a rare disease that causes his face to be deformed. His recieves support from his single mom (Cher) and a group of bikers who serve s the surrogate family for Rocky and his mother. And while he deals with his ailment admirably, the frustrations of the world still weigh heavy on Rocky Dennis. This film was nominated for three Oscars and won one for Best Makeup Effects.
POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT (1985) – In this sequel to the 1983 film, the graduates of the police academy are sent to the worst precinct in town and assigned to clean up the streets. A street gang, run by a manic guy with a speech impediment (Bob Golthwait, in his film debut), is a thorn in the cops’ side. The rookies get no aid from a watch commander (Art Montero) who trying to ensure the failure of the recruits, so he can become the new commissioner.
And all of these will eventually be covered on our podcast, FILM GEEK CENTRAL PRESENTS: THE FILMS OF 1985. If you haven’t checked out our episodes so far, go for it! Every week, we’re covering every single film released way back in 1985. Take a look at every film we’re reviewed thus far and check out the films we’ll be covering throughout the year. Click here for more info!
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 53
My soundtrack for January 29, 2013: “Spring brings the rain. With winter comes pain. Every season has an end.”