Manos: Live – RiffTrax Trip Report

Manos Master Painting

It is no secret that “Manos” the Hands of Fate is among the worst movies of all time. The film has a special place in the heart of millions of B-movie fans, has been risen to exalted status by an exceptional MST3K episode, and has entered the pulp culture lexicon. And while people celebrate it in several ways – art, restoring it from the original 16mm print, filming a sequel, making a video game, doing a puppet version, doing a theatrical musical version…the one thing that hasn’t changed is the film is still awful! But it’s awful for different reasons. It is dirty and groos and disgusting, but it’s also strangely beautiful and quaint and awkward. It’s just….Manos!

And it is only fitting that RiffTrax takes a stab at Manos in their recent Live Show, as RiffTrax is made up of alums from MST3K and have experience in this sort of thing. All 100% new jokes, and a cleaned up print (NOTE: This is not the wonderful restored print from Manos in HD, of which I am a Kickstarter contributor and got my keen Torgo shirt and Manos pin already. That print is unfortunately only 90% done, not in time for the show. But I did pull the screengrabs here from that blog!)

A full study of Manos would require much more time that we have here, and I’m waiting until I get my restored Manos BluRay to do that, so we’re going to be more focused on the Riffing than the Torgoing, if you know what I mean.

The theater was the most full I’ve seen for a RiffTrax Live Show, around 80% capacity. We even had some guy dressed up sort of as Torgo. And as usual, the show begins before the show with the Movie Trivia slides, which were top notch. From Movie Mistake Sam Worthington to the Celebrities are Just Like Us slides, there was some great stuff. The set that the Riffers do their work from is all decked out in giant dogs, a huge painting of The Master, and various hand set pieces. Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett prepare to lead us into the world of Manos. The hands of fate.

As usual, we precede the entertainment with some shorts. Both of the shorts are destined to be RiffTrax classics, which is probably why they aren’t available for free on the digital goodies page! First up is Welcome Home Norman, which was a ten minute quest of Norman trying to get out of the airport. Norman is a bit of a sad sack, which you can tell by his catchphrase “Unnnnnnnnggggghhhh!” which was used often. See Norman’s huge car not be able to open its doors enough! Thrill as Norman doesn’t put his bags in the trunk for some reason! Be shocked as Norman forgets his luggage on the roof of his car! You’ll be on the edge of your seat when Norman drops a match in his crotch! And, the kicker is the whole affair is a setup to a lousy joke! Remember: This is an educational children’s short. For some reason. Unnnnnnnnnggggghhhhh.

We have a quick break with the most charismatic prune juice spokesperson in the history of commercials. You will become so enamored with prune juice that you will run out and buy the biggest bottle available and quickly go to town on it. Sexually.

The other short is the third of the At Your Fingertips series to get the treatment. The classic At Your Fingertips: Grass traumatized thousands of loyal RiffTraxxers and anyone unfortunate enough to have actually seen it during childhood. The things developed using grass could only have been come up by people smoking grass. Unnnnnngggggghhhhhh. Shortly after, the companion film At Your Fingertips: Boxes also featured mad creations that result when everyone in the universe is on drugs. And now, At Your Fingertips: Cylinders is the third chapter in the unholy trilogy of fingers. You see, fingers, Manos, it all makes sense! Yes, join us as weird children make weirder crafts out of cardboard tubes. And then torture them or something, based on the fate of the robot created by the last child. Poor robot… =(

And if you wonder if there are more At Your Fingertips films, there are. I won’t spoil them, but there are more.
Manos Torgo
And now, the main event. Manos! 100% new riffs. A print that lets us soak in the full wonder of Manos. It’s clearer, it’s brighter, it shows off how everything is 1000% more stainy. The couch is the filthiest thing ever, it’s even dirtier than the literal pile of dirt Torgo sleeps on. Only Manos can become more disgustingly filthy when it’s more cleaned up. RiffTrax did a good job allowing many of the awkward cuts and pauses and facial ticks speak for themselves. Because part of the charm of Manos is just how sincere and weird it is. It made them just that much more funny, and it showed the experience needed to know that subtlety is often funnier than being a loud obnoxious screecher pointing out everything wrong with a film.

The slams come hard and fierce, my favorite was the White Trash Twilight Sketch. But the blasting of Torgo’s slowness and Mike’s ineptness were awesome. This featured the full version, so we got scenes that you only would have seen if you downloaded the Archive.org version or bought the cheapo DVD, including the first wife being beaten by the Master (and featuring a large smear of red jam on her face!)

The RiffTrax Live Shows have been increasing in quality each time I’ve gone to see them. They’ve moved beyond the replaying of the colorized DVDs I already owned to newer and original content. The writing is more polished, the jokes are funnier, and I like watching them perform in front of a live audience. They just come alive more. It’s also why I like the later Cinematic Titanic DVDs, it just feels more real. Sometimes I regret paying for films, but I’ve never regretted paying for RiffTrax. I look forward to going to see more. Even though I hate Birdemic and that’s made me a bit apprehensive about their next live show featuring the film, the fact the RiffTrax guys will be there makes me sort of want to see it. But no man or woman should ever watch Birdemic unaided. It’s just awful awful awful. Birdemic makes me “Unnnngggghhhh!”

Thanks to the RiffTrax crew, especially Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Mike Nelson, for a wonderful time. And thanks to Todd at FourDK for also joining me at the show so I wasn’t there alone.

Manos Master

Until Next Time!

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!