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Ben Solo
Oct 22, 2004

I take care of the place while the Master is away.
[Edit] Fundraising store is up!

Not long ago I was in San Diego, rummaging through a storage space full of old film and wondering what I'd gotten myself into.

I'd been tipped off about an e-bay auction that no one had bid on, probably because the freight was too high. It was boxes upon boxes of 16mm and 35mm film, titles that had lapsed into the public domain, all of which had belonged to a distributor called Emerson Films. Emerson's properties were familiar to anyone that had watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the day, and on the list a few familiars jumped out at me. Six copies of The Atomic Brain in 16mm. Hamlet in 16mm and 35mm. Two copies of Manos: The Hands of Fate (Wikipedia IMDB) in 16mm. "A piece of film history", I had thought only half sarcastically, not intending to do much about it. But the more I thought about it the more I was wanting to get back into 16mm collecting, which is a hobby that can have an enjoyable social side to it. Who doesn't like to host a movie night and show actual film?

I e-mailed the seller and made an offer on a small slice of the collection, about what you'd expect to pay for two or three 16mm prints, and offered to pick them up. I'd decided that I'd like to own The Atomic Brain and Manos, assuming they were in good enough shape. I got a reply the next day:

"You can have all the boxes... if you choose to eliminate some of them, so be it... (we are) moving to Florida on the 27th, and we don't want them to be part of the move."

The following Sunday I was driving back from San Diego with my car completely stuffed, a bill of sale tucked onto my dashboard. In Los Angeles, I knew I could flip and sell the prints I didn't want, and more than break even. I had looked at a few reels on a loupe and found them in great shape, with no acidic odor. The one Manos reel I had been able to inspect was a little faded but otherwise good. Considering its rarity, it was well worth the trouble. I looked forward to checking out the others.

When I got home, I found the other copy of Manos. Immediately I saw the label, which read "WORKPRINT".

And the leader, which had an alternate title I'd never heard of.

When I unwound a bit of the film, I noticed dual perfs and an immaculate Ektachrome image staring back at me.

It seems that, in a cost cutting measure, Manos: The Hands of Fate had been shot on 16mm reversal stock and edited using that same stock. From that, a 35mm blow-up internegative had been made and theatrical prints had been produced from that internegative in turn. Audiences at the time would have been watching a copy of a copy, and along the way cheap labwork had cropped the image and compromised the color.

A VHS transfer made from this material after 30 years of wear and tear is the version most commonly seen, and it's no surprise that, compared to the workprint, it looks like you're watching it through a shower drain.



A common refrain I've heard is that without Joel and the Bots, the movie is "unwatchable", but I suspect a big part of that is the bad visual presentation that the movie has always had. When you divest Manos of its grimy, unpleasant patina, you are still left with an amateurish, weirdly edited, small town horror film. But with a clearer view of the production design (paintings, metalwork, and stone sculptures by Tom Neyman, a local artist who played The Master), the off kilter handmade world the film presents, and the shaggy but poppy Ektachrome photography by Robert Guidry, 45 years later Manos assumes a different identity as a fascinating bit of 1966 ephemera.

Here is a truly independent horror film from the 60's, a contemporary of 1962's Carnival of Souls and 1968's Night of the Living Dead. The main difference being, of course, that those movies came from career filmmakers Herk Harvey and George Romero, who had already made commercials and industrials and knew how a set should be run. Hal Warren, director of Manos, did not have that sort of experience and the deck was truly stacked against him. Although he had not yet infamously sold fertilizer- that would come later- he was a good salesman and was able to rustle up a reported budget of $19,000 (over $132,000 in today's money) to get his script made. His cast and crew worked for a "percentage" that never materialized.

If you yourself have ever been involved in an independent movie, Manos becomes somewhat poignant as you see evidence of the problems that have arisen and have been worked around or willfully ignored. Actors dropping in and out of the production, a broken leg that stranded two in a car for their entire screen time...

A lack of reliable electricity, which creates a murky, crudely lit effect at night and forces your photographer to spring-wind the camera when the motor can't be powered...

Animals that were unwisely written into the movie and refuse to cooperate...

It's all very relatable stuff. And because this is a movie where the artifices of filmmaking are constantly crumbling and being rebuilt, a little shakier every time, it holds a certain fascination to film buffs that places it above worse and more boring films (which there are no shortage of, then or now). Simply put, it's memorable. If you've seen it you'll remember Torgo and the Master. You'll remember the interminable driving that opens the movie, the weird squabbling of the Wives, the loungey soundtrack, the unconvincing dubbing, the Scorpio Rising-esque invocation of Manos, God Of Primal Darkness. All this in a film that's only 70 minutes and change.

So rather than have Manos fade away as a footnote with only a cruddy video transfer to remember it by, I've resolved to make it a personal project to restore it.

I put up a simple website to share my project with friends, and recently made it public. The very idea of seeing Manos on Blu-ray started as a joke but now has become something more real and, in a way, natural. Making a living as a cameraman I've become familiar with postproduction and the steps necessary to properly remaster Manos. The scans you see were made by me on a simple desktop scanner so I could better share the potential of this workprint- a professional motion picture film scan will look even better with far more dynamic range.

The spare 16mm print will be used as a source of audio and as a reference to the movie as it was originally edited. The workprint has undergone a professional cleaning and been properly stored, and after I secure funds it will be captured in 2k to DPX files and given a touch of digital scratch removal with a PFClean suite. All the while I will be taking pains to preserve the original grain structure of the Ektachrome film (which in that era was quite prominent).

In addition to making a digital restoration of Manos of sufficient quality to produce a new print or digital projection files, I will be creating a limited run Blu-ray and making the restoration available for repertory screenings. While I have no illusions that this film is for anything but a niche market, I also feel that if I don't restore it no one else will.

Film restoration is something that too often falls by the wayside in troubled economic times. Though it's doubtful I will change anyone's minds about Manos, I would like to send a message that every film, regardless of the place it holds in movie history, deserves a fair shot to be maintained and presented in the best way possible.

Although I hope and pray with every fiber of my being that 45 years from now I won't hobble over to my holocomputer and see a thread like this about Meet The Spartans.

Ben Solo fucked around with this message at 06:18 on Sep 3, 2012


Uncle Boogeyman
Jul 22, 2007

I don't know what to say except that this is straight up amazing and you are doing the film world a service. I can assure you that the idea of seeing a beautifully restored print of Manos at my local indie theater is very appealing.

Oct 1, 2008
Fascinating thread, cheers for posting it.

Criminal Minded
Jan 4, 2005

Spring break forever
I've never even seen the movie and never really intended to, but you've got my attention. I will sure as poo poo buy this when you put it out. Fantastic thread.

Empress Theonora
Feb 19, 2001

She was a sword glinting in the depths of night, a lance of light piercing the darkness. There would be no mistakes this time.
This is incredibly cool. I'm so used to the MST3K print of this film, where, as the bots pointed out, every frame looks like somebody's last-known photograph, that the clarity of the frames you've posted is startling and wonderful.

Oct 12, 2007

by Cyrano4747
I don't even have a BR player and I'll buy this. This is awesome.

Jan 20, 2004

I wasn't paying attention
to what you just said.

Can you repeat yourself
in a more interesting way?
Hell Gem
This is a really cool project. I've never seen Manos but I'll probably buy a copy from you!

Call Me Charlie
Dec 3, 2005

by Smythe
You are amazing.

Have you tried contacting any distributors? You would be surprised at what is getting released on Blu-Ray. Something Weird releasing Basket Case and The Blood Trilogy through Image Entertainment. Cult Epics releasing Radley Metzger and Tinto Brass movies. Synapse Films releasing all sorts of weird niche poo poo.

There has to be some company interested in footing the bill to restore it and give it a good transfer for general release.

Call Me Charlie fucked around with this message at 04:29 on Nov 23, 2011

Jul 28, 2007

Conspicuous Absinthe
Someone should get a hold of Mike over at Rifftrax.

You are doing God's Work, my friend. I will buy the poo poo out of the Blu-ray if possible.

Magic Hate Ball
May 6, 2007

ha ha ha!
you've already paid for this
I've seen some of these images before but you're exactly right about the film's odd visual quality. It reminds me of old family photos, kind of inept but imbued with this strange atmosphere. I can't believe I'm looking forward to seeing this.

Jose Oquendo
Jun 20, 2004

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a boring movie
I'm down for a copy. You absolutely need to contact the Rifftrax guys with this info.

Aug 20, 2006

I will buy two copies.

Jay Dub
Jul 27, 2009

I'm not listening
to youuuuu...
This is amazing.

I didn't really give this a second thought after it popped up on twitter a few weeks ago. So thank you for posting this thread. I'm glad this didn't just fade back into obscurity as soon as it popped back up. Looking forward to getting a copy as well.

Egbert Souse
Nov 6, 2008

You're doing the world a favor. I know we all make jokes about horrible movies not needing to exist, but even the worst, most useless films need to be preserved.

Manos is the odd bad movie that's watchable because it's terrible. But I honestly feel that even the worst films need to be experienced in the best quality possible. I've felt that Manos in its original incarnation (sans MST3K) is a genuinely creepy movie, sort of like David Lynch's work.

Count me in for wanting a copy on Blu, but only after it's properly preserved. This needs to have new 16mm and 35mm elements created as backup, along with digital files. Maybe a CineD fundraiser can be held.

Some recommendations...

Criterion has a direct email here:

UCLA Film & TV Archive has worked on a lot of low budget 16mm restorations:

Film restorer Robert Harris has a subforum for inquiries at Home Theater Forum:

Egbert Souse fucked around with this message at 05:10 on Nov 23, 2011

Sep 6, 2005
I'm own for a copy if you make it.

Nov 19, 2004

Nice try, asshole

I will say unequivocally that this is the coolest loving thing I have ever seen in CineD. Kudos to you, good sir.

I have never seen Manos -- I've wanted to, but Netflix only has the version with "Joel and the bots" and I absolutely cannot tolerate MST3K. I've thought about getting it elsewhere, but now I think I'll wait to see how this project pans out.

Dec 6, 2005

What the hell, I'll just eat some trash.

Manos is an indispensable piece of outsider art.

People look it as kitsch, which I guess it is, but it's also much more fascinating as a time capsule, a story of its own, or - if you're willing to surrender to it - a weird little nightmare along the lines of Harpya and Eraserhead.

Restoring it may help it's reputation in that category.

You're doing a great thing here.

FFD, you can check the film out "clean" on

Sep 5, 2006

That still of Torgo blown-up to a bigger size would make an awesome framed picture or a poster or something.

Jul 5, 2007
What, me worry?
I was just reading the loving JAMES FRANCO thread, and seeing a project as bizarre as that succeed, I think your plan has even better odds of working out. Good luck you crazy film-restoring man!

Sep 20, 2002

Never seen the movie, never really desired to, but as a movie fan I love this stuff. All the best to your work, and I hope along with a Bluray a high quality DVD is in the plans as well (no HD here).

Jun 28, 2003

by FactsAreUseless
Grimey Drawer
I totally thought this thread would be some crappy write up of why Manos wasn't terrible etc. etc. blah blah blah.

But this, this is amazing.

Ok Comboomer
Oct 20, 2007

a man in a Focus RS gave me a 'thumbs up' today
Holy crap.

Like people have already mentioned:

Contact UCLA and Criterion.

Contact Mike Nelson from Rifftrax (and MST3K).

Make this project as publicly known about as you possibly can, because this is absolutely not "just a niche thing that only a few goons would be into." Manos is infamous and a restoration like this is worth a lot to many more people than CineD.

Hell if you wanted to- you could get several grand, easy, on Kickstarter for doing this- and probably much more if you wanted to distribute the film on physical or digital media. Since the film is in Public Domain, and you own a physical copy, you might want to look into what your distribution options are. If you decided to make a BluRay/DVD/Download, you could (and should) be compensated. There's a small company near my parents' house that does all of the DVD stuff and merch for Reefer Madness, which is also Public Domain, and it's by far one of their biggest earners (they specialize in buying up/storing/restoring/distributing PD or very old films and TV shows).

EDIT: I know how predatory a lot of this sounds (basically profiting off of old films) but this sort of stuff takes labor and money put into it, so I wouldn't judge you badly if you wanted to sell copies of the film after.

Ok Comboomer fucked around with this message at 06:21 on Nov 23, 2011

usb teledildonics
Oct 10, 2009

those who came before me
This thread has made my night! I can't wait to see who decides to help restore/distribute this.

Illegibly Eligible
Jul 21, 2009
Weird coincidence. I just rewatched the Manos episode of MST3K a few days ago. Can't wait to see what becomes of your project OP!

Magic Pus
Mar 27, 2010
Electric Bugaloo is right.

This film is infamous and there are more than a few people- myself included- who would be more than willing to donate funds to see this project brought to fruition.

Spatulater bro!
Aug 19, 2003

Punch! Punch! Punch!

Manos: Finggrs of Fate

I love it!

Tars Tarkas
Apr 13, 2003

Rock the Mok

A nasty woman, I think you should try is, Jess.

This is awesome. That is all.

Sep 9, 2003

Perform sex? Uh uh, I don't think I'm up to a performance, but I'll rehearse with you...

Thank you so much for this.

This also makes me miss collecting 16mm prints. You find some weird stuff that way.

Detective Thompson
Nov 9, 2007

Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. is also in repose.
Cool stuff. I don't know if I could ever watch Manos on its own, but having a cleaner print would certainly go a ways towards convincing me to do so. Good on you for taking this on. You're right that films need to preserved, even if it's something like Manos. I mean, how many films from the early era are gone forever? You're doing something very cool and in some way beneficial to future generations of film nerds. So good luck.

And what are you going to do with the rest of the prints? You said there are a number of duplicates in there. Are you or will you sell them off, and in what fashion (ebay, SAmart, locally)?

Dissapointed Owl
Jan 30, 2008

You wrote me a letter,
and this is how it went:
This is absolutely incredible and I so hope to get a chance to buy a BluRay. Fantastic stuff.

Power Smith
Aug 22, 2011

Electric Bugaloo has the right idea. Get a hold of as many people as you can about this. This is a big deal.

Oct 6, 2008

Lipstick Apathy
Put me down for a copy of the blu-ray. I would be happy to donate to this project.

Mar 9, 2009

* Juciano makes the best damned Caesar dressing I've ever tasted in my life.

This is almost unbelievable. You own what is almost certainly the highest quality print of Manos: The Hands of Fate in existence. I agree that you should contact Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett immediately; I'm certain they'll help you. (Trivia: Even though MST3K showed the movie during the Joel era, Mike made several appearances as Torgo in host segments throughout the show's run.)

I'd also like to suggest that you copy the post you've made here and repost it, in its entirety, on the Manos in HD website. It's a great writeup and deserves a wider audience.

Aug 21, 2005

Now that's what I call a geekMAN!
I've never had the chance to watch Manos (it's on THE LIST), but I'm fascinated by all of this. For so many of us, we assume that everything exists in some vault in excellent condition until we're told otherwise. I was in my late twenties before I even had a clue that we had lost so much of film and television history (an article about classic Johnny Carson episodes being thrown out opened my eyes and almost emptied my stomach) but until now I had no idea that these restorations could be done by someone who just happened to stumble across the film somewhere.

I think of these things in the same terms I do the documentaries I've watched about restorations of classic architecture and artwork, which is always very structured and academic. The idea of someone buying a print and then tackling the restoration work (or even a part of it) themselves without it being a gigantic mess is mind-blowing to me.

This thread is incredible. You are incredible. I have no advice to give since I'm just a guy who watches a lot of movies, but I am really eager to see how the progress goes on this. I would think you could find people that would help with this, even if it's just a Kickstarter campaign (which I would find some way to throw at least a few dollars at myself).

Good luck! Can't wait to see the finished product.

Apr 27, 2007

Rockin' it

This is without a doubt the coolest loving thing I have ever seen on the forums.

And seriously start contacting basically everyone about this. Hell, I may even go so far as contacting a major studio or even Quentin Tarantino, who is said to be an ardent fan of the movie.

And speaking as someone with training in art conservation, this is an absolutely rare thing you have here--these are the films that don't survive, and the fact that you've found the workprint of a film that infamous in that good of a condition is even rarer. Treasure it.

Pepperoneedy fucked around with this message at 12:33 on Nov 23, 2011

number one pta fan
Sep 6, 2011

my work is my play play
every day pay day
I will buy the hell out of this. I love having terrible films in HD, this will sit nicely with my Showgirls blu-ray. The film stock in those scans is beautiful, I can't wait to see it.

^^Tarantino may be a good person to seek out, but in the form of the New Beverly. I imagine they'd love to be able to screen Manos and they're big on the conservation of film.

number one pta fan fucked around with this message at 15:15 on Nov 23, 2011

Feb 18, 2005

And the mercy seat is awaiting,
And I think my head is burning,
And in a way I'm yearning,
To be done with all this measuring of proof.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth,
And anyway I told the truth,
And I'm not afraid to die.

Grave $avings posted:

This is without a doubt the coolest loving thing I have ever seen on the forums.

And seriously start contacting basically everyone about this. Hell, I may even go so far as contacting a major studio or even Quentin Tarantino, who is said to be an ardent fan of the movie.

And speaking as someone with training in art conservation, this is an absolutely rare thing you have here--these are the films that don't survive, and the fact that you've found the workprint of a film that infamous in that good of a condition is even rarer. Treasure it.

As crazy as it sounds this man is right about Tarantino, he would be all over this and not in his usual loves all film way. Tarantino loves Manos, sometimes saying it his outright favourite movie, and proudly talks about that he owns a rare 35mm theatrical print himself. An original 16mm print... this would blow his mind and likely get you an overexcited fast talking phone call.

Lid fucked around with this message at 15:19 on Nov 23, 2011

iCloud Strife
Jul 24, 2007

by angerbeet
:signings: You're gonna get paid for redeeming Manos The Hands of Fate.

Truther Vandross
Jun 17, 2008

You are a loving hero, sir. I will buy this the day it comes out. Words cannot express how cool this is.


Popular Human
Jul 17, 2005

and if it's a lie, terrorists made me say it
:aaa: those comparison shots! It almost looks like a different movie. I am totally on board with this.

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