Manos: The Hands of Fate is a classic “so bad, it’s good” movie. It rivals the works of directors like Ed Wood and Tommy Wiseau. The legend behind this film was that Harold P. Warren had a bet against him that he couldn’t make a motion picture. So to win the bet, he wrote, produced, starred and directed this masterpiece. The fact that he had never done any of these things before didn’t stop him. Manos is Spanish for “hands”, so the title is really Hands: The Hands of Fate. Years after its modest initial release, the movie was mainly rediscovered through when it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1993 and instantly gained a cult following.
The story follows a family on a road trip through Texas when they become the unwilling guests of a mysterious cult of polygamous pagans. The faction has a manservant named Torgo who is weirdly mesmerizing to watch in the film due to his strange mannerisms. He serves the leader of the cult, the Master, and the Master’s numerous wives. The climax of the film is when the family attempts to escape while the cult has a cat-fight.
In recent years, there have been several different fan adaptations of Manos like videos games, puppet shows, and novelizations. This novelization is very interesting with its approach to the source material. Most novelizations don’t know if a movie will be a flop or critically acclaimed when the author starts to write one. Stephen Sullivan’s advantage when he wrote this was that he knew that this was a terrible b-movie with a cult following.
There is definitely love and respect for the original film in this more comedic telling of this story. Sullivan actually wrote two novelizations of Manos. One is a more straightforward horror story, and this one is a campier retelling. There is a narrator in this book that serves as a proxy for the audience by pointing out some of the more silly plot points. I think the narration really helps convey the place that Manos has earned in our pop culture. In its clever way, it feels like reading an episode of Elvira, Svengoolie, or any other creature feature host show.
This book is definitely for the fans of Manos. I don’t think that it is the best starting place for anyone that isn’t familiar with the original movie. For the fans, this is a great book that helps celebrate one of the best worst movies ever made. I think the Master would approve of this novel.
Book by Stephen D. Sullivan
Based on the screenplay by Harold P. Warren
Original Publication Date: October 2015