6. Blood Rage (1987)
5. The Prey (1984)
4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)
3. Creep (1995)
2. The Outing aka The Lamp (1987)
1. Troll 2 (1990)
The Master Is Back
By Woofer McWooferson
Most people probably know the 1966 horror film Manos: The Hands of Fate thanks to the folks at Best Brains and Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). For those few who do not know what Manos is, here’s the IMDb summary:
And here’s the original theatrical trailer:
Born of a wager and created by insurance (later fertilizer) salesman turned writer, director, producer, and actor Harold P. Warren, Manos was plagued with difficulties throughout the shoot and post-production. Some of these difficulties were:
- Warren shot only two takes of each scene, assuring the cast that post-production Hollywood magic would fix any errors.
- The hand-held camera used to shoot the entire film could only record 32 seconds at a time.
- Because of the limited lighting available, a scene where two police officers set out to investigate something has them take only two steps toward it before returning to their cruiser.
- Since the film was shot without sound, all lines were later dubbed by two men and one woman. The result put Jackey Neyman Jones, who played the little girl Debbie, in tears when she first heard her "voice".
- Tom Neyman, who played the Master, and John Reynolds, who played Torgo, designed and built the legs for Torgo, the satyr-like caretaker of the Master's Lodge of Sins.
- Post-production editing took roughly 3 to 4 hours and, consequently, did not fix all the things Warren promised it would.
Manos ultimately achieved widespread fame and cult status after being riffed in episode 424 of MST3K on January 30, 1993, by Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) and his bots, Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow (Trace Beaulieu). The Manos episode was so popular, that the Rifftrax crew also took aim at it in 2012. For those unfamiliar, Rifftrax also takes aim at movies and television, but releases an audio to sync up with the viewer's own copy of the item being riffed, enabling a much broader selection of riffable entertainment. Rifftrax consists of MST3K alumni Michael J. Nelson (who hosted after Robins left and who was head writer from 1990 - 99), Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (who played Brain Guy and who took over the voice of Crow after Beaulieu left),
A year before the Rifftrax treatment, Ben Solovey, a Florida State film school graduate, uncovered the original 16mm Ektachrome workprint of Manos in a collection of 16 mm films. Solovey soon took to Kickstarter to finance the film's restoration and preservation with an eye to releasing it on Blu-ray and raised $48,000. As a tip of the hat to the original, Solovey allowed a 90% finished print to premiere at the El Paso Plaza Theatre, which is located near the theater which hosted the grand premiere of the original Manos in 1966.
The newly restored Blu-ray was released on October 13, 2015, and included an unrestored version as a bonus feature.
The Return of The Master
Currently, there is a sequel in works courtesy of Jackey Neyman Jones, director Tonjia Atomic, cinematographer Joe Sherlock, and the many fans who donated to the Kickstarter campaign to help get the project on its feet. Jones is the real life daughter of Tom Neyman, who also painted the Master's portrait and designed the costumes, and Jacqueline Neyman, who was the makeup artist for Manos and who also made the costumes. As Debbie, Jackey Neyman Jones was the screen daughter of Michael (Hal Warren), the hapless protagonist. Neyman's own dog, Shanka, played the devil dog from the Valley Lodge, the Master’s Lodge of Sins. You might say that Manos: The Hands of Fate was a bit of a family affair for Jackey, so it is appropriate that she helms the upcoming sequel Manos Returns.
The latest word on Manos Returns is that filming has finished, which puts it quite fittingly in post-production as the original Manos: The Hands of Fate approaches its 50th anniversary.
According to the Facebook page:
Jones, her father, and Diane Adelson all reprise their roles in Manos Returns, and fans of the original are already getting the popcorn and sodas ready for their Manos Returns parties.
Are you ready for Manos Returns? While we wait, check out their website and Facebook page, and let House of Tortured Souls know what you think. If you’ve never seen Manos: The Hands of Fate, you can watch the MST3K version (complete with annotations) on the official MST3K YouTube Channel:
As always, we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.
The (Steaming) Screaming Skull
A Review of The Screaming Skull on Its Own and as a Classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode
By Woofer McWooferson
Director: Alex Nicol; Writer: John Kneubuhl; Stars: John Hudson, Peggy Webber, Russ Conway, Alex Nicol; Rating: Unrated; Run Time: 68 min; Genre: Horror, Thriller ; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1958
Horror movies have been around since the beginning of cinema and have evolved along with it. That which is considered terrifying for one generation may be laughable to another. True gems mature with age, their appeal never being lost from generation to generation. Gaudy baubles become rich fodder for riffing. The (Steaming) Screaming Skull is one of the great gaudy baubles of the 50s, boring and drab on its own, but a real delight when viewed through the lens of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K).
The plot is rather typical: newlyweds Eric (John Hudson) and Jenni (Peggy Webber) arrive at the ancestral home of the husband's late wife where Jenni begins to see and hear things that make her doubt her sanity. Suspicion quickly falls on Mickey (Alex Nichol, who also directed), the slow gardener who was more than fond of Eric's first wife Marion.
Although the movie begins slowly, the pace never picks up, and the movie plods along to the bitter end. I remember this one scaring the life out of me when I was six. I crouched behind my father's chair so that the skull could not see me as I peeked around to watch the movie from the safety of my hiding spot. The titular skull shows up throughout the film, both in actuality as well as spectrally from the camera's point of view. The viewer is led to believe that the latter are manifestations of the wife's subconscious as she falls further and further from sanity.
According to trivia on the IMDB.com page, the movie is based on a novel of the same name by Francis Marion Crawford, but it is not credited as such. Crawford's novel is said to be inspired by the “screaming skull” on display at Bettiscomb Manor, Dorset, England.
The Screaming Skull debuted on August 29, 1998 (season 10, episode 12) of MST3K. Due to its short run time, the film is preceded by a Gumby short entitled Robot Rumpus – a fact that is not lost on the 'bots. The MST3K treatment is flawless, beginning with their disappointment that the movie begins with a disclaimer that anyone who dies of fright will get a free coffin but there is no word of a coffin if someone dies of boredom. As Mike (Michael J. Nelson), Crow (Bill Corbett), and Tom Servo (Kevin Murphy) riff their way through the slow torture that is The Screaming Skull, viewers are treated to some of their best assessments (“This should be called Screaming semicolon Skull” -Mike) and host segments that leave little doubt as to their opinion of this steaming pile of... skulls.
The Screaming Skull is classified as both horror and thriller, but the only real horror is the chalky blandness of the performances and the only thrill is that MST3K riffed it.
3/10 claws on its own, two for the amazing Huntington Hartford Estate and one for its ability to scare 6-year-olds in the 1950s and 60s.
8/10 claws for the MST3K treatment