This is the Summer of "[Manos]." In June, Entertainment Weekly ran a story--"The Worst Movie Ever Made"--detailing the film's odyssey from drive-in trash to art-house treasure. The short version: After the black-tie premiere in El Paso in 1966--during which the mortified cast snuck out while the audience howled--the movie was forgotten until it resurfaced 27 years later on the brilliant spoof- athon Mystery Science Theater 3000. The "Manos" episode remains the most popular DVD in the MST3K catalog.
What makes these films so watchable? After screening "Manos" for probably the 10th time, I've concluded it has to do with intimacy. Because it is such a pure slice of [Hal P. Warren]'s brain--he wrote, directed, produced and starred, and brooked no collaboration-- "Manos" amounts to the man's cinematically transfigured subconscious. What, then, to make of the 10-minute scene where six women, wearing bras, girdles and what appears to be mosquito- netting, wrestle for rights to the "Master"?
Making the worst movie of all time is no small accomplishment. After all, Kevin Costner has had many more at-bats than Warren, who never made another movie and died in 1985. But it was enough. Thanks to the notoriety, a straight version of "Manos"--sans MST3K's riffing robots--has been released on DVD, assuring that this cinematic cautionary tale will live forever. Hal P. Warren, filmmaker and fertilizer salesman, has achieved greatness.