Is a bad film worth preserving?





MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE. Merely uttering the title is enough to fill film buffs with dread. It’s pretty much agreed across the board that the movie is terrible. Every single element is executed poorly, from the script that birthed it to the soundtrack that accompanied it. Torgo and The Master are hilariously silly villains, Michael and Margaret are awful and inept protagonists, and all the peripheral characters are completely useless. It’s a mess of a movie with a barely comprehensible plot, mindnumbingly slow pacing, and atrocious production value. It’s no wonder that what little infamy it has garnered is based primarily on its inclusion in an episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.

Which makes the following story all the more odd and somewhat incredible.

Cameraman Ben Solovey acquired a number of 16mm and 35mm prints through an Ebay auction containing titles that had belonged to distributor Emerson Films. One of the cannisters he now possessed was labelled “MANOS 16MM WORKPRINT.” Curious, he opened it and noticed that the leader had a title previously unheard of: “MANOS: FINGERS OF FATE.” Upon further inspection, he was greeted by pristine Ektachrome images from the film. Basically, he had found the best possible copy of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE.

For comparison, here is a shot from the DVD that is currently available:


Here is the same shot from the workprint:


The difference is profound. The image isn’t cropped. The colors are better. There is still a graininess, but it isn’t muddy or messy. Instead of looking like someone’s badly shot home movie, we receive an image that resembles something like an actual motion picture.

Solovey has taken it upon himself to restore the film. He has his eyes set on creating a limited run of Blu-Rays and making his restoration available for repertory screenings. He’s also created a website to state his intentions and motives for restoring this cult film. The website also includes other stills and details about the restoration process.

Which begs the question; would the world welcome a higher quality version of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE? Would anyone pay for a copy, or even be interested? This remains to be seen. I can only speak for myself. Do I think that this restoration process will make the movie better? No. Am I intrigued by the prospect of seeing a better, cleaner version of the movie? Absolutely.

I urge all of you to visit his website.  There’s something noble about an individual taking the time and care to preserve a bit of film history that most would gladly let fall by the wayside. It’s a fascinating story that I will follow with great interest, and I hope others will do the same.

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