Restoring the worst movie ever made
January 5th, 2012
06:45 PM ET

Restoring the worst movie ever made

For years, many have feared seeing it in its unvarnished form. Now, Ben Solovey wants to restore it back to its ... well, maybe "original glory" isn't the right term.

"Manos: the Hands of Fate" is considered by many to be the worst movie ever made (though it has fallen to third place in recent years on IMDb). Nearly 19 years ago, it got the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" treatment, with Joel and the 'Bots on the cult cable series riffing on it – and at times, having something of a nervous breakdown over its awfulness (involving, among other things, a cult leader called the Master and his extremely creepy underling, Torgo).

Over the years, whether viewed with the "MST3K" commentary or not, it's grown a cult following all its own of people fascinated by its odd, so-bad-it-went-to-good-and-back-to-bad-again qualities.

In recent weeks, film school grad Solovey (who said he has collected 16-millimeter film prints since he was a child) has used Kickstarter to raise more than $22,000 to preserve "Manos."

So, why restore the worst movie ever and possibly even release it on Blu-Ray? CNN Geek Out asked Solovey just that.

CNN Geek Out: Why "Manos"?

Solovey: I think it's important to maintain and exhibit every movie in as good a shape as possible, because you never know what will be relevant in the future. "Manos" can tell you a lot about independent film in the '60s, especially independent horror.

45 years later, it really provides a great window into a specific time and place: 1966 in El Paso, with a bunch of community theater friends making a movie. I find it very fascinating to look at, and studying the work print in particular you can find out a lot of things about how it was made, and made cheaply.

My end goal is to print the restoration to film so it can be shown in repertory theaters and the negative can be stored in a vault. Preserving it digitally would be dangerous- if it only existed in digital format, a bad hard drive could be the end of it.

I also wanted to send a message that all films deserve preservation regardless of their perceived merits.

CNN Geek Out: What's your history with the movie?

Solovey: Like many people, I first saw it on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," and that was the only way you could see it for a very long time. Eventually, you could buy an awful public domain video transfer of it on a bargain-bin DVD, and without the restoration that would have been all that's left. The movie, in fact, looks a lot better than we've ever seen it.

CNN Geek Out: Have you had any contact with people who worked on "Manos"?

Solovey: I've been making friends with quite a few, actually. The woman who plays the little girl, Jackey Neyman Jones, lives in the Pacific Northwest and she's been very nice to me. Her father who did production design for the movie and also played the Master, Tom Neyman, is also still around.

I've had a phone conversation with the son of Harold P. Warren, the director, and I'm hoping he will trust my intentions and assist in the restoration.

CNN Geek Out: What kind of response have you received otherwise?

Solovey: I've had a tremendous outpouring of support from people who love "Manos," some of whom are in the motion picture industry and will be helping with the restoration.

I thought I would get a lot of people telling me I was wasting my time. In fact, that's been pretty minimal. A lot of people seem to "get" it, especially independent filmmakers. It kind of reminds them of the pitfalls that arise in filmmaking. We can all relate to picking up a camcorder for the first time back in high school and making fun bits of junk with our friends.

"Manos" feels kind of like that, but it actually got in theaters... to a point. It's got a charm in that way. Something about "Manos" just resonates with people, probably because it's so unsual and comes from place very far removed from Hollywood.

CNN Geek Out: And what about the "MST3K" crew?

Solovey: I have heard from some of them, actually. Let's just say they have been encouraging.

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Kain

    By God Almighty!!!!!!!!!!!! DON'T DO IT DON'T REMAKE THIS PILE OF CRAP! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 3, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  2. Andi

    When does Draco Malfoy NOT ruin escntexie? Amiright?/shows self out to corner with other Harry Potter fans.

    February 1, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • Sudip

      I just saw The Big Lebowski this weekend for the first time. It is an bltoluseay hilarious movie and kinda reminded me of those crazy underground comedy movies from the 60 s and 70 s where it was anything goes and a free-form style that seems lost in today's features. I liked the dream sequences and imagery connecting the bowling. The quirky dialogue was terrific and it was John Goodman's best role to date. Like with most Coen Brother's movies I felt the wrap-up left a little to be desired. Their endings always seem pretty week. I'm surprised you liked the movie Helen, usually you don't seem to go for that wacky far-out stuff, but maybe I'm wrong. I also really like Double Indemnity'. It has been awhile since I've seen it, so I will be sure to watch with you guys in April.

      March 4, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  3. God

    'The Room' is the worst movie ever made...I've seen both and, trust me, it's 'The Room'

    January 28, 2012 at 12:35 am |
  4. chipmunkjt

    i still think the worst film should be a tie between Heaven's Gate and The lonely Lady ( starring Pia Isadora) both sucked beyond belief.

    January 27, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  5. DE

    I've always heard that 'Plan 9 From Outerspace' was the worst movie ever made.

    January 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • David

      Plan 9 is widely considered to be the worst ever. This is the first I have ever heard otherwise.

      And George...Kung Pow was hilarious! Lighten up, Buddy.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  6. George

    Kung Pow was the worst film ever. It make Plan 9 look like Shakespeare.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  7. yahmez

    This was in fact the worst movie I had ever seen until "Birdemic: Shock and Terror" knocked it out of #1. I do not trust the rankings on IMDb's Bottom 100. There are movies there that, although lousy, are by no means the worst of what cinema has to offer. I would watch a blu-ray re-release of this classic stinker. I do not think I would be willing to pay very much for it, though.

    January 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  8. tony

    I don't care what anyone says, the worste movie ever is 'Star Wars Holiday Special'

    January 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Buck

      Tony, you just made me recall at dark moment in my child hood and made me cry.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • JPDworkin

      Very bad indeed, but not a movie so it is off point. SWHS was a TV variety show (god helo us all!)

      January 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • JW

      I realize that was horrible, but when it came out (I was 3) I remember liking it because I played along with my Han and Chewie action figures. Plus, as was stated, not a movie.

      January 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  9. JoeT

    $22,000 to preserve Manos? I was thinking that must be 3-4x as much as the original production.

    January 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  10. Spidey-Man

    I remember watching this movie when I was a kid way before the MST3K guys got hold of it.
    All movies deserve some kind of rememberance and respect to some state for the initial attempt.

    Except for some of the crap that gets done these days that is.

    January 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  11. joe

    That isn't Caddyshack 2 or Blues Brothers 2000!

    January 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  12. grady

    isn't this the one where the French poodle gets fried by a car battery?

    January 6, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  13. Jose

    I thought the worst movie ever made was Plan 9 from Outer space.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Robert

      No, that's just the signature movie by who is considered to be the worst director of all time, Ed Wood.

      January 6, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  14. Stu

    In the process, can we somehow lose Battlefield Earth?

    January 6, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  15. Beth

    "Every frame of this movie looks like someone's last known photo."

    January 6, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  16. Joe

    Unless Tom Servo and Crow are cracking wise over it, I'll pass thank you.

    January 6, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Big Dumb Jerk

      Puss.

      January 23, 2012 at 9:20 pm |