One of the great things about the rise of cult movie home video labels is that it has made it pos­si­ble for cinema’s bas­tard chil­dren to be res­cued and giv­ing a lov­ing treat­ment that their the­atri­cal release nev­er offered. Manos: The Hands Of Fate is a film that has been in need of that kind of love for decades: all video ver­sions of this title have his­tor­i­cal­ly been derived from the same smeary SD mas­ter. However, the film’s orig­i­nal ele­ments were redis­cov­ered by film print col­lec­tor Benjamin Solovey, who suc­cess­ful­ly crowd-sourced their Manos-bluremas­ter­ing. Synapse picked up his hand­i­work for blu-ray release and the results are a lov­ing trib­ute to this odd­ball film’s appeal.

The trans­fer cre­at­ed by Solovey and his cleanup team will make the Manos fan’s jaw hit the floor. Despite the lo-fi shoot­ing style and peri­od­ic out-of-focus shots, every­thing is amaz­ing­ly detailed and col­or­ful here (look out for the eye-pop­ping reds of the Master’s robe). The results have the prop­er grit­ty tex­ture of cheap film stock but look bet­ter than any­one could have imag­ined. Similarly impres­sive cleanup work has been done on the mono sound­track, which pre­serves the raw sound design and dub­bing but gives it all a shock­ing lev­el of clar­i­ty.

Manos-14Better yet, the disc also fea­tures an array of sup­ple­ments that help put the twist­ed charms on Manos: The Hands Of Fate into the prop­er cin­e­mat­ic con­text. The first is a com­men­tary track pair­ing the “Master” him­self, Tom Neyman, with his daugh­ter and cast­mate, Jackey Neyman-Jones. It’s a low-key chat where the two rem­i­nis­ce about the shoot and poke fun at the film’s short­com­ings in a bemused yet fond way. There are some nice nuggets of info in there, par­tic­u­lar­ly some info about Diane “Mahree” Adelson’s sub­se­quent career and obser­va­tions about how John Reynolds, the actor who played Torgo, was a tor­ment­ed soul in real life.

Next up are a string of fea­turettes. The first is “Hands: The Fate Of Manos,” a fast-paced, 30-min­ute fea­turet­te devot­ed to the film’s his­to­ry and cult fol­low­ing. Solovey func­tions as a kind of on-screen nar­ra­tor here, lay­ing out both the leg­ends and the hid­den facts behind the film’s odd­ball Manos-15gen­e­sis as Neyman, Neyman-Jones, Adelson and oth­er are brought in to flesh out those facts into anec­dotes. Along the way, you get some intrigu­ing insights into the script and why the cam­er­a­work looks the way it does as well as some fun­ny tales from the film’s calami­tous pre­mière. This seg­ment was helmed by Daniel Griffith and he gives it a zip­py pace that deliv­ers wit­ty tales of odd­ball film­mak­ing at break­neck speed.

Manos-17The oth­er fea­turettes are short and tar­get­ed. Solovey returns for a six and a half min­ute seg­ment about his remas­ter­ing work on the film. He offers a detailed expla­na­tion of the process, fill­ing the view­er in on all the chal­lenges in the frame-by-frame restora­tion and dis­cussing how he tried to make the film look as good as it can while stay­ing true to the lim­i­ta­tion of its shoot­ing style. There’s also a four-min­ute piece about Rachel Jackson, who wrote and staged a pup­pet adap­ta­tion of Manos. She explains how the con­cept was born, offers her thoughts on the film and gets into the chal­lenges of restag­ing the film for pup­pet the­ater.

In short, this disc of Manos: The Hands Of Fate proves that the best restora­tion efforts can come from the least like­ly places — and out­sider cin­e­ma schol­ars every­where will appre­ci­ate its thought­ful­ly curat­ed pre­sen­ta­tion.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Manos: The Hands Of Fate, click here.