Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on December 26, 2011, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.
(Note: This project didn’t wind up seeing completion, but it’s a fun story, so we decided to share it nonetheless—MG)
Every other vintage horror movie seems to be getting a film follow-up or reboot these days, so why not Hal Warren’s notorious 1966 Z-movie Manos, the Hands of Fate? Not only is director Rupert Talbot Munch Sr. sequelizing the MST3K favorite with Manos: The Search for Valley Lodge, he has managed to return several of the original’s participants to the scene of the cinematic crime.
“This all started out as a goof,” Munch tells Fango. Having been invited to the 2008 Comic-Con, he decided to go in costume as Torgo, the weird servant of devil-worshipping cult leader The Master, who terrorizes a hapless family in the original Manos. Once there, Munch continues, “I kinda felt obligated to display my nerd/acting chops and decided to never break character. For four days, I lived, breathed, fondled and gimped as Torgo! It was a labor of love—and pain.” It did allow him some serious interaction with the MST3K veterans who were carrying on the tradition with Rifftrax, as well as the creation of some Manos fan films.
“After all of this, on a dare, I agreed to make a sequel to Manos, the Hands of Fate,” Munch recounts. “In Manos: The Search for Valley Lodge, The Master is a powerful sorcerer who gathers his wives—a polygamy cult—to propagate an army to serve the elder god Manos. The wives are ultimately stripped of individuality and converted into demonic types with supernatural strength/powers. In the first film, we were given hints of The Master and his powers, but it was never actually said what he and his followers were. Vampires? No. Undead? Maybe. I figured Torgo as a named demon/satyr type and just took it from there.”
He also brought on board as many of the original cast, and their families, as he could track down. Tom Neyman reprises The Master in The Search for Valley Lodge, with his daughter Jackey Raye Neyman-Jones also back as Debbie, a little girl in the first film who is now the grown-up heroine. Manos ’66’s female lead, Diane Mahree, is also back as the character Maggie (pictured above). “Diane was believed to have died in a car wreck in the late ’80s,” Munch notes, adding that she came on board the sequel “after carefully approaching me and scrutinizing the project and script. Only after she realized I am truly trying to make the best film I can, as opposed to a Troll 2-type campfest, did she agree to participate.
“It turns out that shortly after Manos, Diane was discovered by Ilene Ford and the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency and spent the late ’60s and all of the ’70s as a runway/fashion model. She was friends with Cat Stevens, Brigitte Bardot, Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, etc. She led the fairy-tale life and helped define what today’s ‘supermodel’ is all about.”
In addition, the late Warren’s son Joe takes over his dad’s role as Michael in the sequel, and William Bryan Jennings III plays Sheriff Mulligan, the son of the lawman his father portrayed in the first Manos. “We also recruited Bernie Rosenblum, the teenager making out in the car,” Munch adds, “but unfortunately, not two weeks before the El Paso shoot, he suffered a stroke and was unable to film.” Munch himself, of course, is Torgo, and other newcomers in the cast include Tim Nelson as Deputy Simmons, former WWE superstar Gene Snisky, UFC Fighter Ryan “Big Deal” Jimmo, Playboy Playmate Maria Kanellis (“a dead ringer for a young Maggie,” Munch says), Tara Cardinal (Delivery) and Rippin’ Richie. Jay Lee, writer/director of the Robert Englund/Jenna Jameson-starrer Zombie Strippers, serves as director of photography, and Tim Martin, who has worked on the Alien vs. Predator, Hellboy and Spider-Man franchises, contributed prosthetic work.
Why the brawlers in the cast? “Many people may not get why I am bringing action into the film,” Munch says, “but I remind them, there was a full-on brawl in the first one. I took my cues from that. I picked Gene Snisky because, quite frankly, he is one of the scariest, most intimidating people I have ever seen. When he gets angry, it ain’t pretty. I also wanted a guy with such a physical presence that the audience can buy that he has superhuman strength and can go toe to toe with demons/monsters/sorcerers and the like.
“Ryan also has a great presence, is funny as hell and totally kicks ass. He almost crippled me with a leg kick—ouch! To make the fights legit, we brought in five-time Brazilian jiujitsu champion Pedro Carvalho to choreograph the takedowns/submissions, and for strikes, we are in talks with martial arts legend Billy Chow, who happens to be Ryan’s Muay Thai instructor. We also brought in Brazilian capoeira expert Eder Correa for the ‘exotics.’ ” As in the previous movie, Munch adds, “I will also have hot chicks in white dresses whaling on each other, but I’m trying to have it make sense—well, as much as a Manos film can make sense.”
Needless to say, this activity surrounding the revival of one of the most legendary “bad films” in history (whose MST3K episode got its own two-DVD set earlier this year from Shout! Factory) has already attracted quite a bit of attention. “There is a documentary being made about us making our sequel,” Munch says. “Andy Cope and Eric Hueber of Alonestar Films are behind this project, which is tentatively called Making Manos 2: The Sequel of Fate. So, technically, we’re kind of shooting two films simultaneously.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Munch and co. have been busy spiffing up Manos, the Hands of Fate for high definition. “We, the people who represent the original cast and all things Manos, have been working on the HD restoration for over 14 months,” he says. “Recently, some kid who found a print of Manos at an auction has been trying to cash in with the same idea. Myself and Joe Warren do not acknowledge, recognize, or approve of what this kid is doing. In the end, we just ask that the fans hold onto their money and wait for our version. It will include tons of never-before-seen footage, plenty of extras, cast and crew commentary, interviews…plus surprises. And the proceeds will go back to Joe Warren and the Manos faithful.”