Thursday, October 24, 2013

Manos Podcast Interviews

As you all should know by now, get me talking on the subject of Manos and you can hardly shut me up.  Very fortunate for me, there are now enough Manos fans out there, that when some of you start to feel you've heard enough, there are new ones to step in and give you a rest without me ever having to break stride.  But then again, you folks are resilient and perhaps a bit masochistic.  You are Manos fans, after all.
Todays post delivers a challenge to the most devoted of you.  Three, one hour Podcast interviews about Manos. Can you do it?  They cover some of the same material with a different twist and each have unique insights and stories.  Thanks to all who's interest and questions have fueled the growing databank of knowledge we now have for this film, and for providing me so much pleasure in sharing it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The One and Only Master

Tom Neyman became the one and only Master of Manos: The Hands of Fate when he immortalized the iconic role in an unforgettable film, and seared his image into the minds of fans and detractors alike.

In a recent interview for Ben Solovey's Manos Restoration, I learned of a previously unknown Tom Neyman contribution to the film.  But first, a little background.
My dad began his professional career in Fort Worth, Texas as a young Christian Minister after graduating from Texas Christian University.  Go Horned Toads!!  He discovered a love of theater in school and participated in University and Church productions until moving to El Paso in 1963 where he became involved with The Festival Theater.  At The Festival he often had lead roles that included notable Characters like Henry the Eighth, The Stage Manager in Our Town, R.P McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
The Festival is also where Hal Warren found much of the cast and crew for his film. Tom Neyman ~ The Master,  John Reynolds ~ Torgo, William Bryan Jennings ~ Sheriff,  Bob Guidry ~ Cinematographer,  Bernie Rosenblum ~ Stunt Coordinator / Kissing Boy in Car and me, Debbie.

The role of The Master was my dad's only film appearance, and the part he became known for.  He played an evil polygamist struggling to remain in control of his world.  An almost Anti Minister, as it were.  I had always felt his previous calling gave him practical experience to playing a Godly man's counterpart and that, as The Master,  he sounded as though he were delivering a sermon.  I then learned something new that expanded that impression.  In the interview with Ben, he casually mentioned that he had written his own "Praise be to Manos" speech.  "Holy Art Thou, Holy Art Thou..." My head whipped around "Wha?"  He then went on to say that he wrote it to give himself something to do for all that time rather than just stand with his arms out displaying the robe, since there had been no dialogue in the original script, and Hal's instruction was to just stand and look imposing.   It does make sense now.  Many of you fans have watched and studied Manos much more than me but if I'm not mistaken, that speech it the longest continuing dialogue in the movie and the most comfortably delivered.

As a side note*  Yesterday, October 16th was the 47th anniversary of John Reynolds death.  He would be 72 years old and I would like to think if he were here now, he would revel in the attention Manos has garnered over the years since MST3K brought it back into the light.  Rest in Peace, dear John.

Coming soon:  Learn about  Manos: Rock Opera of Fate

Friday, October 11, 2013

Torgo as John Reynolds

This is a continuation of a series of stories I started the beginning of Sept that begin to go deeper behind the scenes of Manos and into the lives of some who were there.  I can only write what I know and will only share what I believe to be true.  Stories, like life evolve as more information is revealed, and as I learn more about John Reynolds, I feel a deeper connection to him and a desire to help you, the reader see him as more than Torgo.

I have been flippant in talking about John Reynolds in the past.  Yes, it's true that he was often high during filming and it's true he committed suicide one month before the 1966 premiere.  You can read that in previous blog stories and interviews I've done, but as I attempt to answer fans questions about him I continue to learn more.

John came from a military background.  His father was  Brigadier General John M. Reynolds who had a very successful and illustrious career. General John M. Reynolds Biography This link about the General certainly gave me pause and insight into some of the difficulties John and his dad may have encountered.  My father has told me how John's dad orchestrated having John buried with a military funeral at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso even though John himself had not been military  John's gravesite.  John never lived up to his father's expectation of a son and as a sensitive artistic type must have been quite a disappointment.  He would have always felt a failure in his family and in the eyes of the man he would most crave approval.  John lived and died in a little house just 2 blocks from where we lived.  He was small of stature shy and withdrawn.  He loved the theater and found the stage one place where he could be a part of something fulfilling. He took it seriously and would have been considered a method actor.  I imagine the release of becoming another person and having the opportunity to escape his own existence for a time was a drug in itself.  He and my dad knew each other initially through the Festival Theatre and became friends.  My dad recognized how tortured and depressed John was and would often invite him to our house to be with the family even though he rarely came, or would check in on him by stopping by.   John lived alone and was never married and had no children.  He was only 25 when he took his own life by sticking a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger.

On the set of Manos, he was often, if not always, high on something more than pot.  My dad says (and my memories corroborate) that everyone on the set knew things weren't going well.  That this was not going to be a great film and that they should all just get through it and go home.  John may have realized this was far from the opportunity he was hoping for and sadly, my dad says that Manos may have, in some way, contributed to his suicide...or at least the timing of it.  One month after his birthday and one month before the premiere.  One thing that strikes me and I wonder about.  John Reynolds dad retired from a long military career just two weeks after his son's suicide.  What do you think about that timing?  Hmmm.

John Reynolds  September 14th 1941 to October 16th 1966

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Torgo's Burning Hand

If you've been a constant reader, you'll know my family's involvement with Manos: The Hands of Fate.  The synopsis is that my dad, Tom Neyman who characterized The Master, and despite the films deplorable ratings, is a multi talented guy and one to rise to any creative challenge.  A perfect guy for Hal Warren to connect with in order to get his movie made.  My dad designed and supplied costumes, sets, props and artwork.

Today's story is about one particular prop.  Torgo's Burning Hand.

As a child, I spent every possible moment with my dad, as many little girls do.  At my home, his art studio was a place I always felt welcome and  I would sit many hours perched on a stool out of the way while he worked.  I was often included in his discussions with himself about how something was to be done and I could observe the process.  I recall the Torgo hand was made from stiff upholstery foam carved and sculpted into a hand shape.  The skeletal structure was a wire coat hanger bent to look like bones when the foam melted away.  He only made one  They had only one chance to get it right on film...Manos style.
He planned to soak it in lighter fluid right before the cameras rolled so it would burn dramatically when lit on fire.  In their haste, the crew left the can of lighter fluid in the shot, at the column base right behind The Master as he holds the hand aloft while laughing maniacally.  I'm not sure of the Mst3k version but it's clearly seen in the Restoration of Manos.

That burnt hand was one of the few props my dad ended up going home with, sort of.  After the night's shoot it was tossed into his car trunk and promptly forgotten for a couple weeks.  My dads day job at the time was as Director of the South El Paso Boys Club (now known as the Boys and Girls Club).  One of the job duties was to collect food donations and bring them to the Club for distribution to the community which was located in the poorest part of the city, right on the Rio Grande River across from Mexico.  The residents were very traditional Catholic, multi-generational, humble people living in abject poverty.  One day, as my dad pulled up and popped the trunk to unload food, an elderly Hispanic gentleman approached and asked, in Spanish if he could help.  As the man approached and reached into the trunk, he spotted the flesh colored, scorched and melted hand carelessly tossed in the corner.  The man's eyes grew huge.  He immediately stepped back as his hands flew into the air and then covered his mouth.  He rapidly looked to my dad's face and back to Torgos hand.  With a mumbled prayer and sign of the cross, he took off in terror, running as fast as he could .  Nothing was ever said or done about it after that and life went on. One has to wonder the stories the old gentleman told and if that Manos legend still continues.

Coming up.  More about John Reynolds...