The Worst Movie Ever Made

The Manos episode became Mystery Science Theater's most popular episode ever. Nelson recalls going into a computer store shortly after the show aired only to see a Torgo screensaver running across every monitor. ''It really stands out among all the bad movies they've shown as being a movie that has no real content or purpose,'' says Manos buff Bobby Thompson, who was born more than 10 years after the movie came out and caught it on MST3K. ''It's like a train wreck — you just can't take your eyes off it. It's something you really have to see to understand. And even if you see it, you may not fully understand it.''

Through repeats, passed-around videotapes, and websites like Thompson's own Torgo-themed page (chosen because the satyr ''really conveys the entire badness of the movie''), the legend of Manos grew. Not one but two DVD versions of the film (the original and the MST3K one) were released, and a group of Canadians recently completed a documentary on the movie titled Hotel Torgo.

Unfortunately, the man who created it isn't around to enjoy the renaissance. After Manos, Hal Warren tried again, writing a script titled Wild Desert Bikers, in which a schoolteacher is kidnapped by a biker gang and dragged into the woods. He showed it to Guidry and Rosenblum, who politely declined to get involved, so instead he turned it into a book titled Satan Rides a Bike and shopped it to publishers. (They also politely declined.) While daughter Wendy Barbieri says that her dad ''was the first one to admit Manos was the worst movie ever made,'' he was also proud of the film, even going so far as to sport the Master's robe every Halloween. (Son Joe Warren now carries on the tradition.) ''He took something from nothing and got it to the end, and that was what the whole bet was,'' says Barbieri.

''My dad made a movie, and it turned out to be the worst thing known, but at least people recognize that he did something,'' says Joe. ''Here's a guy who was able to concoct this story on a napkin, and proved you don't have to be the George Lucases of the world to make it happen.'' Warren died Dec. 26, 1985, from lung cancer and heart problems. What would he think about being celebrated as the director of the worst movie ever? ''He'd love it!'' says Barbieri. ''He'd probably start lurking on different websites and then pop out and say, 'Hey, guess who I am!' And he'd be the first person to give anyone advice or encouragement.'' Rosenblum agrees. ''Say what you will about Hal, but that motherf---er did it! Now, what he did, I'm not quite sure,'' he adds. ''But he did it.''

Originally posted Jun 06, 2005 Published in issue #824 Jun 10, 2005 Order article reprints
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