The cinematography in Manos: Hands of Fate is one of the most prime examples of how poor cinematography, among other things, can ruin a movie with an otherwise interesting plot. Manos, owing most of its infamy to Mystery Science Theater 3000, is often hailed as one of the worst movies of all time and indeed it is almost completely unwatchable without the MST3k commentary, owed, in large part, to the films poor cinematography.
The movie presents its first challenge almost immediately. The film opens with a heavily extended sequence involving a car driving through unremarkable rural countryside. The film continues this way for almost a full five minutes, while the camera work here could have helped to establish something important plot-wise, even so simple as to establish the film’s actual location, the time is instead utterly wasted on superfluous of landscapes, even at one point dissolving from the end of one shot to the beginning of the very same shot.
If the audience can manage to sit through this they are treated to a movie comprised mostly of blurry or underexposed shots. The director, Hal Warren, chose to shoot most outdoor scenes as night scenes, during the actual night time rather than using Day-For-Night, making shots either much to dark or very clearly lit by film lights. In once scene, two police officers are investigating the strange events occurring in the movies main plot, but because there is not enough light to light more than a few feet of space in the shot, the characters can only “investigate” about 10 feet from their car before seeming to give up.
Unfortunately, the film’s raw concept and story actually had the potential to be rather interesting if the movie had been shot more professionally but, as it stands, the poor cinematography and the onscreen results are so distracting that the film becomes a chore to sit through and/or ripe for mockery.