Growing Up with Manos: The Hands of Fate
By Jackey Neyman Jones with Laura Mazzuca Toops
Published by BearManor Media, 2016. 138 pages
Any serious fan of horror, cult and exploitation films, not to mention Mystery Science Theater 3000, knows of the film Manos: The Hands of Fate. Known to the world as the worst movie ever made, even beating out anything that Ed Wood Jr. ever created is a tough race to win, but it has. A film made by a bunch of locals in the small town of El Paso, Texas, all with dreams of stardom in their eyes, created a film that still lives on to this day, something that has gone farther than any of the ones involved ever thought possible. Maybe not in the way they all hoped, but none the less it has.
Jackey Neyman Jones appeared in the film as little Debbie, but also had a greater connection besides her little part. Her father not only appears in the film as the infamous The Master, but also did the makeup, was the set designer, and quite a bit more. Her mother also worked on the movie, making quite a few of the costumes in the film. There were promises of payment and percentages, but we all know those how those go, even the movie making state of California. But instead of payment, what Tom Neyman and his daughter got was immortality because of their connection and appearances in Manos. Sometimes it makes you wonder what is better.
Now, fifty years later, Jackey Neyman Jones has written a book about her experiences making this undying classic, called Growing Up with Manos: The Hands of Fate – How I Was the Child Star of the Worst Movie Ever Made. With the help of author Laura Mazzuca Toops, we get to hear a very personal telling of not only the making of this film, but also of a much different time and place.
I have to say that while it was interesting to read about the actual film, the stories of the people involved, and Jackey’s own childhood experiences, is the best part of this book. It sheds light on the everyday sort of people, not the thousands of starving artists and actors in Hollywood that are dying at making it big. But just ordinary folks, that decided it would be pretty cool to be involved in a movie being made in their own hometown. While some of the actors that appeared, such as Jackey’s father Tom Neyman, or John Reynolds who plays Torgo (which we hear about his own tragic story), were very familiar with acting in local theater and did what they could to make this film a good one.
For being so young at the time the film was made, Neyman Jones has done quite a bit of work getting in touch with some of them, doing research on those that she couldn’t, as well as getting plenty of info from her father. It a paints a nostalgic feel for me, showing friends and acquaintances getting together, pulling each other’s resources, working far beyond what they would be getting paid for (meaning nothing), and trying their best to make a good film. But as we all know, with the technical side being a little lacking, the overall quality of the film didn’t bode too well.
The book is only 138 pages but is filled with some wonderful stories. And for the price of $15, it’s not a bad deal at all. You can order it (or even a hardcover copy) from BearManor Media by clicking HERE. Give it a shot. I think you’ll enjoy it.
On a side note, on Nov. 11th at the Music Box in Chicago, they had a screening of Manos, with Jackey (pictured to my right) and co-author Toops (on my left) there. We didn’t make out to that, but did go to the book signing at Chicago’s Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records to get our copy of the book signed. While it was great to get to meet Jackey, I was so saddened to hear that her father Tom, the Master himself, had passed away the previous night. But she decided to come to the book signing anyway because she knew that would be what her father wanted. So she came out and met and chatted with Manos fans for a few hours. Took a lot of guts to do something like that. Kudos to her.
You can learn more about Jackey, as well as her progress of getting the sequel to Manos made by checking out her website HERE.