Stanley Kubrick did something that no one else can boast of doing when he made The Shining in 1980. He took the worst horror film ever made, 1966’s Manos: The Hands of Fate, and turned it into the best horror movie ever made.
Down to many of its minutest details, The Shining is a virtual remake of Manos: The Hands of Fate. So grab some red rum and let’s see how these two films on opposite ends of the quality scale are basically the same.
Here are all of the similarities between these two films:
- The film’s director is also its writer and producer.
- The film starts with a long car drive.
- A child complains of being hungry during the drive and the father reacts angrily.
- A family of three gets stranded in a remote hotel.
- There is no telephone to contact the outside world.
- The family’s vehicle is sabotaged so they can’t escape.
- The hotel caretaker walks with a severe limp.
- The child encounters a supernatural force first.
- The parents follow in their child’s footsteps to a frightening location.
- The father randomly makes out with a woman who turns out to be dead.
- A harsh punishment is decreed on someone for bringing outsiders to the hotel.
- The wife breaks down in terror.
- The husband is easily subdued and imprisoned.
- He just as easily escapes.
- The caretaker is awakened by his disappointed superior.
- The husband bashes in a door to reach his wife and child.
- The wife tells her child to run to safety after she can’t get away from the danger.
- Ineffective people answer the family’s distress signal.
- The climax is a chase outside at night.
- The husband is stuck at the hotel forever.
- The movie ends on an ambiguous note.
Now let’s go into detail on each of these points.
The real star of these films is the writer/director/producer. Stanley Kubrick was a famous control freak, taking over writing, directing, and producing responsibilities for nearly all of his films after 1960’s Spartacus. Hal Warren only made one film, and he apparently was a bit of a prima donna on set. This doesn’t necessarily affect the stories, but it is an important thing these films have in common.
The film begins with a long car drive. The Shining opens with Jack Torrance driving to the Overlook Hotel for a job interview for the caretaker position. Manos begins with Michael and his wife and daughter driving to an overlooked hotel where they meet a bizarre caretaker. While it’s not exactly the same, Jack is soon joined by his wife and son on a drive to the hotel.
The reason why The Shining’s opening is effective is because of its use of scary music, the fact that it has credits, and the variety of camera shots outside the vehicle, heightening our curiosity about who is in the car and where they’re going. Manos has none of these elements, which makes the long drive scene tedious and mind-numbing.
The main character’s child complains during the drive, and their need is dealt with in a dismissive manner. Danny Torrance says he is hungry, but Jack just says he should have eaten breakfast. Danny’s mother tries to comfort him a little. Debbie tells her parents she’s hungry and cold. The parents don’t address her hunger, and their solution to her other problem isn’t to give her a blanket but to have her sit up front with them. Nice parenting, I guess.
Stranded at the Hotel
Two parents and their child are unable to leave an ominous hotel. The Torrances are cut off from the rest of civilization by a snowstorm while Michael and his family are having car trouble. Besides that, the caretaker, Torgo, tells them, “There is no way out of here.”
Phone Lines Are Down
There is no telephone available to the families to call for help. The winter storm knocks out telephone lines at the Overlook Hotel, leaving just a CB radio for the family to use to check in with a forest service station. But even that is later sabotaged by Jack. Torgo’s hotel has no phone or any other such devices, so Michael and Margaret can’t call the authorities.
The Car Won’t Start
The only means of transportation won’t work. After Jack goes insane, he irreparably damages the Snow Cat, which is his wife’s and son’s only hope of getting down the mountain alive. For some reason that is never explained, Michael’s car suddenly won’t start. For all we know, it might have been sabotaged, but more likely Michael is just inept.
The caretaker of the hotel walks with a debilitating limp. Near the end of The Shining, Jack falls down a flight of stairs and twists his ankle. He walks the rest of the movie very haltingly. Torgo appears to have seriously deformed legs, constricting their movement and making him walk slowly and awkwardly in every scene.
Don’t Go in There
The child is the first member of the family to come in contact with a ghost. Danny sees visions of two murdered little girls almost from the moment he enters the hotel and he later enters room 237, which he was told never to enter. The results leave him comatose for most of the rest of the film. Debbie slips out of the hotel unnoticed by her parents and stumbles across the Master and his wives and dog. After she returns to her parents, she sleeps most of the rest of the film.
Following in the Child’s Footsteps
The parents go and see what terrified their child, and they don’t like what they find. Jack enters room 237 to see for himself what’s in there. It’s freaky, to say the least. Wendy later has her own experience where she sees the horrible things Danny saw in vision. Debbie shows Michael and Margaret the place where the Master and his wives are. The dog even managed to tie itself back up next to its Master. The parents are horrified by what they see, even though the whole scene looks rather dull and not scary at all.
I Love You… Ew, Never Mind
The father makes out with a dead woman for no reason. What Jack encounters in room 237 is a naked woman who he decides to make out with, no questions asked. It turns out to be a terrible decision, for more than just the obvious reason of adultery, when she is revealed to be a rotting corpse. He runs away in horror. One of the Master’s wives stumbles upon an unconscious Michael and, for no reason at all, she gives him a long, passionate kiss. But then she has a sudden mood swing and starts slapping him before leaving in disgust. Um, that was random.
You Must Die!
A character is threatened with death for inviting outsiders to the hotel. The ghost of the previous caretaker named Delbert Grady, who killed his family, informs Jack that Danny has called out for help to the hotel cook, Dick Hallorann, who is several states away. Jack must “correct” his son for his actions, meaning Jack must kill him. Torgo apparently forfeited his life when he allowed the family to stay the night. The Master tells him, “You have failed us, Torgo, and you must die!”
The wife cowers in fear for most of the film. Wendy is a nervous wreck for the second half of the film. She shrieks and sobs, and she is only saved because her husband does such a sloppy job trying to kill her. Margaret just stands in horror as Torgo assaults her and she completely breaks down after she sees the Master and his wives. All she does is cry and complain for the rest of the film.
The Husband Is a Pushover
The husband is knocked out cold with one hit from a blunt object. Jack tries to attack Wendy, but he forgets to bring a weapon while she’s holding a baseball bat. She gets the upper hand, despite her fear, and she knocks him out with the swing of her bat. She then locks him in the food storage room. Torgo sneaks up on Michael and hits him with his staff, which is all it takes to bring him down. He then ties Michael to a tree.
He’s Also an Escape Artist
The husband has no problem escaping from his imprisonment. Jack is freed by Grady after promising to take care of his wife and son. Michael breaks free of the rope tying his hands behind a tree and then proceeds to get back to the hotel to care for his wife and daughter.
Wake Up, Little Loser, Wake Up
A disappointed superior gives the hotel caretaker a rude awakening. Grady wakes Jack up while he’s sleeping in the food storage room. He tells him he’s worried Jack won’t be able to follow through on his promise to kill his family. Jack tries to reassure him, but his words prove hollow. The Master wakes up Torgo in an undignified way and then proceeds to berate him for letting the guests in and doing other forbidden things. Torgo doesn’t have much to say in his defense.
The husband smashes through a door that his wife and child are hiding behind. Jack mockingly asks Wendy to open the door to the bathroom she is hiding in. He then uses an ax to slice through the bathroom door while his wife screams helplessly. Michael returns to the hotel room his wife and daughter are barricaded in. He pleads with her to open the door, but she is so distraught she can’t bring herself to even do that one simple thing. So he uses his shoulder to pound the door open.
When the wife realizes she can’t escape a dangerous situation, she urges her child to run to safety. Despite being as thin as a rail, Wendy is unable to squeeze through the bathroom window her son managed to crawl out of. So she tells him to run and hide while she attempts to deal with her maniac husband. While running away from the Master and his wives, Margaret falls down and gives up completely. She pleads with Michael to save Debbie.
To the Rescue… or Not
The family sends a cry for help, which is answered by people who don’t help at all. Dick Halloran responds to Danny’s psychic distress signal and he makes it all the way to the hotel only to be killed by Jack within minutes of his arrival. Some help he was. Two police officers hear gunshots fired by Michael as he and his family try to escape the hotel. They give a half-hearted search before giving up and calling it a night. To serve and protect, indeed.
The film culminates in an outdoor chase in the dark of night. Jack hunts Danny in a thrilling chase through a hedge maze. He had promised Danny he would never hurt him or his mother earlier, making this climax even more painful and ironic. Danny outsmarts him and escapes safely with his mother. Michael, Margaret, and Debbie are pursued by the Master and his wives. Just when they’re on the verge of making a clean getaway, they foolishly turn around and head back to the hotel right into the hands of the Master. Utter fools.
The husband will forever stay at the hotel. Jack freezes to death and joins the other ghosts that haunt the Overlook Hotel. It’s likely that he’ll take Grady’s place as the new head ghost who will inspire the next susceptible caretaker to kill his own family. Michael takes Torgo’s place as the caretaker of the hotel. It appears that his job is to lure women into the Master’s clutches.
The movie ends ambiguously. The Shining’s ending suggests that Jack was a ghost the whole time. Or maybe he was reincarnated or looks just like someone who died long ago. What the ending means is anyone’s guess. Manos ends on a frustratingly odd note with “The End?” as though promising more horrors in the future. Mercifully, there was never a sequel. Imagine what that would be called: Manos 2: More Than You Can Handle!
The Master Says…
Sitting through these two films back to back was a surreal experience for me. I have to admit they both create their own unique realities. It’s not that writer/producer/director Hal Warren’s story was terrible; it’s that his execution was way off the mark. He had a good idea for a horror film, as Stanley Kubrick proved more than a decade later.
Any story can be interesting. It all depends on how it’s told. In the hands of a master like Kubrick, straw turned into gold with his masterful adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. But in the hands of an amateur like Warren, everything went wrong from the music to the dialogue to the editing and choreography. He made a complete failure of a film.
Manos: The Hands of Fate deserves its reputation as the worst horror film of all time, just as The Shining deserves its reputation as the best. And now you know the irony that they are basically the same film. Now that is truly scary.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Jean-Luc Godard once said (as has been quoted several times) – “The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie.” (yes, we have Godard to blame for the remake/reboot mentality in Hollywood, if you think about it that way) – so Kubrick was just taking Godard’s thinking to its logical conclusion 🙂
Thank goodness Kubrick did take his advice. Manos deserves quite a bit of criticism. 🙂
Still seems like a rather long reach, even with the point by point. Good try though.
Thank you for your comment. Do you have specific examples of where it seems like it’s reaching? I tried to be very specific about similarities even within the broader points.
I’ve interviewed a good number of the surviving cast and crew members of Manos. Hear their thoughts on this at http://www.TalkingManos.info .
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