The Opening Shot

Something you’ll notice if you’ve previously watched Manos on video is the very abrupt beginning of the film. While the MST3K version starts with a shot of the family driving by in their car, the public domain version (which likely originated from an independent VHS distributor’s 16mm transfer) starts a few moments later with the car already parked on an overlook. Neither of these is in fact the beginning of the film, although the MST version comes closest.

In fact the first shot of the film, present on both the work print and the uncut release print, is a fade up on a view of 1966 El Paso from the overlook, followed by a pan right that takes in the full scene and stops on the city. It’s accompanied on the release print by an earlier start to the musical score.

Not an incredibly startling revelation out of context, but it gives us a bit more of that distinctive musical score to enjoy, and it does confirm that the movie has no opening credits, no copyright information and not even a production company logo before the title card several minutes in.


Check the Gate

Here you can see some flaws in the image that will remain untouched. The ‘hairs’ visible on the top and bottom of the second image are actually instances of dirt and dust in the gate of the camera itself, and were permanently printed onto the image while shooting. A lack of cropping here allows us to see a great deal of new detail on each side, dirt included.

The often awkward framing in theatrical prints seems to be the result of lab work that cropped for the academy aspect ratio, although the film itself is clearly composed for the full- frame ‘silent’ ratio. This was likely due to a lack of academy frame guides in the viewfinder of the (silent) cameras used. We will be presenting Manos for the first time with the entire image area visible, as the director of photography saw it in 1966.

This shot, like many others in the film, is out of focus. There is no technology in existence, then or now, that can bring a soft shot back into focus, nor is it within the goals of the restoration to do so. As usual, color correction is not final.