An Interview with “Manos: Hands of Fate” Star Jackey Neyman Jones

The True Story Behind The Worst FIlm Ever Made

There’s a story behind every piece of art, but few can rival the tales that come off of movie sets. The number of factors that need to come together to make a cohesive film are always complicated and extensive, making it nothing short of a minor miracle when the system manages to crap out a quality piece of work. Manos: The Hands of Fate is not one of those minor miracles.


     Indeed, Manos ranks right up there with the most unwatchable films of all time, something akin to 70 minutes of ground glass straight to the retinas. The movie is awkward, bizarre, amateurish, but above all else, just god awful filmmaking of the lowest caliber imaginable. And perhaps no one knows this better than Jackey Neyman Jones.

      Starring as little Debbie in the film, Jones and her father Tom Neyman, who played The Master, are two of the only people alive today who experienced the celluloid atrocity that was Manos in person. Now almost 50 years later, father and daughter are bringing the fateful hands back with Manos Returns, a sequel decades in the making.

         Mrs. Neyman was kind enough to sit down with The Blood Shed too talk about experiences on the set, address some of the many urban legends that have haunted the original film, and answer one big question; why are so many people clamoring for a sequel too the worst film of all time?

The Blood Shed: Hi Jackey, thanks for taking some time out of your day to talk to us. Would you like to tell us a little about Manos?

Jackey Neyman Jones: The original?

Shed: Yes, the original. You were Debbie in it correct?

Jones: Yeah, I played the part of Debbie, the little girl, and my dad played The Master, the lead character, and he also did all the set, props, the costumes, all the, you know, all the look of Manos. The Masters Painting, Torgo’s staff, and then of course he supplied the dog, the Doberman, which was our family dog.

Shed: The dog is a classic, its funny how that became an iconic part of that film

Jones: (Laughs) I know, I love you know, It’s like I always think of Manos more as a family film, because it really is a snapshot of my childhood. Everything in that film is either from our house or my family had some part of it.

Shed: So Manos has an interesting history, could you tell me a little bit about how your family became a part of it?

Jones: Yeah, my dad was in community theater in El Paso in the early 60’s he was also a professional artist and was doing a lot of art shows, and Hal Warren who created Manos and wrote the script for it was going to play at the local community theater and Hal look around at the other cast and crew and he realized he pretty much had everybody he needed right there to film this script that he had written. So he pulled them all together, and they all jumped at the opportunity to make a film. They had all just done community theater, but Hal was a salesman, an insurance salesman, he could sell anything.

Shed: Did he actually originally write the films script on a napkin, based on a bet?

Jones: Actually, I wrote a book called Growing up with Manos: The Hands of Fate that will be out probably by the end of March, and I wrote a whole chapter on how Warren wrote the script, did a ton of research, and pretty much found out not only is that true but I learned the whole story around it, and how they (Warren and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant) met in the first place. Its pretty interesting, but yes he did make a bet with Stirling Silliphant who was the screenwriter for In the Heat of the Night. Silliphant was also the screenwriter for the show Route 66.

Shed: That’s a pretty funny way for a film to come about, just as a bet between friends.

Jones: Well its not that they were friends, Hal actually had a role as a walk on in Route 66, Stirling Silliphants show, and that’s where they met, and Hal used the opportunity to make a bet for number of reasons. For one thing, he felt that by making that bet he would have more of an in with Hollywood, with somebody with influence. So he kind of was very very strategic. Hal did things for a number of reasons. Nothing he did was ever simple, which makes it so interesting that he failed so humongously on this film.

Shed: (Laughs) The film was in Obscurity for over 30 years until Mystery Science Theater picked it up in the mid 90’s.

Jones: Yes, it was January 1993, so it was 27 years after Manos had originally aired.

Shed:  Wow, 27 years.  Did you ever in that time think Manos would become as big as it has?

Jones: I never thought it was going to be found at all. I mean, I spent many years searching for it with Tom (Neyman) because once we saw the premiere that was it, we never saw it again. I mean, because it was awful. It was really really bad, and everybody back then knew it too, so once they suffered through the premiere everybody kind of went their own way and didn’t talk about it anymore. But yeah, it was pretty much a shock when my dad actually saw it on Mystery Science Theatre one Saturday night in 1993.

Shed: That’s just such an amazing coincidence. Alright, another Urban Legend to address. Did you actually cry at the films screening when you saw your lines had been dubbed over by a voice actor?

Jones: Oh yeah, that was really really, really horrible. You know, I sat there just expectantly, and then my mouth opened on screen and this horrible voice came out and I was mortified, absolutely mortified, so yeah, I spent the whole time crying.

Shed: It’s hard imagine, watching your whole performance dubbed over. If I recall correctly though, the camera for Manos couldn’t actually record audio could it?

Jones: No, it was silent. It was a camera used for combat newsreels, and it shot silently. Clips were 32 seconds and the camera needed to be winded after every take, so everything was dubbed. It’s just that nobody bothered  to tell the little kid that was going to happen. You know I spent the whole time worrying about whether I was speaking my lines clearly or loud enough and it turns out that it wasn’t important at all. (Laughs)

Shed: Can you tell us some more about your time on the set? I know there’s a famous urban legend about Torgo’s leg braces.

Jones: Well you know, some of the Manos mythology says that he (Torgo actor John Reynolds) made those leg braces himself, or that he wore them backwards, that they caused him pain, and that’s what led to his suicide and all these ridiculous things, but for one thing the whole film was done in like, 8 days, 3 consecutive weekends, so that’s kind of a short time to get addicted to painkillers, so that’s wrong. My dad actually built the braces for his legs, and he wore them correctly, and they were awkward, but they weren’t particularly painful. John Reynold’s issues that led to his suicide were much deeper than that.

Shed: I figured that some of the mythology had to have just been rumor hyped up through the years.

Jones: There was so much of that, yeah, which is how I got involved with the whole Manos thing to begin with. I started following things online, and reading stories and things that people said, knowing they were wrong, so I would chime in, and say how I knew they were wrong, and one thing led to another and I started writing a blog, and it turned out a whole lot of people wanted to read that. You know, it’s kind of cool, a weird thing to be known for, but I say if you can’t be the best, make the most of being the worst, you know. (Laughs)

Shed: Manos really is one of the worst films of all times. A lot of people cite Troll 2 and a few other films, but few of them are just as unwatchable. as The Hands of Fate. No offense to your performance.

Jones: (Laughing) No, it’s ok, actually I cherish that because if it weren’t so horrible, it would be, it would kind of just mesh into the piles of other really really, poor, poorly made, and bad movies. There’s so much more to this film than just being bad. I mean, its interesting. I have to say though, that Manos has been taught at film schools for many years as everything not to do in film making, and as a result, most of the projects, in fact all of the projects that have been inspired from this film have actually been really good. I’ve met the most amazing people, and the sequel that were doing, Manos Returns, has this amazing team of indie filmmakers and people who have been winning awards, have a lot of experience, have been doing this for a long time, and its really exciting.

Shed: Lets go ahead and talk a little about Manos Returns. With a sequel coming out over 50 years later, obviously the cult behind this film is huge. What are some of the pressures you faced going into a follow up to one of the most infamously awful films ever?

Jones: Yeah, crazy idea right? Too make a sequel, I mean whose going to do that? Well first of all, were not out to make a bad film at all. Like I said I have a talented group of people behind me with experience in low and no budget films, and so we went into our Kickstarter setting a number we thought would work. And it did, we hit our base number of 24,000 a full 7 days before the end of the Kickstarter which is March 1rst. So were making a film to the best of our ability.

        The basis for making this was my dad had to be involved.  He was The Master in the original, and he’s 80 years old now, and Manos has enjoyed all this amazing fame for 23 years now, and were reaching the 50th anniversary this November. He and I are actually two of the last surviving cast members. There’s a couple more, and we hope to get at least one of them in our film, but you know, out of all this fame, and the MST thing, and honestly Manos would be nothing if it weren’t for MST, nothing, but at the same time the original people have never benefited from any of it.

      I’ve had a lot of fun going to events and speaking, and writing my blog, interacting with fans,  for years, but my dads never had that, that pleasure, so it’s kind of two fold. It’s to give him that opportunity while he’s still on this Earth and strong, and to show fans that he’s behind this whole adventure, and to create a fan film. You know, I want to make my dad proud, and I want to make something the fans will really enjoy.

Shed: That’s really touching. I had no idea what was likely just going to go down as just another awful film was such a bonding moment between you and your father.

Jones: Oh yeah, you really should read the book. This whole Manos thing for me, it’s more than, than just a film, you know I’ve never really tried to capitalize on this, and believe me I don’t think we’ll really make any money off this either, not that it won’t make money, so much much as there’s so much of my heart and soul in this that if you put a dollar amount on it, it wouldn’t come out to much. It’s my heart, and I love Manos, and I love it because, well it’s a big long story that I won’t get into now, but there’s been a lot of family healing.

            My Dad and I were were estranged for almost 12 years, and for some weird reason Manos was the only thing we were allowed to be together on, and that’s kind of how this came about. There’s really been a lot of healing in all this. There’s a big fat story here, but for the fans I’ve talked to so many people that just connect with this film in such a strange way, that, we really are like a big family. I mean, there’s so much love here, I don’t know, Manos Love. Join the family, you know, join my family.

Shed: Well The  Blood Shed wishes you the best of luck. Thank’s for taking the time to speak with us, and we’ll be sure to check out your film when it comes out.

Jones: Thank you to. Were having our big event March 1rst 6 to 9 pm Pacific Standard time, just go to to get all the details. We want to watch Manos, the unriffed version, do some riffing of our own, and also watch The Hand of Felt, the puppet theater Manos too. It’s our countdown, and at 9 p.m. the kickstarter is done as well. So join us, bring your friends, and lets see if we can reach another stretch goal.

Shed: Well thank you again for talking with us Jackey.

Jones: Thank you so much Jeff.


  As of the time of this article, there’s still 25 hours left in Manos Returns Kickstarter. Jackey is wonderful, and I truly wish nothing but success her and Manos Returns as it goes forward. Will it live up to it’s infamous original? All signs point to yes, but we’ll just have to wait to November 15th to find out. Hey, if the Neyman’s can wait 50 years, I think the rest of us can manage a few months.

Jeff is a writer for The Blood Shed and eats, drinks, and bleeds horror. You can follow him on Instagram @thatjeffreyguy

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  • Jackey Neyman Jones
    1 March 2016 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Was a pleasure talk with you last night Jeff. Thank you so much for the boost to our kickstarter and to Manos Returns!