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Manos: The Hands of Fate restored (at last!) from the original Ektachrome reels.
Manos: The Hands of Fate restored (at last!) from the original Ektachrome reels.
818 backers pledged $48,130 to help bring this project to life.

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Keep "Manos" Free

Posted by Ben Solovey (Creator)
5 likes

Hi Everyone,

Today, we've gotten word of an unexpected turn of events that needs fixing. And, as the backers that made all of the hard work restoring Manos and keeping it accessible possible, it's important that you know about it too.

Jackey and I have drafted the following, which we'd like you to share with anyone that might be able to help. It's also up on Facebook for easier sharing on that platform.

More on this soon as we get to work...

Thank you,

Ben

Press Release

Manos: The Hands of Fate fell into the public domain in 1966 due to Hal Warren, the film’s director, not having the film copyrighted, and the freedom of access allowed by the public domain is what eventually enabled it to find an audience. However, Joe Warren, one of Hal’s children, is now seeking to trademark the phrase “Manos: The Hands of Fate” 50 years after the fact for his exclusive use.

Manos: The Hands of Fate, a low budget horror movie made by locals in El Paso, Texas, was called by Entertainment Weekly the “worst film ever made”. While that claim is debatable, there can be no doubt that this tale of a Texan family on a road trip running afoul of a polygamous death cult in the desert has provided a great deal of fertile ground for humor and creative inspiration ever since its release. The successful registration of this trademark would threaten the numerous incarnations of Manos: The Hands of Fate, past and present- particularly the creative works that have come from the movie being in the public domain- with legal liability for trademark infringement.

Not only will the release of the film itself in any form become vulnerable, but projects such as the independent sequel Manos Returns, the puppet adaptation Manos: The Hands of Felt, two coloring books, a video game, a memoir, Growing up With Manos The Hands Of Fate, two fiction books, multiple stage productions, and a number of creative fan projects, are now in danger.

Joe Warren has attempted, without success, to extract financial payment from numerous parties in the past incorrectly claiming “copyright infringement” on this public domain work. There is no reason to think that he will not continue the same activities if granted a trademark, however questionable it may be. We’ve seen Joe deploy these tactics against the numerous creative uses of the film since its release, and even against the restoration and preservation of the film itself.

This trademark was recently approved for publication. Due to Mr. Warren filing an Intent to Use 1(b) Trademark Application (in other words, he has not shown any use of the mark yet), the typical scrutiny given to a 1(a) Trademark Application (one that shows actual use of the mark in commerce) for a Title of a Single Work is not present. However, the window for an outside party to challenge the mark does not change, and there is no further opportunity for opposition from outside parties after this initial publication period.

An initial Letter of Protest will be filed shortly with the US Patent and Trademark Office- however, due to USPTO rules, it will be necessary to gain an extension to file the Notice of Opposition once the mark is published for opposition at the end of February. We hope the Letter of Protest will be enough to prevent registration, but there is no guarantee that will be granted and the scope of issues allowed to be addressed by the Letter of Protest are limited. Filing a Notice of Opposition is extremely costly. The total cost of Attorney Fees for the Notice of Opposition, the extension, and all filing fees is estimated to be around $7,000. Additional funds will further help us offset the costs involved.

Simply put, we have one brief chance to fix this problem, and we will need your support in this battle if we want to see it through. Jackey Neyman Jones (child star of the film and daughter of lead actor Tom Neyman) and Ben Solovey (producer of the Manos: The Hands of Fate restoration) have established a legal fund to cover the filing fees and attorney’s costs to protect the right to access for all. This case will be handled by Ian K. Friedman, Esq., an Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Attorney who has come to the defense of the film’s public domain status in the past.

If you have enjoyed any of the free and legal uses of “Manos: The Hands of Fate” over the years, we hope you’ll help us to protect past, present and future access to the film and title by contributing to it. A GoFundMe page is on the way, subject to their approval process, but we can also accept donations directly through PayPal: legal@manosinhd.com.

Please help spread the word and #KeepManosFree.

Additional Reading

Posted by Ben Solovey (Creator)
3 likes

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to check back in with you today and make sure that you all know about two very different "Manos" related books that are now currently available. Both are by friends of the restoration and both are absolutely worth checking out.

Growing Up With Manos

 

Jackey Neyman Jones- who has been with us since the beginning- and her co-author Laura Mazzuca Toops have published Growing Up With Manos, a comprehensive history of the film's making, unmaking, and rediscovery. Jackey is the best historian we have on Manos, not only as a result of her personal experiences but also her meticulous research. Joel Hodgson contributes the Foreword, appropriately enough, and I don't suppose I need to mention that you all play a part in this book as well...

The Kicking The Seat podcast has just posted an interview with Laura here, definitely worth checking out!

Jackey is, of course, currently working on Manos Returns, which I'm eagerly anticipating.

The Coloring Book

 

 

   

Full disclosure: mad genius Jordan Colton sent me a copy of his Manos coloring book to check out. Not only is the entirety of Manos: The Hands of Fate reproduced in classic coloring book form, right down to the inclusion of a "Find The Word" and name scramble, the book itself weighs in at a massive 200 pages- there's plenty of Torgo to go around.

By the way, if you enter in the coupon code "APPROVES" at checkout, you'll get free shipping- a good idea for a volume of this size.

Jordan also has coloring books based around Night of the Living Dead, Krampus, and "Creepy Clowns", which you can find at his site Horrid Coloring Books.

If you or anyone you know has an interesting Manos related project, let me know and I'll be sure to spotlight them here and in our Facebook Group.

Thank you,

Ben

After The Question Mark: "Manos Returns"

Posted by Ben Solovey (Creator)
2 likes

I'm taking a momentary break from our Atomic Brain restoration (which this is partially reposted from) to let you know about something that's fundraising now and involves a lot of the friends we made through our work on "Manos".

Many of you who keep up with us on Facebook know by now about Manos Returns. What you might not know is that there's now only 7 days left to contribute to their campaign and finally answer the biggest question posed by the original film in 1966.

Jackey Raye Neyman Jones, who was so instrumental in making our "Manos" restoration disc as great as it could be, co-wrote this film, wherein you'll see the triumphant(?) return of The Master (Tom Neyman). Tonjia Atomic is directing it, there's puppetry from Rachel Jackson (the delightful Manos: The Hands of Felt) and music from Cory Fujimori (Manos: The Restoration as well as this project) as well as some vocals from original Manos Vocalist Nicki Mathis. It's going to be a great time with a lot of people who helped bring Manos: The Hands of Fate back for all to enjoy.

While they are now very close to their initial $24,000 goal, their stretch goal of $30,000 will activate more rewards, further music by Nicki Mathis, and allow Diane Mahree (Margaret) and Brian Jennings (son of The Sherriff) to travel to Oregon and join the cast.

Right now, there are some very nice backer incentives available, such as t-shirts, autographed scripts, advance copies of Jackey's book, your picture in the film, and even a hand made full size steel replica of Torgo's staff.

Many have planned, attempted, and even threatened to make a sequel to "Manos" in the past, but these are the people who will finally make it happen.

Coming from so much genuine love for the original film and what it represented, I think we're in for truly special experience. As the original newspaper ad boldly proclaimed, "Join in the fun!". I know I will.

 Thank you-

Ben

Defending the Public Domain

Posted by Ben Solovey (Creator)
20 likes

Now that the restored Manos: The Hands of Fate Blu-ray and DVD have been out for a while, and just about everyone who pledged for a disc has theirs in hand, let’s look back a few years to something I couldn’t talk about at the time: the first major behind-the-scenes attack on our work.

This is from an email I received shortly before the first public screening of Manos (all errors are those of the original author):

"We have won our copyright battle. This simplifies things greatly from our perspective... In the simplest terms, $10K = film festival, and the future negotiations of "Manos: HD" as a cooperative venture."

"The $10K we require gives you the license to screen "Manos: HD" at the Aug. 4th Festival, and also guarantees you will be able to continue on with your restoration of "Manos: HD" in cooperation with Torgo Lives LLC."

"You will be able to restore all of the "Manos" elements we possess in order to make the best "Manos: HD" product possible. We are trying to get a deal done with you... if we wanted to shut you down and keep Manos away from you, we wouldn't even contact you from here on out, but begin with notifying the Kick Starter Lawyers… I wrote to you months ago via texts, emails, and FB NOT to spend the Kick Starter Donor money, on multiple occasions."

"The way we see it, you essentially have three choices:

a) Work with us, ink a deal with us, and go on to produce the most awesome "Manos" ever seen and everyone wins

b) Pack it up, return the donor's money, and move on with your life, having nothing else to do with our property

c) Bluff it out, and face possible repercussions from misuse of Kick Starter Donor Money, as well as any court actions we ourselves might be forced to take

We are sincerely hoping things can work out. It should ultimately be about people working together for something we all feel passionate about.

Take Care,

...Torgo Lives, LLC"

Just a sample of the correspondence that I was receiving in the summer of 2012. Two guys, partners at the time, were making a bold claim of control over Manos: The Hands of Fate, the Public Domain film we were restoring after a successful Kickstarter campaign (that part, of course, you already know).

We were only a few days out from screening a work in progress version of the film when they began a series of emails claiming that they owned the film and that I'd need to pay a $10,000 licensing fee to carry on with the screening — and my own work. When pressed for proof, they sent me nothing of substance that I could either research or act upon. Nevertheless, they prematurely proclaimed the dispute to be over.

I knew that no matter how patently false this copyright claim was, it could still cause real problems. In fact, as soon as it became clear that I wasn't going along with their demands, these two began to harass the film festival and the owners of the venue, demanding that $500 in licensing fees be paid, and even that security guards be posted to bar me from my own screening. As sure as I was that their claim was wrong, I wasn't equipped to prove it to the festival programmers, who had far too much on their plate to research copyright matters at the last minute. The public domain status of a work often is due to a lack of documents filed, a lack of notices appended — how could I stand my ground against a smokescreen of false claims and irrelevant documentation?

Luckily, by this time I had brought attorney Ian Friedman on board. I'd met him through a mutual friend and hired him initially to write and negotiate a set of distribution and screening contracts, but when it came time to defend the film's public domain status, he was more than up for the challenge. With his knowledge in entertainment and intellectual property law, he navigated us through what would become a massive and prolonged battle against first one, then two opponents in two different states.

When the opposition tried intimidating the people who screened the film, when they began threatening those who were making new work based on the film, and when fake, then real cease-and-desist letters began to arrive, Ian was there to help. He went to bat for us over the course of three years and laid the groundwork for many more people to exercise their creativity with Manos: The Hands of Fate over time.

As strange as it may seem, Ian did all of this from a completely different coast than I was on. It had no effect on his speed or efficacy.

I was so impressed with Ian’s work that I brought him on again for the duration of the Atomic Brain 4K restoration that we're currently fundraising. And, if you're working on a creative project yourself, I want to take this opportunity to recommend him for your intellectual property matters, licensing, or general counsel no matter where you are in the United States.

He's now working with Snyder Law, a firm that allows you to employ him on a monthly "subscription" basis that is perfect for ongoing projects, start-ups, and general business and corporate matters. This unique option (both hourly and flat fees are of course still available) allows clients to access legal advice through phone and email without having to worry about hourly rates. The subscription choice makes perfect sense if you’re running a project month-to-month or over the course of a year, as I am.

Ian's contact information:

Email: ifriedman@snyderbusinesslaw.com 

Office: 484-801-0021

Website: http://www.snyderbusinesslaw.com/our-team.html

-Ben

Mascelli's Monstrosity, "The Atomic Brain"

Posted by Ben Solovey (Creator)
4 likes

Hi everyone,

As many of you know, when the surviving elements of Manos: The Hands of Fate were found in that storage space in 2011, it was just a small part of a larger cache from the catalog of its onetime distributor, Emerson Film Enterprises. Manos, existing in fragments and deteriorating rapidly, was in urgent need of restoration- but what about the rest of those films?

The good news is that, in the process of saving Manos, your backing has already allowed me to place the remainder of the Emerson titles I received into cold storage at the Academy Film Archive. There, films like Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (the 3 hour German TV version lampooned on MST3K) and A Swingin' Affair (which opens with some great footage of Dick Dale performing his hit 'Misirlou') are kept in carefully maintained conditions that have slowed their decomposition as much as possible. They wait now in that cool, dry place for someone to decide they are worth another look.

Now that the vast majority of backers have received their discs- and those that haven't are now being sent replacements- the time is right to plan the rescue of another film. Thanks to the contributions you've already made, we're no longer in a fight against rapid deterioration. We are, however, still fighting a loss of history: the people and circumstances that made these titles in the first place are mostly gone, and with them the stories that enrich our experience revisiting them.

Consider the unexpected number of things we learned about Manos in the process of restoring it. The commentary from Tom Neyman and Jackey Raye Neyman Jones, the recollections of Diane Adelson in the documentary, the photography of Anselm Spring from the set... even if they couldn't make the film objectively "better", they made the experience that much more complete.

Which brings us to the next title from this collection to be restored, and one that (as a cameraman) I feel pretty close to.



The Atomic Brain: 4K Restoration

The Atomic Brain AKA Monstrosity (1963) is another Emerson film you may be familiar with from Mystery Science Theater 3000, but it is also the sole directorial credit of Joseph V. Mascelli ASC. A Cinematographer well known in his day, yet now almost forgotten, his scant IMDB page (enlivened by another MST3K favorite, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?) belies the number of professional responsibilities he held in the 1960's as editor of the American Cinematographer Manual, as a teacher, and as the author of a textbook that is still in use today, The 5 C's of Cinematography.

The Atomic Brain in 4K
The Atomic Brain in 4K

In fact, Mascelli had been a cinematographer since WWII, when he had shot mountains of footage for newsreels and training films. He had also been a prominent director of photography in the early days of television. Between the ephemeral nature of his government films and the dismal survival rate of early television footage, Mascelli was a craftsman bound for anonymity. In restoring the single film he directed, though, we stand a strong chance of changing that.

The Atomic Brain in 4K
The Atomic Brain in 4K

It's not just that the people who made it are interesting- The Atomic Brain is a legitimately weird experience. Brain swapping through atomic fission, human-animal hybrids, and pseudo-vampirism abound. It's also far prettier than we'd thought: coming straight from the Original Camera Negative, one can see a razor-sharp black and white image leaps and bounds beyond the dreary, dark versions of the film previously available.

The Atomic Brain in 4K
The Atomic Brain in 4K

Restoring a movie like this, in native 4K resolution and on a tight budget, was simply not an option when the elements were discovered in 2011. Now, with greater restoration tools in reach and 4K televisions already in some homes, it's a perfect time. Should UHD Blu-rays be accessible to us before our completion in October, we even have room in the budget to include them. Otherwise, we can deliver 4K files suitable for play by early adopters right along side our Blu-rays and DVDs.

Now for the question that I'm all too happy to answer:

How long will it take to restore "The Atomic Brain"?

It'll be done in 2016, and I'm very serious about that time frame.

As a reward for everyone who stuck with me through the delays on Manos, and to encourage the confidence of new backers, I am placing a guarantee on all incentives. Should we meet our fundraising goal, discs will be sent to backers between their original ETA of October 2016 and no later than December 31st of 2016. If this deadline is missed, refunds will come from my own pocket. Check the campaign page for more details.

Why would I make such a guarantee?

First of all, with the documentation we've accumulated, we are very well armed against attacks on the public domain status of this film, the kind that interfered with our Manos restoration for an extended length of time. Such an attack is not unprecedented, as you've seen, but it is highly unusual. I'm confident that there will be no such trouble on The Atomic Brain- more importantly, so is the independent copyright researcher and the lawyer I hired before the fact.

Second, we aren't piecing this film together from incomplete and highly damaged elements, as was necessary for Manos. We are fortunate enough to possess both the complete original camera negative and fine grain positive of The Atomic Brain. They may be dirty and scratched right now, but given time and care they are going to yield some amazing results (as the images and video you've seen will attest).

Finally, the trust that you gave me during the restoration of Manos was immense. With the end result in hand, I hope you'll feel that it was rightly placed. Above all else, I want the prospect of rejoining me on The Atomic Brain to be less of a risk for you and more of a victory lap for us all.

Check it out and... Join us, won't you?