31 Days of Horror, Vol. 3
Limbs in Limbo
Watch out! The hands about your throat may be your own! Deadly digits…five-fingered beasts… menacing manos…Call them what you may, but some of the most memorable movie monsters are invigorated body parts, crawling hands and floating heads, possessed of a dread that gives the severed an uncanny semblance of life. Come along as we take a tour of these ghastly remnants, heads and hands united in murderous quests from beyond the grave.
Mad Love (1935)
Peter Lorre makes his English speaking debut in one of the true classics of the horror genre. The best of the many adaptations of Maurice Renard's genre staple The Hands of Orlac, director Karl Freund's (1932's The Mummy) production hits high watermarks with its striking, one-of-a-kind art direction, wardrobe and cinematography, delivering a rococo/deco hybrid that has been oft' imitated but never surpassed. Add to that one of the most talented actors to ever take a turn at the ghoulish, delighting in his devilish U.S. debut role, and you are left with a film that truly merits the sobriquet "haunting." The insane surgeon Dr. Gogol (Lorre) is possessed by a mad desire for Grand Guignol actress Yvonne Orlac, the wife of a concert pianist. When the pianist's hands are injured in a horrific train crash, the mad doctor grafts the hands of a killer onto the musician in a twisted attempt to steal his wife.
The Beast with Five Fingers (1946)
Robert Florey directs Peter Lorre in this definitive "Phantom Limb" shocker in which the inhabitants of an isolated villa are seemingly stalked by the hand of a dead pianist. And as the inhabitants die one by one, it appears that the digital reign of terror will not end until the hand gets revenge for the pianist’s murder. Lorre is as sublime as ever as the pianist's put-upon, occult obsessed secretary, Robert Alda plays a grifter/arranger and Andrea King plays the object of desire for both man and ghost. The screenplay by horror master Curt Siodmak, with story suggestions by the legendary Louis Bunuel, and a peerless score from Warner Bros.’ resident maestro, Max Steiner combine for a must-see among genre aficionados.
Legendary B-movie titan Bert I. Gordon helms this New England ghost story with a difference starring Richard Carlson (It Came From Outer Space). Borrowing from the world of noir, Tormented plays true to its title by elevating its spooks to the psychological while delivering a very modern haunting. When a basically good man, jazz pianist Tom Stewart, makes a disastrous choice in a moment of moral weakness he becomes the target of a possessive spirit (or does he..?) from beyond the mortal shore. Anyone in the past who tittered at this shoestring wonder was clearly not paying attention, as the apparition that haunts him, a floating, vengeful, screaming head, becomes forever lodged in the viewer’s memory.
Hands of a Stranger (1962)
The Hands of Orlac proves its immortal versatility yet again in this suspenser that flips the onus for murder from the metaphysical to the mind. Young concert pianist Vernon Paris (James Noah, credited as "James Stapleton" for this film) is on the brink of stardom when his hands are destroyed in a car accident. Thanks to Dr. Gil Harding (Paul Lukather), Vernon's hands are replaced with that of a recent murder victim. Revolted by the limbs transplanted to his own, the musician embarks on a murderous spree of vengeance. Written and directed by Newt Arnold (and keep an eye out for a very young Sally Kellerman).
The Hand (1981)
Oliver Stone directs Michael Caine in this hybrid horror that combines elements of The Beast with Five Fingers and The Hands of Orlac. Caine stars as Jon Lansdale, a successful comic book artist who loses his drawing hand in a grisly accident. Unable to adjust to life without his hand or his career, Caine's marriage and professional life fall apart. After a series of brutal crimes, Lansdale becomes obsessed with the belief that his severed hand is responsible for the murder spree. Based on the story The Lizard's Tale by Marc Brandel.
Also be sure to check out more from our "31 Days of Horror" series
Volume 1: Horror-fying Oscar Winning Actors
Volume 2: Attack of the "Killer B's"
Volume 4: Majestic Monsters & Mayhem