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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Hand

The Hand
1981 (2007) - Orion (Warner Bros.)

Once upon a time, back before the indie film revolution of the late 80s and early 90s, it was not at all unusual for filmmakers to learn their craft in the trenches of the horror genre. Horror movies tend to be modestly budgeted affairs carrying relatively low risk for producers and studios, so Francis Ford Coppola was given an early shot with Dementia 13 and Steven Spielberg segued from TV to features with Duel. Likewise, Oliver Stone received his first studio directing gig with 1981's The Hand. And if you don't often hear The Hand mentioned along with movies like Duel, there's a reason. It's not very good.

Michael Caine stars as cartoonist Jon Lansdale. Just as his marriage is starting to fall apart, he loses his drawing hand in a car accident. He tries to put his life back together but that proves difficult as his severed hand is apparently still out there, crawling around and tracking down the people who have made his life hell. Yikes.


Stone tries to play The Hand as both a psychological thriller and as a gruesome creature feature. Neither aspect really gels, although the quieter scenes are more effective. Caine's performance swings wildly from subdued and introspective to crazily over-the-top (as does his mop of curly hair, for that matter). There's an interesting dynamic in scenes between Caine and his estranged wife (Andrea Marcovicci) and Caine occasionally touches on Lansdale's inner torment. But any good will the movie builds up is undermined by the hand itself, skittering around on its fingers and wrapping itself around its victims' throats. Created by Carlo Rambaldi, it's not a bad effect, just an inherently goofy one. It doesn't matter how hard the actor tries to sell the scene, there's something about them rolling around on the ground struggling with a rubber hand that just doesn't work.

Warner's new DVD looks and sounds OK for a movie of this vintage. Extras include the original trailer and, amazingly enough, an audio commentary by Oliver Stone. I have yet to listen to a bad commentary track from Stone and this one is no exception. It's candid, funny and informative. Stone admits he's not a natural horror filmmaker and is upfront with his opinions about works and what doesn't. Maybe the best moment on the track is during a sex scene Stone can't remember filming, saying "I must have been really high that day or blind drunk. No, that's a joke. I wouldn't have been drunk back then. Maybe high, though."

Not a very good movie, The Hand is nevertheless amusing and interesting enough to check out, especially for fans of the director or 80s horror. It doesn't really work but it's gory, fast-paced and distinct from the cycle of slasher movies that were typical of the genre back then. But if you're actually scared by The Hand, you must suffer from the most extreme case of chirophobia ever recorded.

Film Rating: C-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B-


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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