Comfortable and Furious

The Amusingly Bonkers: Part 6

The Hand (1981)

After the big success of his razor-wielding ladyboy turn in Dressed to Kill, Michael Caine put his hand up for another spell of horror. Amazingly, this one was written and directed by none other than Oliver Stone. It’s fair to say he went onto bigger and better things in much the same way James Cameron progressed from flying piranhas. What’s strange (and very welcome) about The Hand, though, is Caine’s straight-faced commitment to the outlandish material, even if he does appear to be doing his best to look like Gene Wilder throughout.

The story: A famed comic book artist loses his hand in a car accident as a result of his wife’s brain fart behind the wheel. Tut-tut, women drivers. Soon the crudely severed hand is on the loose hungry for revenge…

The characters

Jon Lansdale (Caine): Starts off simmering and ends up literally drinking at The Last Chance Saloon, Jon is already dining on great big slabs of anger before becoming a five-fingered man. Afterwards he pretty much has sparks flying off him. He’s a mixture of misogyny, jealousy, insecurity, paranoia, self-loathing and misanthropy. Not that he rants and raves much. His fury is more of the internalized sort. However, he’s probably also insane so it’s no real surprise that the life expectancy of the people around him starts shortening.

Anne Lansdale (Andrea Marcovicci): Jon’s vegetarian, yoga-loving, duplicitous wife wants time apart to ‘re-evaluate’ their marriage. Given hubby has just taken up residence in Bonkersville, that’s probably not the best idea.

Stella Roche (Annie McEnroe): One of Jon’s drawing students after his mishap forces him to give up illustrating comic books and become an art teacher. “I like the way you look at me,” she says after turning up at his house and taking three gulps of Budweiser. Then she peels off her top in his kitchen, despite the fact he’s twice her age and lacking an appendage.

Brian Ferguson (Bruce McGill): A fellow teacher who makes the mistake of taking an interest in Jon’s newfound lady love. “One bitch in this town who needs her chain pulled it’s her,” he says in his consistently obnoxious way. What do you think his chances of survival are?

Why it’s bonkers: I don’t really need to explain this, do I? Having said that, although The Hand does cough up some rib-tickling scenes that embarrass all concerned, it’s often restrained and intriguing. There’s no supernatural element here. The hand is neither possessed nor limp-wristed. Yes, the family cat can see it and gets spooked enough to crash straight through a window, but I’ll put that down to an inconsistency in the writing. For the most part there’s every reason to believe the hand only exists in Jon’s murderous fantasies, dreams and hallucinations (like Catherine Deneuve seeing those hands coming out of the walls in Repulsion). It’s merely a representation of Jon’s rage, a figment of his tortured psyche. Like Dressed to Kill, he’s adopted a ‘disguise’ to carry out the murders.

Mind you, it’s probably not the best idea to put us in the decomposing hand’s point of view as it crawls through the grass, sometimes with aargh! a beetle perched on top. I suggest such an attempt at generating chills is not quite as effective as being in the beast’s POV in American Werewolf while it lopes through the woods. The funniest bit arrives when Jon bumps into a dirty, unshaven, profanity-spouting drunken tramp (played by the director himself). The sight of Oliver Stone (creator of some of the most bombastic movies in history) thrashing around on a bunch of cardboard boxes in an alley with a rubbery hand stuck to his throat is priceless, although I was also fond of Caine’s climactic meltdown in which he arm-wrestles, bites and stabs his formerly friendly mitt.



, ,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *