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DIRECTOR: William J. Hole, Jr. RELEASE DATE (US): September 13, 1961 RATING (US): Unrated
CAST: Robert Alda, Linda Christian, Neil Hamilton, et al.
// review by Jeff

The devil's hand wrote the script.

Sometimes movies come out that are so strange, you wonder how they could ever have received studio approval. But then you quickly realize that if it weren't for these hair-brained ideas and concepts in the minds of odd directors, producers, and screenwriters, we wouldn't have that lovable genre known as the "B-movie". They're so bad, they're enjoyable. They star actors you've never heard of and will never hear of again. They play in drive-in theatres, but most moviegoers are too busy steaming up windows to notice that they actually paid for this. (I suppose that's how drive-in theatres made money: as a certified necking establishment.) But we wouldn't have things any other way. Let's turn on our defroster and look at one such peculiarity of the silver screen.

"The Devil's Hand" was a 1962 film that was just... mystifying, to say the least. This movie tells the tale of Rick Turner, a man supposedly in love with his lovely fiancée, Donna Trent, and living a humble yet ultimately satisfying life. Or so we thought! He begins to see unusual visions at night of a stunningly beautiful blonde goddess who seems to know his name and continually beckons for him to come to her. He is lured, after these nightmarish images to a doll shop where the shop's owner apparently has an order for him, a doll that resembles the woman in his dreams. There is also a doll on the shelf of Donna, which he finds most peculiar. He eventually is also enticed to the blonde woman's apartment. I am not sure how he got that address; maybe she left a sticky-note in his memory.

When he arrives, she wastes little time in not only turning the poor sap into a lovestruck puddle of goo but convincing him to join her cult that serves the devil god Gamba! Rick is an oaf who clearly can't think for himself; he is easily swayed by the allure of a sensuous woman. I imagine they'd be quite successful in call centres and army recruitment kiosks. Anyway, he gets heavily involved in this cult business while Donna lies in pain in a hospital bed for many weeks. It's only when Rick discovers the reason why she is so ill that he snaps out of his fog: the doll maker has put a pin in the doll resembling Donna in his store, thus causing malady in a voodoo-style manner. It's not surprising, considering the shop owner is also the cult leader and a pretty gruff character all around. Eventually things get back to normal, but not without a climactic ending that involves toasty fire. We don't see Donna dumping Rick, but she really should. What a butt. If you're going to mess around with another woman, do the right thing and break off the engagement first.

Wait a second... how exactly did that blonde woman get into Rick's psyche? Oh yeah, that's right: she's a witch. Forgot about that. Or at least tried to.

With a storyline like that, you know that someone smothered the film with gooey fromage. The movie, however, doesn't even pretend to appear credible. Yes, horror movies generally can't be believed (they're not real, in case you had no idea), but this one's even more difficult. The acting ranges from boorish to tolerably less boorish. Unfortunately, it's difficult to experience good acting when the script is so dry. More time is spent sitting or standing around (or, in Donna's case, laying down) talking. It would be great if the conversations were stimulating, but even the seductive witch's allure doesn't exactly suckle upon my interest.

The action is fairly minimal, too, dedicated to characters walking in and out of the rooms where they were once talking. The only excitement you'll really see is in the cult chamber when they test the faith of individuals with a game of roulette involving knives hanging from a chandelier, some fake, some real. If the person survives, they are been spared and proven worthy by that devil-god Gamba. Basically, the main stunts are performed by a ceiling fixture. I suppose fire also counts, but who goes to a drive-in theatre to watch fire? That's what Sears catalogues and a tank of kerosene are for.

The Devil's Hand appears to have been designed NOT to be watched in close detail. You may go mad if you try; I was locked in an asylum for a few weeks after its viewing. You will see stale, uninteresting characters; a plot that is as corny as the cobs which bear that delicious vegetable; and scene after scene of lifeless conversation (though it may be muffled by your own yawning). I snagged this as part of a rather large and inexpensive collection of cult classics, but if the cult following this is anything like the one in the movie, I think I'll steer clear of membership.


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