THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946) Reviews and overview

 

‘Your flesh will creep… at the hand that crawls!!!’

The Beast with Five Fingers is a 1946 American horror film directed by Robert Florey (Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Face Behind the Mask) from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (Donovan’s Brain; The Wolf Man), based on a short story by W. F. Harvey. The original music score was composed by Max Steiner (King Kong).

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Peter Lorre (Tales of Terror; Mad LoveM) stars, in his last movie for Warner Brothers. Siodmak had originally written the film with actor Paul Henreid in mind for the lead but he turned it down.

The film partly inspired Oliver Stone’s 1981 The Hand.

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In an Italian village, a celebrated pianist (Victor Francen) tumbles down a staircase in his wheelchair and dies. His severed hand terrorises the remaining occupants of his villa…

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Reviews:

” …there is a nice, long stretch in the middle during which it seems just possible that the filmmakers will have the nerve to follow the killer hand premise all the way to its conclusion, and this section includes some of the finest, most skillfully realized scenes in any horror film of the 1940’s.” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“This is one of those semi-classic horror films which contains unforgettably creepy sequences and one or two great performances along with a great deal of fudged plotting, a ludicrous last-reel “explanation” and truly dreadful comic relief.” Kim Newman, Empire magazine

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” …a superior piece of psychological horror.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“Despite a slow beginning and an uneven tone throughout, this is an intriguing horror based on flawed characters.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide

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“Unfortunately, in opting for the Lewtonian approach, Curt Siodmak falls flat on his face. Here Lewton isn’t producing and there is no restraint on Siodmak’s schlockier preponderances. What wrecks the film’s suspension of disbelief is the twist ending…” Richard Scheib, Moria

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“The subjective shots of the obscenely pallid hand are as chilling as anything in cinema…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“The fudged ending imposed by the studio deflates much of the mystery, but the animated hand, creepy piano music, and Lorre’s eye-popping performance are all memorable. Fans of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II will note the derivation of that film’s hilarious disembodied hand sequence.” Nigel Floyd, Time Out

“Along with Mad Love, this is the best showcase for Lorre’s heavy-lidded dementia, as he alternately pets the hand, hammers it to a block and menaces the other guests. The uncanny hand effects still hold up today…” James Marriott and Kim Newman, Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death

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“The terror created by the wanderings of the living hand are totally undercut by a silly self-parodying ending. The special effects and Lorre’s performance are, however, splendid.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

“Good moments along the way, though the ending is something of a let down.” Howard Maxford, The A – Z of Horror Films

“Lorre literally steals the show with a masterfully bravura performance in a superior slice of psychological horror, marshalling the sinister staples of mythic madness and macabre music into a satisfying scare-fest. Give a big hand to Robert Florey for his adept direction, and to the key special effect itself…” Alan Jones, Radio Times

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Choice dialogue:

Commissario Ovidio Castanio: “Can you imagine anyone believing in a hand that would walk around?”

Cast and characters:

  • Robert Alda – Bruce Conrad
  • Andrea King – Julie Holden
  • Peter Lorre – Hilary Cummins
  • Victor Francen – Francis Ingram
  • J. Carrol Naish – Commissario Ovidio Castanio
  • Charles Dingle – Raymond Arlington
  • John Alvin – Donald Arlington
  • David Hoffman – Duprex
  • Barbara Brown – Mrs. Miller
  • Patricia White – Clara
  • William Edmunds – Antonio
  • Belle Mitchell – Giovanna
  • Ray Walker – Mr. Miller
  • Pedro de Cordoba – Horatio

Image credit: Asta’s DoghouseWrong Side of the Art!

The Beast with Five Fingers