THE CRAWLING HAND (1963) Reviews and overview [updated]

   

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‘Suspense shocker of the year!’

The Crawling Hand is a 1963 American science-fiction horror film about the hand of a dead astronaut that turns a male student into a killer.

Directed by Herbert L. Strock (How to Make a MonsterBlood of Dracula; I Was a Teenage Frankenstein; Gog) from a screenplay co-written with William Idelson, based on a story by Joseph Cranston (co-scripter of The Corpse Grinders),  Malcolm Young and William Idelson.

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The movie stars Peter Breck (The Unnamable II), Kent Taylor (The Phantom of Hollywood; Brain of BloodBrides of Blood; The Mighty Gorga; Blood of Ghastly Horror; The Day Mars Invaded Earth; The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues), Rod Lauren (Black Zoo),  Alan Hale, Jr. (Bloody Night; The Giant Spider Invasion),  Allison Hayes (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman; The Disembodied; Zombies of Mora TauThe Unearthly; The Undead) and Richard Arlen (The Human DuplicatorsIsland of Lost Souls).

Plot:

The hand of a dead astronaut washes up on the beach and possesses the college student who takes it home. The student is slowly transformed by the hand and begins killing people in a small town…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The acting is mostly stiff and amateurish, which is no surprise given that the script is almost insultingly juvenile, and it’s painfully obvious that a lot of first-takes were used, despite mistakes that could not have been missed at the time. What does make this movie slightly notable, if not exactly “worth” watching — outside of the context of pictures that revel in their weaknesses (so bad they’re almost “good”) — is the presence in the cast of a lot of basically good players, veterans and otherwise.” AllMovie

“Opening sequence is still really effective. The acting from the insane astronaut combined with the hellish makeup made for a chilling couple of minutes. Rest of the film is fine, but the Shatner-esque acting does have its moments.” Brett the Weise

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“After a gorgeous title sequence, everything in this low budget teenybopper flick goes downhill. The titular hand makes a few early appearances but then vanishes for half the movie before returning at the conclusion. It was a true missed opportunity…” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“The film features Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper from Gilligan’s Island as the Sheriff and the always stunning Allison Hayes. Burt Reynolds originally tested for the lead role but lost it because of his wooden performance … Yeah it’s bad but it’s so bad it’s good.” Digital Macabre

“There are more than a dozen disembodied hand films (not including The Addams Family’s Thing), a few which are worth seeing. This one is the worst […] The film plods along with occasional violence but ends up with the hand getting eaten by cats in a junkyard. I think they didn’t know how to end the film, had enough in the can and just ended it the first way they could think of.” Down Among the “Z'” Movies

“The film runs about 15 minutes more than it should, but it’s still kinda fun on the trash level. One of the highlights is Paul’s eerily lit attack on the grumpy malt shop owner, slamming him into a jukebox, jolting it to spin “The Bird Is The Word” by The Rivingtons!” DVD Drive-In

“It does have some problems; some of the comic relief is lame, the special effects are somewhat weak (though they were probably the best they could do for the budget), and the ending scene is pretty corny. Nonetheless, I think the script actually does an interesting job with the story, the acting is solid, the direction is efficient, and some of the camerawork is quite clever.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“The story, of course, defies any suggestion of logic, nor does some of the scientific jargon cut much ice, but the horrific value is there in a quite skillfully exploited “live” arm. This latter should certainly intrigue those less sophisticated patrons who accept their entertainment at its face value without question.” Kine Weekly

“Biggest problem: the hand. It just doesn’t work. How can it climb things? How can it, when you think about it, do anything? Couldn’t a person just run away? And even if it managed to sneak up and grab you (doubtful in itself), well, just pull the damn thing off! And what about the story? The hand is possessed by an alien life-form that transfers itself to Paul by strangling him. I think. It’s all so sloppy and lazy.” The Monster Shack

“Silly, cheesy and, shot in black-and-white, already looking very dated by 1963 (this was ten years after Strock’s 3D colour Gog), The Crawling Hand is entertaining drive-in grade fare which wouldn’t be out of place on a double bill with Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965).” Rough Cut

” …this movie is not good, for better hands killing people watch The Beast With Five Fingers or The Hand, the acting is often just over-the top bad (but not in a good way) and the movie is just too boring to like it. There are some good moments (all involving either Syd Saylor or Sirry Steffen) but not enough to cover for the other parts.” Underrated Movies

“Campy effects and good acting enhance The Crawling Hand. It is always great to see Alan Hale, even when he isn’t playing the skipper.  Miss Iceland. when on the screen, with a phony Swedish accent, is always a good thing.” Zisi Emporium for B Movies

Choice dialogue:

Marta Farnstrom: “How can I help myself? You know women can’t resist weak men.”

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Cast and characters:

Peter Breck … Steve Curan
Kent Taylor … Doctor Max Weitzberg
Rod Lauren … Paul Lawrence
Alan Hale Jr. … Sheriff Townsend (as Alan Hale)
Allison Hayes … Donna
Sirry Steffen … Marta Farnstrom
Arline Judge … Mrs Hotchkiss
Richard Arlen … Lee Barrenger
Tristram Coffin … Security Chief Meidel (as Tristam Coffin)
Ross Elliott … Deputy Earl Harrison
Stan Jones … Funeral Director (as G. Stanley Jones)
Jock Putnam … Ambulance Attendant
Andy Andrews … Ambulance Attendant
Syd Saylor … Soda Shop Owner
Edward Wermel … Professor Farnstrom
Beverly Lunsford … Patsy Townsend
Les Hoyle … Man
Ashley Cowan … Captain Mel Lockhart (uncredited)
Joseph F. Robertson … The Crawling Hand (uncredited)

Technical details:

89 minutes
Black and white
Aspect Ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Filming locations:

2215 W. 24th St, Los Angeles, California (murder victims house)
Computer Division Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Fun facts:

Actress Sirry Steffen was a former ‘Miss Iceland’. In some export versions of the movie she allegedly appears with no clothes in the beach scene (we have been unable to confirm this so far).

On some DVD releases, The Rivingtons classic rock song ‘The Bird is the Word’ – which plays on a jukebox in the soda shop – has been replaced by a generic instrumental surf rock track, presumably for copyright reasons.

Trailer:

Our rating: