Hand, The (1981)
Starring: Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe, Bruce McGill
Director: Oliver Stone
Synopsis: Comic strip writers severed hand returns from the undergrowth for justice!
“silly and nasty” Time Out,
“dull” Video Movies Guide,
“very silly “ Blockbuster Guide,
“sleep inducing “ Horror of the 80’s,
“thoughtful” Creature Features
When the blurb on the movies poster warns you “nothing will prepare you for…The Hand” you wouldn’t have thought they were being serious. In retrospect, I think they were, for nothing indeed can quite prepare you for the mind dulling experience that unfolds over the next 90 minutes or so (seemed more like 900). Here we have grumpy Stan Lee type comic strip drawing genius Michael Caine bickering with his wife whom he suspects of having an affair and then suffering a terrible accident (because of her dreadful driving) that severs his entire hand off at the wrist. Though traumatized by the loss of his limb, Caine tries to carry on as the breadwinner of the family with diminishing success.
He finds himself horribly frustrated when he realizes that his left hand will never begin to match his lost one for drawing dexterity and that his career is more or less over. This becomes more clearly evident to him when his publishers decide to “give” his character to a new up and coming cartoonist without offering him any new contracts. An already fed up and disgruntled wife, desperate for her distance from the increasingly grumpy and depressed Caine, decides to hitch up in the big city away from is moods and tantrums. Caine takes on a teaching job to try to earn a living, but mysterious and gruesome deaths begin to start piling up around him while he suffers from mental blackouts. Meanwhile he feels the presence of his severed hand prowling around the place and reckons that it may have something to do with the deaths which he somehow gets to see some flashes of in some shocking dreamlike visuals.
One by one people who have crossed Caine in one way or another seem to be ending up dead in the most gruesome manner. First the family cat is clobbered by Caine’s errant hand – no doubt the stupid thing thought it was a mutated rat of some sort. The startled cat gets throttled and chucked out of the window in a chilling display of strength. Then a day or so later Caine has a slight brush with a bum (Appropriately played by director/writer Oliver Stone) on the street corner. A few moments later the hand leaps out from behind some rubbish and strangles Stone mercilessly to death…no doubt in revenge for his horrendous script and direction. The film plods on predictably with the hand assuming the “uncontrollable subconscious urge” or Freudian id and doing in anyone who it assumes as a threat to its master. However, the hand appears to develop a mind of its own as it saves its most murderous assault for its ex-owner in a bizarre twist of fate – that’s in case you’ve bothered enduring the film so long. Caine’s personality begins to fall apart as the hand takes over but by this time the whole movie has fallen flat on its face altogether.
Michael Caine deserves to be reserved a special place in the cult hall of fame for his enormous contribution to the genre of Killer Turkey Movies. The Swarm is one of the most fabulous of all cinematic turkeys and Caine’s performance in that supreme classic is a truly magnificent one. Then let us not forget that he returned in the famously disastrous epic Hurricane and followed up with a hugely hammy if brilliantly effective role in Brian De Palma’s psycho slasher masterpiece Dressed to Kill. Then Caine appeared in some humongous stinker along with Ben Kingsley while turning in this Raspberry nomination worthy performance in Oliver Stone’s useless film The Hand. Caine went on to gain cult immortality with his performance as Hoagie in the all-time classic Turkey Jaws IV – The Revenge, arguably the most astonishingly horrid film made in the last twenty-five years. Once again Michael Caine’s touching portrayal of the genial seaman Hoagie was a primary ingredient in Jaws IV’s brilliant wretchedness as was the superlative acting of Lorraine Gary and can we forget Mario Van Peebles? This film has Caine trying earnestly but also seemingly resigned to the dreadful script and the impossibility of rising above it.
The films greatest problem ultimately is its inability to assume a position amongst the scores of movies that are so-awful-they’re-great because this one completely lacks a sense of humour, deliberate or otherwise. What a nonsensical idea to make a film about a killer severed hand on the rampage in 1981…. even Bollywood’s Ramsay’s had done their “hand” number (Guest House) before Warner Brothers inexplicably decided to bankroll this dud. A couple of years on Sam Raimi’s brilliant Evil Dead 2 showed the world exactly how the “hand” thing should be done. This is actually Oliver Stone’s attempt at digging deep and getting heavy and all it suggests is that he had taken one drug cocktail too many by 1981, because this piece of psychodrama turns out to be an utter embarrassment – small wonder he has had the film expunged from his bio data! Fact is, it really is a true stinker – boring, brainless and totally pointless.