Directed By: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe
Tag line: "It Lives. It Crawls. And Suddenly, It Kills!"
Trivia: John Voight, Christopher Walken and Dustin Hoffman all turned down the lead role in this film.
Just looking at some of the names associated with 1981's The Hand is enough to set your cinematic pulse to pumping. First off, the movie was written and directed by Oliver Stone, a filmmaker whose output has always fascinated me (I rank JFK, among my favorite films of all time). Then there's Michael Caine, an actor with such an impressive reputation that he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1993. Hell, even the original music was composed by James Horner, who'd eventually lend his expertise to such award-winning films as Braveheart, Apollo 13 and Titanic.
Yep, a lot of talented people came together to make The Hand. So why the hell is it so damn goofy?
Jon Lansdale (Caine) is a prolific comic book artist whose marriage is on the rocks. While out driving one afternoon with his wife, Anne (Andrea Marcovicci), the two are involved in a terrible accident, during which Jon's right hand is torn from his body. Though they never found his severed appendage, Jon does eventually recover, and tries to get on with his life as best he can. Yet things don't go well for Jon; his marriage is about to fall apart, and without his drawing hand, he's unable to continue working. To make matters worse, Jon's been dreaming about his missing hand, and is convinced it's not only following him around. but killing everyone who gets under his skin.
Director Stone manages to throw a few good moments into The Hand; the film's key scene, where Jon loses his hand, is appropriately gory, and I also liked how Stone would occasionally shoot from ground level, as if we're seeing things from the hand's point of view (particularly effective in a scene where Jon himself is out looking for his hand in an overgrown field). But things start to go awry the moment we actually see the hand crawling around on it's own. Mind you, even this effect does have its moments; there are times when the hand looks pretty credible pulling itself along by the fingertips. But The Hand crosses into unintentional hilarity the second its title character starts to kill. The hand's first victim, a drunken street bum (played by director Oliver Stone), is choked to death, yet it's painfully obvious the “hand” around the bum's throat is rubber, which flops around uncontrollably as he falls backwards. Sadly, this isn't even the poorest, or for that matter funniest, kill in the film.
Between the three of them, Stone, Caine and Horner have garnered 24 Academy Award nominations, and six times went home the winner. Yet, try as they might, this astonishing trio just couldn't quite get my heart pounding by the sight of a crawling hand.