Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"The Hand" (1981) d/ Oliver Stone

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Long before Tom Cruise sat in a wheelchair wearing a crepe wool mustache in front of his lens, Oliver Stone was cutting his cinematic teefs on genre films, like tonight's entry, a psychological thriller that bases its terror off of the concept of the homicidal runaway right mitt of one Michael Caine. Were this one produced in the sixties, much fear would generate itself within the hearts of vodka bottles, everywhere. As far as Michael goes, his appearance is merely one in a string of movies (The Swarm, The Island, Jaws: The Revenge, etc.) he made simply for the paycheck, after Jon Voight, Christopher Walken, and Dustin Hoffman all turned the role down, with his earnings used to put a down payment on a new garage. Also aboard, possibly to finance new home renovations, are the likes of Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe, Bruce McGill, and Viveca Lindfors.

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Quick thinking, damming up that arterial spray with your face, baby.
Jon Lansdale (Michael Caine) is a professional cartoonist (his meal ticket is a Conan rip-off named "Mandro") who, while discussing his failing marriage with his wandering wife Anne (Andrea Marcovicci) in the car, manages to get his hand severed by oncoming traffic. "It's so ugly...", sobs Jon. He later retraces the accident, scouring the grassy field for his missing mitt, and finding his signet ring, instead. With his successful comic strip facing a new artist and direction, and his wife getting pawed up by horny yoga instructors, Jon's disembodied hand comes to life and ganks back the signet ring. Meanwhile, Jon's seeing lobster dinners clench up like a fist, and cold water shower nozzles turning into grasping hands, despite getting fitted up with a metal Terminator-esque replacement prosthesis. After a mysterious scribbling out all of the new artist's storyboards terminates his tenure with the publisher, he's accosted in the street by a wino, who's soon victimized by Jon's wandering killer hand. He accepts a job teaching at a university in California, and leaves his sketchy wife and their daughter behind, in New York.

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"I suppose I'd really enjoy squeezing one of those."
Faced with a classroom full of deadbeat yokels and a family that won't be visiting any time soon, Jon's growing feelings of inadequacy, anger, and frustration are interrupted when his signet ring somehow returns to his possession during a late night storm. He starts sleeping with Stella (Annie McEnroe), one of his students, but when she makes Christmas plans in an L.A. motel with another teacher, Brian (Bruce McGill), she gets facepalmed by the crawling digits of death, instead. Anne and Lizzie make it just in time for Christmas, with news of relocation to San Francisco with the yoga instructor spurring the horrible hand into further destructive action. When Brian pieces together Jon's blackouts with Stella's disappearance, he's choked to death in his jeep. With Anne leaving permanently in the morning, the hand sneaks into the bed and manhandles her, forcing Jon to go mano a mano with the crawly killer out in the barn. He bites the hand, which, in turn, squeezes his nuts. What a battle. When the cops later discover Brian and Stella's putrid corpses in the trunk of Jon's car, it's the squirrel farm for him. A psychoanalyst tries to force Jon to take responsibility for his horrific hand-based homicides, but then there's that damned hateful hand...

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"Do what? A Jaws sequel?? You think I'm barmy, do ya!!"
Charles "Roger Rabbit" Fleischer shows up in a cameo, as does director Ollie Stone, as a bum, of all things. Marcovicci, who appeared in A Vacation in Hell (1979), would later turn up in Larry Cohen's The Stuff (1985), while Annie McEnroe, who made her debut in Snowbeast (1977), would also appear in Howling II (1985) and Manhunter (1986). She would go on to marry Hand's producer, Edward R. Pressman after meeting him on the set. Viveca Lindfors you'll remember as Bedelia in the memorable "Father's Day" segment of George A. Romero's Creepshow (1982). The murderous mitt effects were hand-led (sorry) by Carlo Rambaldi, whose team included no less than Stan Winston himself. Stone would famously go on to direct such fare as Platoon (1986), The Doors (1991), Natural Born Killers (1994), and Any Given Sunday (1999), none of which you'll ever see reviewed here. As someone this particular hand didn't really grab, I hold up my own mitt, still attached, with one tattooed finger supplying the number of Wops this one deserves. Approach with caution.

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You'd get C.T.F.O.ed too... if you handed me a Rush album for my birthday, or somethin'.
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