I know what you’re going to think when you read the title of the last movie I saw, Hands of a Stranger (1962.) Get your minds out of the gutter, gutter-minds! It’s from my 50 Chilling Classics set and in a change of events, I didn’t entirely hate it. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it wasn’t as evil, evil, EVIL as The Cold. There were some problems with ponderous dialogue and very dubious science but other than that it was a nice B noir.
The movie opens with a guy getting hit by a very slow car. Also, he’s shot but I must have missed something because I don’t find out until later when Surgeon Elvis talks to a cop.
There is so much Brylcream in his hair, I just can’t with him.
Then we switch over to concert pianist Vernon Paris. He’s giving a concert and apparently some beatniks lent him some artwork for the stage.
I…I don’t know why there’s a giant, skeletal tree there. It looks like the Halloween decorations I made for my office. I’m in charge of Halloweening the space.
Anyway, Vernon gets into a cab after the concert and starts talking with the driver. The driver talks about how his son plays piano but he ain’t no sissy. Then they crash when he fumbles to take out a picture of the son. Vernon survives but his hands are mangled. Oops.
This is just two hours after the unidentified man died. The surgeon decides to lop off the unidentified HOMICIDE VICTIM’S hands and stick them onto the pianist’s arms, probably using a lot of staples and glue. According to Dr. Harding, in the future we’ll live forever due to the indefinite replacement of body parts. Ray Kurzweil approves.
You never find out whose hands these are and this becomes kind of a big deal. Vernon freaks out when the bandages are removed and he realizes that those aren’t his hands and that he can’t play piano. My advice would be to stop banging the keys with his fists and to use his fingers more.
He immediately embarks on a murderous rampage. First to go is his girlfriend, Eileen. She never visited him in the hospital and she’s preparing for a romantic dinner for two when he shows up, so she’s gotta go. The death is kind of accidental–she bumps into the table and her dress immediately catches on fire from the candles. I guess it wasn’t a good idea to make a dress out of flash paper and oily rags.
Then he attacks the child of the cabbie who caused the accident. This is actually kind of sad because the kid isn’t awful like some child actors. He’s genuinely cute and I’d prefer him not to have his hands crushed to death by the new EVIL HANDS.
Vernon’s also been telling his sister, Dina, that he’s totes practicing the piano and he can play again. Dina is into Dr. Harding and they decide to take Vernon to a carnival to try to get him out of the house. I can only assume that it’s a carnival in hell because we’re treated to images like this:
I…I don’t know. Those shots were the most unsettling part of the movie.
Finally, Vernon kills one of the surgeons involved in his hand surgery and his girlfriend. Everyone’s hands are crushed so that’s like a screaming red arrow. Vernon ends up at the concert hall, pounds the keys for his sister to prove that he can’t play, and then chokes her boyfriend while she does nothing until one of the cops shoot him. The movie ends with this…quote? I don’t know what it means.
Ultimately, I felt like I was lied to by this movie. The description said that Vernon struggles with the hands of a murderer that make him kill people. Because science works that way. But there’s no indication of this struggle and it just seems like he’s pissed that he can’t play piano anymore. So I watched this for the possession section of my Halloween fest but I can’t really say that it was a movie about being possessed.
On the other hand (See what I did there?), I found the characters, especially of Vernon and Dr. Harding, to be likeable and interesting. Nothing was really scary–except the carnival from hell–but it did keep me interested, despite the clunky dialogue and the melodramatic music. So I can say that this was definitely one of the better selections from that set.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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