There are two things that I like in scary movies. Creepy dolls and satanic cults. So when I saw The Devil’s Hand (1962) in my 50 Chilling Classics pack I was eight levels of stoked. This is the description of the movie printed on its envelope:
A man is haunted by visions of a beautiful woman and, when visiting a doll shop, comes across a doll that looks just like her. Finding out from the shop owner that the doll is fashioned after a woman in the neighborhood, the man visits her and finds out she’s part of a devil-worshipping cult headed by the doll shop keeper. The man is faced with deciding over staying with his ailing fiancée or taking the offer of the mysterious woman and becoming a member of the cult.
Sounds good, yes? Wrong! The second title of this movie should have been “Blown Potential” because while the idea is creepy, the execution is terrible. Luckily, I’m here to walk you through everything that’s wrong about this movie.
That’s the title card. As it popped up some really inappropriate surf-rock started to play. It’s pretty easy to put me in an evil mindset. I’d say the challenge is putting me in a good mindset. But surf music evokes absolutely no terror. Not even a little bit.
Rick Turner, a man with a penchant for tight shiny vests, has been having dreams of a mysterious woman. Mostly, she seems to wear my great-gramma’s negligee from the 1890’s and shimmy in the sky.
Rick wanders around one night and finds a doll store with a doll that looks just like his dream woman. Only not at all.
I don’t recall the dream woman being that lumpy and misshapen.
Rick takes his strangely-accented fiancée to the store to show her the doll and discover that there’s another one, just like his fiancée. And that Rick ordered the doll of the mysterious woman and it’s been paid in full.
On the way out of the store, Rick’s fiancée, Donna, is suddenly stricken ill. It turns out that, like all doll owners, the shop-keeper is a creep. He’s the head of the cult. At this point it seems to consist of himself, a black guy playing drums, and a bunch of dolls. Some great cult you got there, buster.
Rick leaves Donna at the hospital, and then goes to drop of the doll to the mystery woman, Bianca Milan. Shockingly, Bianca is a member of the cult and has had her eye on Rick for a while. Instead of actually approaching him and talking to him, she uses the black arts.
After briefly rolling on the floor with Bianca, Rick is willing to renounce virtue and join the cult. There’s no geat struggle, even after he sees the amazingly hokey yet complex Russian roulette system that Gamba, the Devil-God of Evil(!) has created to weed out the unfaithful. He takes the vows to join the cult the first night he meets Bianca, he doesn’t even take time to read all their promotional literature.
That’s pretty much it. Rick gains access to a lot of unearthly power and starts using it to make a lot of money on horse racing and choosing stocks. Eventually he remembers his fiancée and pays her a visit. By then he realizes that the cult-leader and Bianca are making Donna ill. In a final stroke of evil, I guess, they attempt to use Donna as a sacrifice. Rick saves her and burns the headquarters down in the process. So I guess he’s really not evil. At all. Lamecakes.
This movie is so not scary. But it could be with an adequate script and if the actors were clear about their motivations. For some reason, I really wanted Rick to kill the leader and take over the cult himself. THAT would have made the movie worthwhile.