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I remember this movie from seeing it on a kids' matinée at Peoples, a
neighborhood theater in Dayton, Ohio, in 1933 or '34, when I was 9
years old. It was so scary that the memory has stuck with me for some
I could not summarize the plot in any great detail; nor would I want to, since it would be a forbidden spoiler in case the film should ever turn up on the cable or elsewhere.
The story is set in a small European village -- in Transylvania, or some such place. It seems that it was always raining, with lightning and thunder, and people coming in wet and cold, and that most of the action took place at night -- a real film noir!
Mr. and Mrs. White somehow acquired a mummified hand or paw of a small monkey, perhaps from a stranger who came in from the cold. The paw was said to have magical or supernatural powers, endowing the owners with the privilege of making THREE wishes. (It's always three, isn't it?)
After a little discussion, Mrs. White convinced her husband to wish for a great deal of money, since the Whites were of modest means. White nervously held the paw in his hand and spoke the wish for money. At that instant, naturally, there was a blinding flash of lightning close by with an immediate crash of thunder! The dead hand of the monkey contracted into a fist momentarily, then returned to its curved-fingers relaxed position. I saw this clearly on the screen, but I'm not sure the characters in the movie saw it. In any case, nothing happened, and the Whites, and the others who were in the house laughed it off.
In a day or so, however, the Whites received word that they were to receive a large sum of money from an insurance settlement. That was the good news. The trouble was the event that caused the big payoff ... . You didn't think they'd get money for free, did you?
Well, as it turned out -- and as you'd no doubt guess -- the other two wishes were used up in a desperate attempt to recover from the disaster produced by the first. It was all tied up with ghostly illusions and thunder and lightning and rain and floods, and all kinds of troubles that scared the socks off the kids in the movie house. At least it did me.
After all these years, I have a very warm feeling about this movie. I believe it was a first rate horror film, though definitely a low budget, "B-movie" filler to kill time before they showed the cowboy movie that we had really paid our dime to see. I feel that my recollections of it are vivid enough and accurate enough to justify my entering a favorable vote for it in the Data Base. I wish a print of it were available somewhere so the cable people could show it to us.
W W Jacobs was a well known & popular English short story writer of the 1930s - usually sea tales with mystery and The Monkey's Paw is about his best known and oft heard if not a great favourite with amateur dramatic groups (probably because of the small cast). It is a nice little creepy tale with a universal moral - be careful what you wish for.... it could come with a price tag! I originally heard it as a radio play and couldn't wait to read the play itself. This early film version is unknown to me although a variety of adaptations have been produced on film - in one inferior updated case(I forget the title),the paw was replaced by another gimmick. IMDb lists 8 versions including a TV production and it was also included in radio's Suspense & Lights Out! series because it is favourably compared with Lucille Fletcher's radio masterpiece Sorry Wrong No! as a classic of the short story and radio adaptation when only one's imagination can do justice to the imagery & action. The original background was a typical working class English home of the '30s - the rest of the background is just referred to. For once the premise is too possible! 8 out of 10 for the story.
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