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As others have noted, an extremely talky flick, with dialog so florid
you could pin it on a prom date. However, there are some nice touches
to be found: the opening sequence is noirishly atmospheric and
well-executed, so to speak. Paul Lukather's seething mien carries the
film valiantly,although his and his sister's rage at the doctor's
eminently logical and humane decision to graft good hands onto Paul's
mangled stubs strains credulity. Also, watch for the ending shot, which
emulates a famous religious painting nicely.
The deaths/killings are egregiously mild by today's standards, but, with the exception of a ludicrously spontaneous immolation, are effectively staged. The low-budget look is offset somewhat by inventive camera work that sustains a grim mood.
It's not made clear whether Lukather's character starts killing because he now plays piano like Whack-A-Mole, or because his new hands somehow carry with them the temperament of their previous thuggish owner.
Considering the dreck that was around in the early 60's, this is not bad stuff; with less gaseous dialog, it might have been memorable.
If this film seems familiar, it might be because you've seen "Mad Love"
(1935) or either version of "The Hands of Orlac" (1924/1960). "Hands of
a Stranger" is essentially a reworking of this story. In all four
films, a concert pianist loses his hands in an accident and receives
transplanted hands--and the hands are, apparently, evil and have a mind
of their own! What makes this film a bit difference is that the surgeon
is not evil--just an over-actor! And the same can clearly be said about
the pianist's sister--who seems to be trying her best to upstage the
doctor's occasionally overwrought performance! Ditto for the pianist.
Once he has his bandages removed, so is all restraint--and he begins
battling for the best over-acting award! My vote is for the
sister...but her crazy brother sure gives her a run for the money!
Regardless, this movie lacks subtlety and is filled with many scenes
that are simply overdone. And I loved how practically every time the
pianist touched someone they died!! It was actually pretty
funny--though sadly the film was not intended as a comedy.
The bottom line is that I've seen the 1935 and 1924 films and they are excellent--highly enjoyable and clever. "Hands of a Stranger", in contrast, is heavy-handed and a bit dumb...no...a lot dumb. Really, really dumb. But, because it is so bad, it actually is worth seeing just for a few laughs.
By the way, looks for a young Barry Gordon as a piano-playing kid. He's pretty cute and has a memorable encounter with the crazed pianist. Also, get a load of the Doctor and his bedside manner. He sure loves slapping patients! I wonder which medical school taught him that!
(Some Spoilers) Obvious re-make of the Peter Lorre 1935 classic "Mad
Love" the movie "Hands of a Stranger" deals with the loss of world
famous concert pianist Vernon Paris, James Stapleton, most precious
asset his hands. Hands that by tickling the piano keys with creates the
kind of music that brings the roof down every time that he preforms.
Going home after his greatest performance, that he practiced for six months,the cab driver Tony Wilder, George Sawaya,loses control and smashes into the oncoming traffic blinding himself and causing Vernon to lose both his hands in the accident. At the hospital emergency ward Vernon's agent George Britton, Michael Ray, begs the presiding surgeon Dr. Gil Harding, Paul Lukather,to save his hands. The doctor is told that Vernon would be as good as dead without them. Dr. Harding using the hands of a corpse, suffering from gunshot wounds that he just operated on and graphs it's hands onto the stumps of Vernon. Later their accepted by his body making the operation an amazing success, a success until Vernon attempted to play his beloved piano. It turned out that the hands grafted on Vernon were that of an extremely strong person who also happened to be a brutal murder.
Not as bad as you would think with the acting and script far superior then most low-budget horror movies that were made back then in the early 1960's. Vernon even though he became an uncontrolled killer showed glimpses of his previous personally as a talented and sensitive artist. You could really feel for Vernon as you saw everything that he loved and cared for like his ability to play the piano and his girlfriend Elaine, Eileen Hunter, desert him at the time of his greatest need.
Vernon was a bad guy in the movie but you could well understand why he was that way and not be that critical of him. Vernon just couldn't control both his hands and emotions that made him do the terrible things that he did in the film. "Hands of a Strager" followed the usual scenario with Vernon destroying everything, and everyone, that he came in contact with. In the end he destroyed himself as he tried to murder Dr. Harding who he held responsible for his new found lot in life.
What really struck me about the film was the conduct of it's star Dr. Gil Harding who was anything but the mad doctor that you would have expected him to be. Concerned and understanding he didn't even want to operate on Vernon's hands at first. Dr. Harding had to be talked into it by his friend George who felt that without his hands Vernon would lose his will to live. Vernon's sister Dina, Joan Harvey, who sacrificed her personal live to care for and help Vernon become a success and was by far the most sympathetic person in the movie fell in love with Dr. Harding. Dina at first greatly disliked Dr. Harding for what he did to her brother not realizing that it wasn't his idea to operate. Which also showed that he was anything but the unstable and maniacal lunatic that's always portrayed in moves like "Hands of a Stranger".
A world famous pianist loses his hands as the result of a car crash,
and is then given the hands of a killer in an audacious medical
transplant. This event has a dark psychological effect on him.
Hands of a Stranger is a little too talky for its own good. The story itself might be a well-worn one but there's no excuse for the serious lack of action here. An 'evil hands' film really needs to cut back on the chat and deliver more schlock. There are occasional memorable moments such as the scene where the pianist visits the home of the taxi driver responsible for the crash that maimed him but in the main such sequences are in short supply. The lead character Vernon is also a somewhat hard character to get behind. His ingratitude for the surgery that prevented him from being without hands marks him out as a somewhat arrogant and unsympathetic individual.
One reasonably interesting aspect of the film is that its quite ambiguous for a movie of this type, in that it is never really made certain that the hands are inherently evil or not. It seems to me that the surgery merely effects the natural dexterity that Vernon had, and as a result makes him unable to play piano, leading to psychological breakdown. In this sense Hands of a Stranger is quite interesting. But its poor pacing and lack of action mean that it is not enough to save it from being a bit of a clunker.
A talky script and some overacting in key scenes doesn't help put the
viewer in the right frame of mind to enjoy this oft told story of hands
that are sewn onto a pianist after he loses use of his hands in an
Nobody in the cast has any "name" value and I see that in many of these reviews people are confusing the leading male characters by crediting the wrong names of the actors.
For clarification, it's James Stapleton who plays the pianist with a sensitive but expressionless face. His looks are reminiscent of Hurd Hatfield's in "The Picture of Dorian Gray" who also kept a mask-like facial expression. The doctor is played with slightly more animation by Paul Lukather and has a more sympathetic role. The victimized Stapleton resents the doctor's surgery to the extent that he becomes arrogant and spiteful enough to emerge a killer.
Some of the B&W photography is in the film noir category but everyone is let down by an uninspired script and less than polished direction.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A talented pianist, Vernon Paris(James Stapleton)has played the
greatest concert of his life with a future as bright as could possibly
be..until his hands are mangled and broken after his taxi driver, whose
attention was diverted, crashes. A dedicated and intensely driven
surgeon, Dr. Gil Harding(Paul Lukather), who pushes himself too hard in
saving every life under his care regardless of the circumstances, is
able to successfully transplant a mysterious murdered man's hands onto
Vernon whose own were damaged beyond repair. Awakening to the horror
that he no longer possessed the delicate, skilled hands that so
wonderfully played such soaring melodies, Vernon rejects the new ones
grafted to him. Psychologically traumatized, Vernon begins to violently
react towards those he condemns for the new hands that aren't able to
adjust to the piano keys that once brought beauty to the world. This
includes those who contributed to the surgery and his tragic
fate..Gil's doctors and the son of the taxi driver who caused the
crash(..also Vernon's glamorous society gal who left him for another
after discovering his accident).
Overly dramatic, talky, with loud, pounding score attempting to increase the level of weight regarding the characters and story can sometimes make the presentation a bit difficult, but I appreciated the ambitious nature behind the filmmakers in telling a compelling tale about how tragedy effects the lives of many when talent is taken from someone who has prepared his whole life for success. Director Newt Arnold, who also wrote the intelligent and thought-provoking screenplay, uses his camera to emphasize the importance of the hands, their movements and abilities, even focusing on the psychological impact of losing your own and being stuck with those alien to you. I like how Arnold differentiates the changes in the hands, once gentle, bringing only beauty, then strong and powerful creating only death. Arnold establishes that anything(..anyone)Vernon touches, he destroys. The performances are pretty intense and melodramatic, but the situation within the story warrants such heated emotions and debates. Still, one major problem that this film suffers from, I felt, is that Vernon is hard to sympathize with because he seems quite egotistical, arrogant, and the type yearning for the spotlight and fame..he has worked hard for this glory, but it's hard to really embrace him because he's obsessed with beauty to the point that it's the only thing of importance. When this is taken away from him, Vernon immediately sours, pointing fingers at the very ones who, at the very least, gave him new hands. I thought Lukather was very good as the determined surgeon, with a commanding presence, providing his character with an authority. Laurence Haddon is Lt. Syms, who hounds Gil for answers regarding the missing hands from the dead, unidentified man, patient, but steadily getting restless and assertive when the victims start adding up. Harvey, as Vernon's concerned sister, Dina(..and Gil's love interest), can be a bit overwhelming in her histrionics(..her overheated exchange with Gil over Vernon's unfortunate problem is almost cringe-worthy), but when settled/toned down, she isn't too bad. Some impressive photography with Arnold capturing faces/images quite well for extra impact(..the funhouse mirror gag is quite a powerful moment truly displaying the torment Vernon is facing in a visual way).
I saw this on the Saturday night Creature Feature, which usually plays the
WORST kind of dreck... I was pleasantly surprised that this film was as
as it was. Being from a family of musicians, and a flutist myself, I
understood all too well the care that Vernon took of his hands, and the
devastation he must have felt. The premise of the film wasn't really
anything new, but there were enough twists to keep it interesting... :-)
After losing his hands in a tragic accident, a gifted pianist finds
that the surgically replaced hands he now has take a murderous life of
their own and must try to stop them from acting out the deadly urges.
This here turned out to be pretty much a fun and enjoyable effort. A lot of what makes this one so much fun is brought along by the film's central point of a lot more focus on the hands and how they're getting comfortable following the accident. Since they're far more crucial to the film's plot rather than any other side-quality, the fact that this is able to put more focus on that through the long arguing done before and after the actual surgery as well as the procedures afterward testing how they've come along since. It's all nicely handled here until it turns over it's murderous qualities in the second half. This is an enjoyable affair as this gives us plenty of good scenes including the meeting with his girlfriend in her apartment and the young son of his driver when he stops in to meet with him. The finale here is also fun where it has more creepy qualities than expected, starting with the carnival altercations of people using their hands that eat at him before his playing the game and resulting freak-out in the area, and the stalking of his girlfriend in the theater which includes a fine brawl mixed in here. These here are all enough to make this one enjoyable enough to hold out nicely over the few small flaws here. The biggest problem here is the film's uneven pacing where this one is pretty front- loaded with the bland talking scenes and saves the action for the end. While there's still some focus on the surgeon and his radical experiment here, the fact that this comes in the form of the over-the-top speeches and throwing around how unethical the action procedure is that there's really no time to get this one going on with the hands' ineffectual nature by showing it in action. A lot of that is how this one seems to spiral between being a serious horror effort and more campy material rather than bringing on any kind of display of powers during the examination scenes makes this one lose some steam along the way. As well, there's the rather underwhelming finale does it no favors either with a simple, matter-of-factly occurrence that takes place off-screen for the most part which really causes this to lower the impact of the action. Otherwise, this one was quite entertaining.
Today's Rating-PG: Violence
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hands of Orlac brought up to date, well at least as far as 1962. The
story is of a pianist who loses his hands in a car accident and has
those of a killer sewn on to his arms. Of course it all goes wrong as
the pianist begins to think that the hands have a mind of their own.
You know the drill. Odds are you've been here before. The idea of an alien body part taking over the body of the receiver is a well worn story that runs rampant through horror and science fiction pulp tales. It would be fool hardy to try and compare this to the countless variations so I won't, I'll just deal with the Orlac variations. Here the story is done reasonably well. certainly this isn't the best version of the tale, that prize would probably go to Mad Love starring Peter Lorre. Certainly Mad Love has something memorable to it while Hands of a Strangers has very little to remember. I've seen the film several times now, the last time last night, and in all honesty other than the basic premise I remember almost nothing. It is an okay time killer, I had it on while going to bed, but its not really something I'd ever search out (I had it in the collection and popped it in because I hadn't seen it in a while). If you run across it its worth a shot, but beyond that I can't say much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Hands of a Stranger" is a version of the same story told in Peter Lorre's 1930's classic "Mad Love" (and also in "The Hands of Orlac, but I haven't seen that one yet), only the visual flair and suspenseful atmosphere of that film have been removed here and replaced with nothing but melodramatic speeches! Every character in this film, whether he or she plays a leading part or just a supportive one, simply looooooooooooves to speech. Even the simplest "yes" or "no" questions are answered with incredibly overlong, tedious, irritating and besides-the-point nagging and driveling. Needless to say this badly affects the amusement factor as well as the pacing, and "Hands of the Stranger" indeed quickly became one of the dullest & laughably pretentious thrillers I had the displeasure of watching recently. The story opens with a random guy getting shot by anonymous men from a driving car. The identity of this man, the reasons why he must die and equally important who killed him are all questions that unprofessionally remain open throughout the entire movie. All we learn about him is that he has strong and beautiful hands. Whenever someone informs about his identity or background, the standard response is that the investigation isn't finished yet. Nevertheless, the span of the story is approximately 4 to 5 months, so imagine how slow the CSI departments worked back in the 1960's. Anyway, the hands of the mysteriously assassinated stranger's hands are amputated and sewn on to the arms of an acclaimed pianist who lost his in a terrible car accident. Define irony; the guy walks out of an accident without a single scratch on his body yet his hands are entirely mangled and unrecognizable. He, Vernon Paris, subsequently has to learn to accept his new hands but instead of that the force him to kill. At least that's the explanation given in the film, but I'm convinced the script exclusively suggest that his mind went berserk. "Hands of a Stranger" is a nearly unendurably stupid film with very few aspects that are worth mentioning. Personally, I counted two remotely interesting sequences, namely one when Paris confronts the cab driver responsible for the accident and another one set at a carnival. The rest of the film is miserably boring, with endless lame dialogs, implausible characters (the Doctor looks like a rock star and the cop acts like a stand-up comedian), a total shortage of horrific moments, hideous photography, uninspired directing and just plain retarded plot twists.
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