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Hands of a Stranger is nothing more than another version of "Hands of
Orlac" (1924/1960). It's a pretty good version of the story.
A murderer dies and concert pianist looses his hands in a car wreck around the same time frame. A policeman is still solving the case of the murderer and the pianist's surgeon has given him the murderers hands. Somehow the hands have a mind of their own and murders people while the pianist seems to black out or block out in a way as he takes on the personality of the murderer and the murders taking place from his new hands.
it's odd but still makes for a decent horror story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This 1962 movie felt like a cross between a soap opera a made-for-TV
movie or Perry Mason episode in its production values and musical
score, but that's true of many movies of this era. Despite the apparent
low budget, the movie provides intriguing if not compelling drama as we
watch the world-class pianist in a classic man vs. himself struggle
after the replacement of his hands following an accident.
What happened to James Noah? He has features of Elvis and Jack Lord and I thought he did a fine job in this role. His acting career, such as it was, went on hold for 20+ years after 1966. Odd.
I thought the pacing was unnecessarily slow in some places, but again, that's somewhat characteristic of the era. This film was close to a 7 for me but didn't quite have the it factor to get it there. Still, a solid film.
The plot is very standard here. If you have seen The Beast With Five Fingers, The Hands of Orloff/Mad Love, or even the Michael Cain vehicle, The Hand, you know what this is about: guy gets new hands sewn onto his wrists, gets an itch to go out and strangle pe0oople . (This is a twist on the Eyes Of A Murderer concept, which may be reviewed other places. One difference: these are not necessarily the hands of a murderer being grafted onto the gifted pianist's wrists, in fact we never do learn whose hands these were -- but murder ensues nonetheless. So the question is: why watch this? For me, the interest was with the young actor (denied lead billing) and the men's incredibly greasy hairdos. Leaving hair for another day, we have James Stapleton who reminded me of a young Ray Liotta, but (as another reviewer perceptively noted) was directed as Hurd Hatfield. Too bad. One or two Liotta humorless laughs and we would have had an Academy performance. Such is the danger of being born between two film concepts, Hatfield and Liotta. Let this be a warning to would-be thespians: is now your time? Or should you go back to that comfortable barista job? (James Stapleton changed his stage name to James Noah. He got work for years, but not much and I think, given the proper role, could have been dynamite.)
After a horrible car accident, a concert pianist's hands are
transplanted and he becomes a monster in "Hands of a Stranger," a 1962
film starring Paul Lukather, James Stapleton, and Joan Harvey.
Somewhat based on the often remade "Hands of Dr. Orlac," Stapleton plays Vernon Paris, a gifted pianist. The cab he is in has an accident, and his hands are mangled. A surgeon (Lukather) decides to try a hands transplant, taking hands from a corpse brought in a couple of hours earlier. When the bandages come off and Vernon realizes they're not his hands, he basically flips out and goes on a killing spree. A couple of times, he doesn't know his own strength and people end up dead. Then he starts deliberately killing.
Unlike Mad Love, where we know the transplanted hands are those of a killer, we never do learn the identity of Vernon's new hands. As for Vernon, I guess we just assume for some reason he goes nuts. His hands are ruined, the doctor gives him a chance to continue his career, and he's furious with everyone involved and seeks revenge.
Directed by Newt Arnold, this is a fairly atrocious film. For one thing, the eye makeup and use of a shiny eye shadow used to draw light is obvious. On Stapleton, who has effete features, it looks ridiculous. The dialogue is mind-bogglingly dense and the images in the film are sledge-hammer obvious, focusing on hands, hands, hands.
The acting - I imagine most of these poor souls did the best they could under the circumstances. Joan Harvey is so over the top screaming and fake crying that she's practically on the ceiling. In contrast, Stapleton's face and voice remain completely unchanged throughout the movie. Paul Lukather, whose voice is famous because of all the video games he's done, had a very distinguished career in all mediums and tries to strike a balance. But what could he do talking about beauty and science and mankind all the time.
If you want to watch it, be advised and just get a kick out of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie as part of one of those 50 pack public domain DVD
collections, which means I paid something like 50 cents for the
privilege of viewing it. Well, it's not like I want my 50 cents back,
but this was a frustrating film.
There's a good looking, reasonably talented cast at work here (although Lukather comes across as a bit of a one-note stone face), some crisp black and white photography that makes it easy to see what's going on in any given scene...even if the actual art direction is risible. (You've never seen so many ham-handed (hah) attempts at visual metaphor and symbolism.) There's even a decent (if somewhat dated) premise to drive the story.
But the screenplay loads the actors down with several long tons of the most affected, mannered dialog this side of an Ed Wood Jr. film, and the resulting tar pit of inaction just kills any forward momentum the story might develop. It's the kind of dialog that reads on paper much better than it works in the mouth of live actors, and there's just way too much of it. Also, some of the line readings are weird - the actors apparently devoted so much energy to memorizing and delivering their page-long sentences that they couldn't spare any to figure out where to pause, or take a breath. (I fault the director for this).
It's as if someone locked themselves in a room with the entire oeuvre of psychological thrillers and noir styled movies from the last 20 years, watched them all straight through, learned all the wrong lessons,and went right out to make a movie. (Although I understand this is actually a remake of sorts of a particular earlier film.)
"Hands of A Stranger" isn't all that bad, mind you. The people who made it tried so hard to be intense and expressionistic and psychologically subterranean that they probably gave themselves mental hernias, and you can't help but enjoy the results...in the same way you would enjoy a high school version of "The Crucible".
Based on the results here, I wouldn't balk at watching another movie with this director or this case, but I also don't imagine I would be in a big hurry to do so.
It is nowhere mentioned in the credits but this movie is a retread of the
classic horror tale "The Hands of Orlac",so memorably filmed in 1935 as "Mad
Love",and done competently in 1961 under the original title.
It sticks in my craw that nobody associated with this awful version has the
common decency to acknowledge the source material and the rancid odour of
plagiarism hangs over the whole sorry enterprise.
The plot is a direct steal from the Maurice Renard source novel-a gifted
pianist loses his hands in an automobile accident,and the hands of a brutish
criminal are grafted on as replacements.The pianist then finds himself
driven to acts of violence ,with his flighty girl friend and the driver who
caused the accident his particular targets.Eventually he turns on the
surgeon who performed the operation.
Poorly acted ,and with a dull script and harsh ,flat lighting that makes the whole thing look like a cheap TV show this is best forgotten.Track down the 1935 film with the great Peter Lorre ,or keep an eye out for the Mel Ferrer version of 1961 but trouble yourself not with this excresence.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My God, this was terrible. The acting of the brother and sister varied from histrionic to dead flat. The directing was incredibly stilted and, in some cases, made no sense at all. It seemed like 50% of the shots were of one person in the dead center of the screen looking at the camera and talking and talking and talking some more. In one scene, when the bad guy was emoting the two other main characters stood fully twenty feet away - and they talked across that space. Then, after being warned something bad would happen if she went closer, the girl did actually cross the gap. And guess what, the bad guy grabbed her. The the other guy approached and said,'Let her go' - and the bad guy did! How's that for motivation. Then the bad guy gets shot by an unseen gun - the absence of a gun goes unremarked. The makeup looked like a thick coating of spray paint, not a pore or wrinkle to be seen. Everyone had the complexion of an Asian Indian - but it only went so far. The little boy's makeup only went to his Adam's apple and the white of his lower neck looked like a bib. It's difficult to believe this was on TCM and the host talked about it with a straight face. Truly a horror show.
What strong hands. My hands. What about my brother's hands? Transplant the hands. Who's hands are those? Enough about the freaking hands! After about thirty minutes I wanted to take this movie out of my DVD player and skeet shoot it in the yard. They say that brevity is the soul of wit. Something this movie sorely lacks. There are no yes a no answers in this film as every reply resembles more a college dissertation than a retort. If these actors got paid by the word than surely they became millionaires after filming this. What's so frustrating is all the words spoken to advance such a thin plot. I can summarize this movie in one sentence. A skilled pianist has his hands replaced after a car accident and becomes resentful of his new circumstance. That's it. Why he chooses to lash out on the very people who tried to help him, especially the doctor who gave him hands, is never really explored and makes him appear as an ingrate rather than a victim. Without the operation he would have NO hands at all. By the way, what kind of insurance plan covers trips to the amusement park with your doctor? That's gotta cost a pretty penny. No doubt he has one of those "Cadillac" insurance plans the current administration wants to tax so desperately. There is also a detective who constantly questions the doctor about a murder case that he clearly has no involvement with. At one point the "interrogation" takes place as both the cop and the doctor lean on the same side of a desk about six inches apart. Just kiss him and get it over with flatfoot! A mouthy and unsuspenseful limb replacement thriller that has been done far better by other films. Toss a couple of shekels Jeff Fahey's way and watch Body Parts instead.
This is the talkiest movie I've ever seen. I have a simple rule of
thumb: if you watch a movie on fast forward and it still seems too slow
you've got a problem. By editing out the slow, pointless, redundant
dialogue you might be able to trim this film down to a serviceable 30
minute short, but in its present form I find HANDS OF A STRANGER just
intolerable. I found the sloooow talking philosophical police detective
a particular nuisance. I'm sure the writer/director meant to craft an
intelligent, literate horror film but all he ended up with is a
pretentious bore. Sorry. I'm not a guy who enjoys trashing other
people's hard work, but there you have it.
On the plus side, there are a couple of creepy touches (including nice use of a fun house mirror --- I'd seen a still of this shot in a horror movie magazine years ago and always wondered what movie it was from!) and the aforementioned good intentions. The hand motif got to be a joke after a while. And the scene where the pianist's girl friend accidentally dies (possible spoiler) was truly absurd. She falls back, knocks a candle off a table and into some curtains, and the whole room instantly goes up in flames. It's like she kept her curtains constantly soaked in gasoline in case of just such an event. And the boy friend just stands by watching while she's immolated in a matter of seconds.
By the way, I'm a little surprised by the members who irately commented that the plot was a steal from HANDS OF ORLAC. I thought everyone knew HANDS OF A STRANGER was a remake of ORLAC --- although I suppose it is a bit suspicious that neither ORLAC nor its author is ever mentioned in the credits. Maybe I'm the one being naive.
This has potential but is filled with unanswered questions. Modern medicine being what it is, I don't know how anyone could do such a thing. When dealing with new science, we have a set of rules we need to adhere to to claim credibility. How does this doctor get the power he has, and how does he manage to survive professionally. Is there a story coming after this. The pianist/ victim is entitled to feel as he does. He sees himself as a true victim and doesn't want to live. This would be true without the transplant. So is all this anger and furor over his accident or over what the doctor and his compatriots did. We don't know. Did the hands reject the situation and begin to act on their own, or is it in the psyche of the central figure. This could have been done in a much more subdued atmosphere. I can't believe the doctor and the sister took the young man to that crazy amusement part. He's the one that wanted patience and you take the guy to a bizarre setting such as this. The story moves to its logical conclusion with very predictable ease. It just could have been better with a more intriguing script.
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