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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, brought along by the film's central point of a lot more focus on the hands' murderous qualities. 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 is an enjoyable affair as this gives us plenty of good scenes including the carnival altercations, the murder of the blind man and the stalking of his girlfriend in the movie theater, where it has more creepy qualities than expected. While there's still some focus on the surgeon and his radical experiment here, the fact that this one seems to spiral between being a serious horror effort and more campy material during the examination scenes makes this one loose some steam along the way, and the rather underwhelming finale does it no favors. 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 ***
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).
*** 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.
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 low budget Allied Artists thriller boasts some very unique camera
work and a nice and edgy performance as a Van Cliburn like concert
pianist whose hands become horribly mangled in a car crash by Paul
The film opens with someone killing and then being killed and it's those hands that are grafted on to Lukather when he's brought into the hospital. James Stapleton plays the surgeon whose hubris leads him to using Lukather as an experimental guinea pig for a new surgical transplant technique.
Who knows if eventually it might have worked, but imagine asking Van Cliburn to put his career on hold around this time for several years. Lukather is not that patient and several fatalities result because of that, most tragically the death of child prodigy Barry Gordon.
Though the film holds up pretty well for such a low budget product with limited production values in 1962 no one would have mistaken the lead for anyone else other than Van Cliburn. That dimension is lost to today's generation.
Doesn't mean they can't enjoy a good low budget shocker.
I remember seeing this late at night in the mid sixties on Chiller
theater and it really creeped me out so I was anxious to check it out
again when it showed up at the public domain bargain bin section. It
doesn't really hold up that well but I can see a why it stuck in my
mind in a few well shot and staged scenes.
Of the four filmed versions of The Hands Of Orlac (Four and a half if you count sections of Oliver Stones flop The Hand) this one comes in at dead last. It's not awful but it doesn't hold a candle to in inventiveness and weirdness of the Peter Lorre Version Mad Love and it doesn't have the silliness and fast pace of the Mel Ferrer ,Christopher Lee Version The Hands Of Orlac. As noted by others this doesn't credit orlac at all . Although there are marked difference between all of the versions it doesn't take a genius to figure where the story came from even though it ends differently.
I liked the opening and the scenes at the carnival and of course nurse Irish McCalla (Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle)isn't hard to look at. Juvenile actor Barry Gordon is sympathetic without being annoying like many child actors and Paul Lukather (who still works) has enough bravado to carry him through the long winded and stilted episodes of prose.
If you're a horror completist and don't expect much or if you're into B-movie noir you might give this a glance otherwise stick to the Karl Freund version Mad Love. You can't beat Peter Lorre on a tirade anyway.
Hands of a Stranger (1962)
** (out of 4)
Low-budget remake of THE HANDS OF ORLAC from the one and only Allied Artists. As in the numerous earlier versions, a concert pianist (James Stapleton) loses his hands in a car wreck so a doctor (Paul Lukather) gives him the hands of someone else. Soon the pianist begins to lose his mind and goes around killing several people. Is it the new hands or is something else going on? HANDS OF A STRANGER really doesn't improve on any of the earlier versions of this story and in the end the film is just way too talky and doesn't feature enough energy or excitement. For a horror film from 1962 I was a little surprised to see how much it was lacking in regards to the horror elements. The death scenes are all rather tame and there were a few times where you couldn't even tell that he killed the people until later in the film when it was mentioned that they were dead. The biggest problem, however, is the fact that there's just way too much talking going on and it just makes the film drag along to a point where you just grow tired of everything going on. The performances are also all over the place but I thought Lukather and Stapleton were good in their parts. The one thing I did like is how the film never really made it clear if the hands were doing the killing or if it was the actual person just mentally unstable from not being a concert pianist anymore. Still, with such better films out there it's hard to recommend this to anyone other than those who want to see every version.
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.
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