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The Thieving Hand (1908)

7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 311 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 2 critic

A one-armed man obtains an artificial limb. The man cannot control his new arm, which steals from passers-by.

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(uncredited)
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Cast

Uncredited cast:
Paul Panzer ...
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Storyline

A one-armed street peddler notices that a well-to-do man has dropped his ring, and the peddler returns it to him. The wealthy man is very grateful, and to show his appreciation he takes the peddler to a 'Limb Store', where he pays for a new arm to be attached where his own is missing. But the man soon finds out that his new arm seems to have a will of its own, as it does some things that cause him considerable embarrassment. Written by Snow Leopard

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Fantasy | Short

Certificate:

Unrated
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

1 February 1908 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A tolvaj kéz  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Amputees beware
12 September 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

When it came to "trick films" of the early 1900s, Frenchman Georges Méliès was the clear forerunner, not only for his two major masterpieces {'A Trip to the Moon (1902)' and 'The Impossible Voyage (1904)'}, but also his huge catalogue of minor gimmick shorts, a cinematic extension of his stage magician acts. On the other side of the Atlantic, director Stuart J. Blackton must surely have been the American equivalent, most notable for producing perhaps the first ever animated cartoon {see 'Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906)' or perhaps even 'The Enchanted Drawing (1900)'}. 'The Thieving Hand (1908)' is impressive because, above all else, it is most concerned with its story, something akin to what Chaplin would be doing a few years later, and tries carefully to keep the camera tricks – mostly substitution cuts – as inconspicuous as possible. The film has recently been restored from its only surviving copy, and is accessible on the excellent "Treasures from the American Film Archives" DVD, albeit minus the final seconds, which are believed lost.

When a one-armed street-peddler graciously returns a lost ring to a grateful philanthropist, he unwittingly discovers that every blessing is a disaster in disguise. The man is rewarded with an expensive mechanical arm from the local "limb store," but it doesn't take long for him to realise that this new appendage has been programmed with a life of its own. As the peddler honestly goes about his daily business, his left hand discreetly pick-pockets every passer-by, eventually getting him in trouble with the authorities. It is only after he is thrown into a jail cell that the criminal hand reveals its origin, and the reason for its unlawful habit. All this surreal craziness is played out with a surprisingly straight face, as though it's not entirely unusual to see a dismembered arm scooting purposefully across the floor (this particular effect was achieved with wires). A successful attempt to blend a comic narrative with early visual effects, 'The Thieving Hand' is a very enjoyable five minute interlude – it also foreshadows Dr. Strangelove's maniacal Nazi arm.


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