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THE HAND

The second film directed by Oliver Stone, made before he became the Oliver Stone we know. Itís a so-so Michael Caine starrer about an errant severed hand.

The Package
     Those who claim SALVADOR (1986) was Oliver Stoneís ďfirstĒ film are way off: his debut was actually 1974ís SEIZURE, followed by THE HAND in 1981. It was adapted from Marc Brandellís THE LIZARDíS TALE by Stone himself, at that point a respected screenwriter (having won an Oscar for scripting MIDNIGHT EXPRESS).
     Another of THE HANDíS just-starting-out talents was composer James Horner, who up to that point had worked mostly on Roger Corman cheapies.

The Story
     Jonathan, a frankly irascible cartoonist, loses his drawing hand in a car accident on a country road. The missing hand isnít found and Jonathanís life falls apart, with the metal appendage a doctor constructs for Jonathan a lame substitute for his missing hand.
     That hand, it turns out, is crawling around on its own, and begins killing anyone who upsets its host. Victim #1 is a bum who irritates Jonathan.
     Jonathan moves away from his estranged wife and young daughter to teach drawing at a remote college. There he has an affair with a young woman student, who becomes the handís second victim.
     Following this Jonathan moves his wife and daughter in with him, which doesnít improve his mental state. In fact their presence only further aggravates Jonathanís jealousy and paranoia. He even comes to dislike his best friend Brian, a fellow instructor who becomes another of the handís victims. Jonathanís wife nearly becomes a further casualty of the hand, which finally goes after Jonathan himself before the none-too-twisty twist ending.

The Direction
     Those looking for Oliver Stone trademarks in THE HAND will notice much of the type of bluntness for which heís often criticized. Thereís very little energy or visual invention to the film (outside the Carlo Rambaldi designed mechanical hand effects, that is). Itís made clear early on that the protagonistís severed hand is afoot--via shots of a crawling hand, which can be viewed as an early example of Stoneís much derided sledgehammer obviousness--so thereís no sense of mystery to the film. If anything itís quite dull and uninvolving overall.
     Stone indulges his lead actor Michael Caine, whoís never very sympathetic and often appears to be performing in a different movie. As for the scare factor, itís difficult working up scares in the ridiculous sight of people being strangled by a severed hand.
     The biggest problem, however, is that Stone just doesnít seem fully engaged with the material. Thereís evidently a reason Oliver Stone isnít known for making horror films, as THE HAND makes abundantly clear.
 

Vital Statistics

THE HAND
Warner Bros. Pictures

Director: Oliver Stone
Producer: Edward R. Pressman
Screenplay: Oliver Stone
(Based on a novel by Marc Brandell)
Cinematography: King Baggot
Editing: Richard Marks
Cast: Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Bruce McGill, Annie McEnroe, Viveca Lindfors, Rosemary Murphy, Mara Hobel, Pat Corley, Nicholas Hormann, Ed Marshall, Charles Fleischer, John Stinson

     

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