Beast With Five Fingers, The (1945)

“In my mind, there is no doubt the hand is walking around.”

Beast With Five Fingers Poster

Synopsis:
When a one-handed pianist (Victor Francen) dies, his loyal secretary (Peter Lorre) is distressed to learn that he’s been left out of his will, and soon comes to believe that Francen’s disembodied hand is stalking him.

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Review:
Robert Florey directed dozens of forgettable B-level flicks throughout his career (see his profile at IMDb), yet a small handful of his titles remain worth a look — most notably Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), The Face Behind the Mask (1941) (with Peter Lorre), and this later Lorre vehicle, perhaps best known for being the first “disembodied hand” flick to emerge from Hollywood. Unfortunately, the screenplay for TBWFF (scripted in part by Curt Siodmak) is poorly paced and a bit of a mess, shifting aimlessly between various characters throughout the first half; but once it finally settles on Lorre — the most interesting character by far — the horror vibes really start to fly, as truly impressive special effects — coupled with atmospheric cinematography and excellent use of creepy piano music — begin to dominate the proceedings. As noted in Time Out’s capsule review, “The fudged ending imposed by the studio deflates much of the mystery” — but the half-hour or so that comes before makes TBWFF a once-must classic of the genre.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Lorre as Hilary Cummins
    BWFF Lorre
  • Fine direction by Robert Florey
    BWFF Direction
  • Exciting, remarkably impressive special effects
    BWFF Effects2
  • Atmospheric cinematography
    BWFF Cinematography
  • Powerful use of classical music

Must See?
Yes, as a flawed but memorable horror classic.

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One Response to “Beast With Five Fingers, The (1945)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must for its place in cinema history. It’s too entertainingly preposterous to not give attention to once.

    IMDb reports:
    [Luis Buñuel wrote in his autobiography (“My Last Sigh”), he was employed by Warner Bros. and submitted a story idea for a horror movie about a disembodied hand.]

    Maybe that explains why the film is set in Spain. 😉

    But, in all seriousness, the film does feel Buñuelian in spirit – much of it is dream-like, like one of his fantasy sequences.

    Some of the film’s logic seems flawed – even on its own terms (a second viewing might help, in that regard)…but that could very well be intentional, just to throw us off. Nevertheless, this is rather wacky stuff, and the special effects are impressive.

    The very last sequence does seem like something tacked on by the studio, to soothe the audience. But I don’t think it hurts the film, other than being an abrupt shift in tone. The story itself, by that time, is over, anyway.

    I pretty much always enjoy watching Lorre, almost no matter what.

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