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HANDS OF A STRANGER (director/writer: Newt Arnold; screenwriter: based on the novel by Maurice Renard “Les Mains d’Orlac“; cinematographer: Henry Cronjager; editor: Bert Honey; music: Richard LaSalle; cast: James Stapleton (Vernon Paris), Paul Lukather(Dr. Gil Harding), Joan Harvey (Dina Paris), Michael Du Pont (Dr. Ken Fry), Elaine Martone (Eileen), Larry Haddon (Police Lieutenant Syms), Michael Rye (George Britton), Irish McCalla (Holly), Ted Otis (Dr. Ross Compton), Sally Kellerman (Sue), George Sawaya (Cab driver, Tony Wilder), Barry Gordon (Skeet); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michael Dupont/Newt Arnold; Allied Artists; 1962)

Adequate chiller before it loses its tune.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Adequate chiller before it loses its tune. It’s awkwardly presented, the acting is stilted and by the end it turns overwrought. Directed and written by longtime assistant director Newt Arnold (“Bloodsport”/”Blood Thirst”). Even though it disappoints, it still retains some integrity to the original and offers a few fresh touches like a possible incestuous relationship between the pianist and his sister. It’s a remake of the 1924 Robert Wiene silent The Hands of Orlac, and was filmed three other times.This version is the one least seen of the four movies. All are based on the 1920 novel Les Mains d’Orlac by French writer Maurice Renard.

While self-absorbed concert pianistVernon Paris (James Stapleton) is riding in the cab of an inattentive driver (George Sawaya), a traffic accident occurs and his hands are mangled beyond repair. Just two hours before an unidentified robbery victim of a street shooting dies on the operating table of idealistic city hospital surgeon Dr. Gil Harding (Paul Lukather) and without family permission his loyal team of Dr. Ross Compton (Ted Otis), Dr. Ken Fry (Michael Du Pont) and the nurse Holly (Irish McCalla), transplant the robbery victim’s powerful hands onto the concert pianist. Vernon’s loyal manager George Britton (Michael Rye) and close-knit attractive sister Dina (Joan Harvey) are all over the good doctor, but he convinces them to give the experimental surgery a chance and becomes romantically involved with sis. But while those concerned wait for Vernon to recover and see if he can play again, he goes on a vengeance spree using his powerful new hands to kill his rejecting bitchy former socialite girlfriend Eileen (Elaine Martone), the cabby’s 10-year-old piano playing son Skeet (Barry Gordon) and one of the operating team of doctors and his girlfriend Sue (Sally Kellerman). This brings on the creepy Lt. Syms (Laurence Haddon) to investigate, and he becomes interested in whose hands were grafted onto the pianist.

It starts out engrossing, but in the end the black and white film never convinces us the hands could go out of control and start killing on their own. The dialogue is often ludicrous and sounding more theatrical than for a movie, as Doctor Gil tells his star patient “Don’t let fear drive you into a pit of superstition.” It results in a lurid B film that has a few good moments you can count on one hand. But when it turns the pianist into a monster and the doctor into a killing machine pompous ass, there’s no other character in the film we can sympathize with and that’s too much of a downer to overcome.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”