The Hand (1981)

MAY 16, 2008


When you think of an Oliver Stone film, you think “politics”, “war”, “controversy”, or maybe “John C. McGinley”. But none of those things are evident in The Hand, one of his first films (many claim it IS his first, but in fact he directed another horror film called Seizure in the early 70s), and one can’t help but wonder that if the film had done well, Stone may have gone on to make more horror films, and fewer presidential biopics.

Then again, on the commentary (which I was really surprised by – not only by the fact that it existed, but it was recorded in the past 2 years) Stone claims over and over that he is not a fan of horror films, that he doesn’t have the knack for it, and that the only reason the film works for him is because of the psychological and character based elements. Apparently, many of the more traditional horror elements (such as the scene when Michael Caine investigates a leaky faucet and then a tree smashes his window) are studio mandated reshoots, which Stone shot, albeit begrudgingly. And I agree with him to some extent; without all that stuff, I think the film would still work.

However, it would NOT work without the two ridiculous gore moments, which elevate the film from minor psychological thriller to... well, psychological thriller with ridiculous gore moments. The second is pretty minor, but as it comes during a particularly batshit finale, it’s pretty outstanding. The first though, when Caine loses his hand, is a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned:

And that’s just SOME of the blood Caine is seen losing in the scene. It’s amazing he even survived. It’s so over the top, it helps earn the film some goodwill, as it is rather long (1:45) and gets a bit slow at times. Since this is a character based film, that is to be expected, but still, there are scenes that go on far longer than necessary, such as when Caine meets up with his romantic rival at a bar (an odd POV sequence to boot).

That rival is played by none other than Bruce McGill, who modern audiences know as “That guy that’s like a less menacing JT Walsh”. McGill is obviously much younger here, and looks like a country singer. Two other familiar faces pop up, one being Charles Fleischer, who was the voice of Roger Rabbit (how would that make him a familiar face? – Ed.) (shut your goddamn mouth! – BC), and looks a lot like David Cross. Also popping up near the end is Tracey Walter, who is best known (to me, anyway) as the killer in the criminally underrated and hilarious Drowning Mona (he has one of my favorite lines in the film – after confessing to the murders and bemoaning that he wouldn’t be invited to another character’s wedding, he is told that he WAS invited, as was his wife. Walter replies “I’m married?”). And Stone himself shows up as a bum.

Back to that batshit ending – what do you folks think about it? The whole movie makes you think the hand is killing everyone, only to reveal that it was Caine all along, killing everyone during blackouts. But in the final scene, he’s strapped to a chair and the hand kills the doctor testing him. So was the hand real all along? Or was the ending part fantasy as well? And will The Hand vs Idle Hands ever come to pass?

For no real reason, I'd like to point out that there is no scene selection menu. There are chapters, but if you want to know what random frame would be used to give a viewer an idea of what that chapter is about, you're shit out of luck!

What say you?


  1. "Drowning Mona" freaking rocks! I've had the Twisted Terror box set since it was released, and "The Hand" is the one film I have yet to watch for whatever reason. I guess I'll have to pop it in here soon.

  2. The part where a Yugo drives backwards at full speed remains my favorite laugh in cinematic history.


    "Dont come any closer, Sheriff!"
    "No no no!!! He's not a sheriff!"

  3. This is one I really need to revisit. It scared me in my younger days because a) I found Michael Caine creepy and b) my dad is actually an amputee, having lost his left hand before I was born--so I had emotional investment. I haven't thought of the film in years, but I remember that blood spurting scene and asking Dad if that's what it was really like. He just said, "No," and then clammed up.

    Anyway, I thought the ending was fantasy too, and a nice touch. After all, a real "Thing" would get no leverage for head-bashing and throat-ripping and such.

    Oh, and I just remembered--this is probably the first movie I ever saw (on VHS, natch) that had two characters having sex in it, between Caine and some young thing in a cabin. I was in my early tweens, but I remember it being pretty graphic--still, that might be a false memory. I also remembered Ally Sheedy getting totally naked in St. Elmo's Fire, and a recent re-viewing disappointingly proved that not the be the case.

  4. I found this one a little slow to be honest, and if I wasn't such a big fan of Michael Caine I might not have stuck with it.

    I did like it though, but could happily cut out 20 minutes, most of which would have been the relationship stuff between Caine and his wife (though having said that, I did like the naturalistic feeling between him and his wife).

    The ending really worked for me until you see him in the pyschiatric hospital, I put that down to being a delusion rather than anything else, because if it is real it makes the rest of the film non-sensical.

  5. And still no one bothered to point out that this film had none of the typical scenes that Stone puts in every fucking thing he touches. (Eagles and indians) Christ Alexander felt like I was watching The Doors mainly because during the intense battle scenes, stone would put in random eagle flying shots or indians dancing. nice to see something different for a change.

  6. I saw The Hand at the drive in when I was still in grade school. I had seen a lot of scary movies before, but that one scared the bejebbers outta me. The scene where he actually loses his hand was bad enough, but what freaked me out were the scenes of his disembodied hand creeping though the grass.


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