Thursday, February 11, 2016

Handmade Movies - The Beast With Five Fingers!

The Beast with Five Fingers is a 1944 horror movie which tries its utmost to cash in on the palpable creepiness of the late great Peter Lorre. It does so successfully, but it takes its time about it.

The story is about a misanthropic concert pianist (Victor Francen) who some time before lost the use of one of his arms. He has since had great fame with a one-handed musical composition designed for him by a very talented man (Robert Alda) who spends his afternoons swindling tourists. Also he has a nurse (Andrea King) with whom he has a mad obsession, as well as a longtime librarian and sycophant (Lorre). He is a cruel fellow but when he dies he becomes quite popular due to his wealth and when after his funeral it seems his hand has been disconnected from his body and his roaming the house killing off his corrupt lawyer and making attempts on others, the story really gets to rocking. Also on board is a local constable (J. Carrol Nash)  who is very entertaining when he chooses to be.

This is a handsome movie, and truth told is put together with a lot of fantastic behind-the-scenes talent (Siodmak script, Steiner score, etc.), the kind of a talent a studio could muster in its heyday. Sadly all that talent goes mostly for naught as this story lacks the one thing which makes most horror flicks succeed, it lacks suspense. The culprit behind the shenanigans is pretty obvious and the movie doesn't really work all that hard to make you think the hand is actually crawling about on its own. We sense early that it's a scam and that undermines the potential horror of the set up.

But it has moments, most all of them owing to Peter Lorre's over-the-top performance. He does madmen like no one else and this guy is right up there with his best. Nash is also a lot of fun, but he's not in it very much and truth told as good a job as he does it cuts against the horror a bit too.

I give this one a mild recommendation, if only to see Lorre chewing scenery in fine fashion.

Anther handmade movie tomorrow, but sadly no Peter Lorre. 

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