Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 17th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, December 25th, 1946
Director: Robert Florey
Writer: Curt Siodmak
Cast: Robert Alda, Andrea King, Peter Lorre, Victor Francen, J. Carrol Naish, Charles Dingle, John Alvin, David Hoffman, Barbara Brown, Patricia Barry, William Edmunds, Belle Mitchell, Ray Walker, Pedro de Cordoba
Approximate running time: 85 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
VHS/Laserdisc Releases: MGM/UA
Production Company: Warner Brothers
Retail Price: OOP
Synopsis: When a wealthy eccentric old man’s will is executed per his wishes his hand comes back to life exacting revenge against those who oppose his last request.
The plot for “The Beast with Five Fingers” revolves around a crippled old man named Francis Ingram and his growing obsession with his nurse Julie Holden. Unknown to the old man is a secret affair between Julie and one of his employees a hustler named Bruce Conrad. Rounding out this cast of colorful characters is Francis’s personal assistant a bookworm librarian type named Hilary Cummins. Everyone in Francis Ingram’s live including his family who arrive shortly after his arrival are leeches who all benefit in some way from his death. Was his death an accident or was he murdered?
Peter Lorre and director Robert Florey had previously worked together on revenge film “The Face behind the Mask”. Visually the film it told in a straight forward way that at times lack the style that is present in so many of the classic horror films from Universal and MGM in the 1930’s. The scenes involving the disembodied hand are very effective and they don’t look cheap or dated. The scenes with the disembodied hand are the most impressive visually. The last half of the film takes on a more gothic feel then the first half which is more dramatic as we are introduced to all the players.
The plot is and its characters are strong throughout. The pacing of the film is just right. Reportedly Spanish director Luis Buñuel submitted a story about a killer hand to Warner Brothers around the time this film was being made. Twenty six years later Luis Buñuel would finally make his film about a disembodied hand titled “El Ángel exterminador”. Other notable films about disembodied hands include Oliver Stone’s “The Hand”, “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” and the Christopher Lee/ Michael Gough segment in Amicus’s “Dr Terror’s House of Horrors”.
The cast is lead by Robert Alda as Bruce Conrad and Andrea King as Julie Holden. Performance wise Alda and King are satisfactory in their roles. Victor Francen is very good as Francis Ingram the crippled eccentric millionaire. Supplying some comic relief is J. Carrol Naish as a bumbling police commissioner named Ovidio Castanio.
The one performance that stands out head and shoulders about the rest of the cast is Peter Lorre as Hilary Cummins a neurotic character who has his own obsessions and is willing to do anything to protect them. Peter Lorre excels during the scenes involving the disembody hand. Lorre’s knack for playing deranged characters most likely lead to him being type cast for most of his career. Very few actors have the skill that Lorre did is capturing the essence of madness.
Ultimately The Beast with Five Fingers is an entertaining horror/thriller which features another solid performance from Peter Lorre.
Note: The most recent releases of “The Beast with Five Fingers” are the VHS and Laserdisc releases from MGM/UA in the 1990’s.