Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), Robert Florey.

Pianist Francis Ingram is sleeping peacefully, although his hand seems restless.  

Wheelchair-bound, aging pianist Francis Ingram has retired to an Italian villa and become infatuated with his pretty young nurse; she chafes under his constant attention and plans to leave the country.  Ingram is surrounded by hangers-on including his shady lawyer, his personal astrologist (played by Peter Lorre) and the nurse's boyfriend, an American who dupes American rubes into buying worthless curios.  A mellifluous version of Bach's Chaconne in D minor (arranged by Brahms for the left hand) repeats throughout the film, suffusing the old villa with the spirit of the pianist, who exits from the film prematurely.  The Beast with Five Fingers has no slack spots; as soon as Ingram is dead, the knives come out and everyone wants a piece of the valuable estate.  I particularly liked Lorre's quest, which was to bury himself deep within a library of rare books in search of "the key to the future," an understanding of fate, an ancient knowledge lost when the library of Alexandra burned.  Well, okay, but try to get it on my desk by Monday.  Claps to the prop dude for creating such a horrifying mobile hand, complete with chopped bones & sinew visible from the stump end.   I don't know if I can say, as Edmund G Bansak does, that this is "the best crawling hand movie ever made;" oh wait, dim memories of The Hand are resurfacing... yes, Bansak, you may be correct.

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