The local mailman, Mike (Jack Younger), is driving by a small fenced in home when he sees what looks like several dead sheep in the yard. He stops his car and gets out to investigate. He opens the gate and steps into the yard. Suddenly he drops to the ground. Out of the house come two men in hazmat suits. They pick up the downed man and carry him into the house. Mike is paralyzed.
Alex Marsh (John Agar) and his lab assistant Carlos (John A. Alonzo) give Mike oxygen until he is able to move. When Mike came into the yard he came in contact with an experimental gas that paralyzes. The sheep that had been lying on the ground have now gotten past the effects of the gas and are peacefully grazing on the lawn.
Alex and Carlos work for Dr. Frederick Ramsey (Roy Gordon). The house in the country is a lab where they experiment on various compounds looking for an anesthesia for the government. Instead Alex he comes up with one that paralyzes. In other words a nerve gas. Alex believes he can make a weapon out of the gas by combining it with a drug such as scopolamine. In that case the victim would, when the paralysis passes, remain in a hypnotic state. This means an invading army would have no resistance to being occupied by the invaders. Alex believes that if he can perfect the compound it would banish the need for nuclear warfare. All he has to do now is join together the drug with the gas.
After explaining to Ramsey what he discovered and what needs to be done to finish, his boss gives him the OK to continue. Alex returns to the country lab to work on the last piece of his compound. After a few weeks he is still working on the compound. One night, while working late Alex accidentally spills a liquid form of the gas. Not only does he inhale it but he spills some on his hand while trying to clean it up. The formula causes him to pass out. The next day Carlos arrives to work. Carlos notes that Alex’s skin is dark, as if he had been tanning in the sun. When Alex touches Carlos the assistant spasms and dies. The area where Alex touched him appears black and burnt.
In a panic Alex burns down the lab with Carlos’ dead body inside. He races back to Ramsey’s house. At a gas station he accidentally touches the attendant (Joe Besser). As with Carlos the man dies and the area touched is black and burnt. Now terrified and getting sicker Alex’s only hope is Ramsey being able to find an antidote before he accidentally kills again. Unfortunately things go from horrible to worse and Alex transforms into a repulsive monster that means death to anyone he touches.
“Hand of Death” was released in 1962 and was directed by Gene Nelson. It is an American horror film and is a low budget movie by Associated Producers Inc. under Robert Lippert and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It’s short at only an hour long.
This film was unavailable to the public for decades. At one point it was assumed to be lost. I don’t think it was lost so much as it was forgotten. I heard that Agar himself had a copy of it or saw a copy of it on VHS so it may have been released before but I couldn’t find any other indication of a release date. Supposedly issues arose in the 80’s due to legal rights, the dissolution of the production company and the movie falling between the cushions of the couch. I had never heard of the film until I tripped over it. The movie was finally released on DVD in 2015 and is available here and there.
The film looks and feels very similar to “The Hideous Sun Demon” 1958 and “The 4-D Man” 1959. The monster in the film is reminiscent of Fantastic 4 superhero “The Thing” except that the monster in “Hand of Death” is supposedly similar to burnt charcoal instead of orange rock.
The movie starts out excellent. It’s creepy and fatalistic and moves along reasonably. I really liked the music. It’s an unusual score with a jazzy outer limits undertone. The ending, however, is typical and routine. Despite the standard ending the movie was very enjoyable, especially for a “B” movie. If you’re looking for something obscure this is it. Fans of John Agar or Paula Raymond are definitely going to want to find it.
The little boy by the beach is Butch Patrick. He played Eddie Munster on the television show “The Munsters." Paula Raymond plays Alex Marsh’s girlfriend Carol Wilson.