My all time favorite disembodied hand movie.
Francis Ingram (Victor Francen) is a noted pianist. He lives in a mansion near a small Italian village. Due to a stroke the right side of his body is paralyzed. He still plays piano, but with only his left hand. He also now needs a wheelchair to get around. Since the stroke he has lived in veritable isolation. The only people he sees are his nurse Julie Holden (Andrea King), a musicologist and amateur astrologist Hillary Cummins (Peter Lorre), a friend Bruce Conrad (Robert Alda), and occasionally his nephew Donald Arlington (John Alvin).
Ingram is in love with his nurse Julie. Because of this he has changed his will and made her his primary beneficiary. Should something happen to him she will receive the bulk of his estate. Julie, on the other hand, is in love with Conrad. The change in the will disinherits Arlington and Cummins.
That night Ingram suffers hallucinations. He hears piano playing. He gets into his wheelchair and goes to the top of the staircase calling for Julie. Ingram falls down the stairs, breaking his neck. (Or was he pushed?)
Donald Arlington and his father Raymond (Charles Dingle) arrive at the mansion. Raymond is determined to ensure that his son receives the inheritance Raymond believes he is due. At the reading of the will it is revealed that the estate is to go to Julie. Duprex (David Hoffman), Ingram's attorney, tells Raymond that for a third of the inheritance he can break the will. That night, Duprex is murdered. Commissario Castanio (J Carrol Naish) begins an investigation. He finds that someone broke into the mausoleum (Or did he break out?) and cut off Ingram’s hand. (Or did he cut it himself?) Donald is attacked and choked. Castanio swears he saw a hand choke Donald. Just a hand.
The disembodied hand is now moving around the mansion at will. Playing the piano and attacking people. It attacks Cummins. He locks it in a drawer, but it disappears. The hand is going wherever it wants. And no one can stop it.
“The Beast With Five Fingers” was released in 1946 and was directed by Robert Florey. It is a horror/mystery and a film noir. There are a couple of things I like about a movie like this. Number one is Peter Lorre. Number two is a disembodied hand. As for Peter Lorre, unless you’re talking about roles like Mr. Moto, he makes the perfect schlemiel. As for disembodied hands, well, they’re just hair-raisingly creepy. Of course Max Steiner’s music score adds a little something to it as well.
The special effects are great. Haunting and eerie. Peter Lorre’s performance is brilliant. Deep in his madness he is a man possessed. I remember seeing this movie when I was young. It is as terrifying as it ever was. It is one of those lesser known little gems. Even though there may be some plot deficiencies, it’s still one horror movie that has a wild monster. It may be small, but it still can kill you.
Although “The Beast With Five Fingers” was made in 1946 there are now enough disembodied hand movies to make it a sub-genre.