Classick Cinema: The Hand (1981)


Sir Michael Caine

The name is synonymous with acting. At age 79, with nearly six decades of acting experience and over one hundred films to his credit, Caine is world-renowned as one of the greats in the game. Over the summer, you’ve seen him reprise his role as Alfred Pennyworth, butler and confidante to Bruce Wayne in the final part of the Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy “The Dark Knight Rises” (shout-out to “Michael Caine tears“). However, what you may not know is that my introduction to Sir Michael Caine was at the impressionable age of ten years old, and it gave me nightmares!!!

The Dark Knight trilogy would not have happened without the distinguished presence of Sir Michael Caine as Alfred.

In 1981, Caine starred in a suspenseful horror movie titled “The Hand“. Based on a novel called “The Lizard’s Tail”, this film directed by Oliver Stone expanded on a phenomenon witnessed right when the picture starts– why does a detached lizard’s tail continue to twitch? Now we ALL know the scientific reason for that (pipe down, armchair herpetologists!), but for young Classick, watching this movie on VHS (up until then, the only tapes I’ve seen on the then new VCR were “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller” and the first “Police Academy” movie) found me immediately stunned!

The story follows Jon Lansdale (Caine), an English comic strip artist living Vermont with his wife and daughter. It starts off with Jon and his daughter finding the aforementioned lizard’s tail twitching on its own outside. Then there’s some family stuff and yadda yadda  (Oh, I should mention here that upon a second viewing this summer, the wife is terrible! I won’t spoil it, but you’ll see why…) The Lansdale couple are in their car, wife driving and Jon on the passenger side, and a freak accident happens…

Let me say no more– check out this clip! (no worries, squeamish readers,  it cuts off before the actual coup de grace)

You might have guessed, Jon’s hand gets severed in what was at the time my mother’s most effective teaching tool to convince us to keep our hands inside the car. From then on, Jon is given a prosthetic hand and a new lease on life, or so he thinks….

Here’s the trailer

We discover as the movie goes on that “The Hand” is acting on its own, accomplishing what Jon subconsciously desires. Acts ranging from misplaced items to sabotage and eventually murder, “The Hand” was a terrifying picture. Even more the gradual descent of Jon from mild-mannered comic artist and family man into eventual madness. When I saw this movie for the first time, I could not sleep peacefully for months after– much the same feeling of dread most children had after watching “Nightmare on Elm Street” or some other horror flick of the time.

Not as grisly or gory as most horror fare, “The Hand” is a psychological thriller that showcases the tremendous acting chops of Caine. Also noticeable in this movie, an appearance by a much younger Charles Fleischer, who you might know from his stand-up comedy or his highly touted turn as the voice of Roger Rabbit.

Would you believe that this is Michael Caine, circa 1981?

As with most of the Classick cinema, I urge you to check out this picture if you get a chance. If you’ve seen it or will have seen it after reading this, leave a comment below!

For more info:

Wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hand_%28film%29

imdb entry: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082497/

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