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1981 (2007) - Orion (Warner Bros.)
Once upon a time, back before the indie film revolution of the
late 80s and early 90s, it was not at all unusual for filmmakers
to learn their craft in the trenches of the horror genre. Horror
movies tend to be modestly budgeted affairs carrying relatively
low risk for producers and studios, so Francis Ford Coppola was
given an early shot with Dementia 13
and Steven Spielberg segued from TV to features with Duel.
Likewise, Oliver Stone received his first studio directing gig
with 1981's The Hand. And
if you don't often hear The Hand
mentioned along with movies like Duel,
there's a reason. It's not very good.
Michael Caine stars as cartoonist Jon Lansdale. Just as his
marriage is starting to fall apart, he loses his drawing hand in
a car accident. He tries to put his life back together but that
proves difficult as his severed hand is apparently still out
there, crawling around and tracking down the people who have
made his life hell. Yikes.
tries to play The Hand as both
a psychological thriller and as a gruesome creature feature. Neither
aspect really gels, although the quieter scenes are more effective.
Caine's performance swings wildly from subdued and introspective to
crazily over-the-top (as does his mop of curly hair, for that
matter). There's an interesting dynamic in scenes between Caine and
his estranged wife (Andrea Marcovicci) and Caine occasionally
touches on Lansdale's inner torment. But any good will the movie
builds up is undermined by the hand itself, skittering around on its
fingers and wrapping itself around its victims' throats. Created by
Carlo Rambaldi, it's not a bad effect, just an inherently goofy one.
It doesn't matter how hard the actor tries to sell the scene,
there's something about them rolling around on the ground struggling
with a rubber hand that just doesn't work.
Warner's new DVD looks and sounds OK for a movie of this vintage.
Extras include the original trailer and, amazingly enough, an audio
commentary by Oliver Stone. I have yet to listen to a bad commentary
track from Stone and this one is no exception. It's candid, funny
and informative. Stone admits he's not a natural horror filmmaker
and is upfront with his opinions about works and what doesn't. Maybe
the best moment on the track is during a sex scene Stone can't
remember filming, saying "I must have been really high that day
or blind drunk. No, that's a joke. I wouldn't have been drunk back
then. Maybe high, though."
Not a very good movie, The Hand
is nevertheless amusing and interesting enough to check out,
especially for fans of the director or 80s horror. It doesn't really
work but it's gory, fast-paced and distinct from the cycle of
slasher movies that were typical of the genre back then. But if
you're actually scared by The Hand,
you must suffer from the most extreme case of chirophobia ever
Film Rating: C-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B-
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