Hands of a Stranger (1962)

Article #1181 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2004
Posting Date: 11-5-2004
Directed by Newt Arnold
Featuring James Stapleton, Paul Lukather, Joan Harvey

When a pianist’s hands are crushed in a car accident, a surgeon decides to replace them with the hands of an unidentified murder victim.

Though the source is not credited, this is for all practical reasons another take on “The Hands or Orlac”; whether the resemblance is the result of plagiarism or coincidence is open to question. I do know that the most memorable scene in the other versions of the story (in which Orlac is confronted by a man with mechanical hands) is not present in this one. Actually, this results in an interesting ambiguity; the murder victim who supplies the hands is not identified; though it is speculated that he may have been a murderer, there is no confirmation of this. In fact, the movie does play with some interesting ideas; for example, it remains somewhat ambiguous on the subject of the moral questionability of transplants, and one senses that there is some intelligence at work here. The movie also has a strong opening, and a nice final scene (though the replacement of “The End” with the phrase “The Past is the Prologue” does leave me scratching my head). However, the movie has some major problems. The acting is horribly uneven, and the dialogue is painfully overwritten; instead of talking with each other, the characters make speeches at each other and every idea is regurgitated up again and again ad nauseum. Still, I can’t help but like it a little; each of the versions of the Orlac story have gone in different directions, and it’s fascinating to compare them.


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