The Devil’s Hand (1943)

THE DEVIL’S HAND (1943)
(a.k.a. LA MAIN DU DIABLE)
Article #1352 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-26-2004
Posting Date: 4-25-2004
Directed by Maurice Tourneur
Featuring Pierre Fresnay, Josseline Gael, Noel Roquevert

A one-armed stranger at an inn has a package stolen from him. He then recounts the story of how he came by the package, which contains a hand which gives its owner great powers, but dooms the owner to damnation if he doesn’t sell it for less than he bought it.

This French horror / fantasy is probably the earliest example I’ve seen of a dubbed foreign movie. However, the dubbing is excellent, not so much in getting the words to match the movements of the speaker’s mouths (you can tell it’s dubbed), but in the acting abilities of the British actors who performed the dubbing. The dubbing voices are even credited in the opening titles, and though I wasn’t familiar with most of the names, I did recall seeing the name of Valentine Dyall listed. At any rate, from an acting standpoint, this movie doesn’t suffer from its dubbing at all.

The story itself is great fun and quite effective. In some ways, it’s a very familiar story, but I love some of the twists that occur. I won’t give too much away on this point, but let’s just say there are some rather interesting temptations and loopholes open to the tormented artist who possesses the hand, and that the movie addresses one issue that I often wonder about in movies like this; to wit, if the devil is the prince of lies, how can you trust anything he says? The real truth of the situation comes out in the best scene in the movie, where the artist has a dinner with seven one-armed masked men, and discovers them to be the previous owners of the hand.

Oddly enough, this is the third movie in a week’s time that belongs to the category of French fantasies from the forties that feature the devil. Unlike either THE BEAUTY OF THE DEVIL or THE DEVIL’S ENVOYS, this one is less arty and more straightforward. All three are recommended.

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