The Crawling Hand (1963)

Article #1673 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-13-2005
Posting Date: 3-12-2006
Directed by Herbert L. Strock
Featuring Peter Breck, Kent Taylor, Rod Lauren

When a space mission is aborted at the insistence of the astronaut, the wreckage is strewn across a beach near a small California town. A young student finds the dismembered arm of the astronaut and takes it home for research, not knowing that the arm has a life of its own.

This movie has a poor reputation, and let’s face it; there’s something inherently silly about the concept of a hand crawling around and strangling people. Somehow, though, I just don’t have any real disdain for this movie; it doesn’t quite deserve its camp reputation as far as I’m concerned. It does have some problems; some of the comic relief is lame, the special effects are somewhat weak (though they were probably the best they could do for the budget), and the ending scene is pretty corny. Nonetheless, I think the script actually does an interesting job with the story, the acting is solid, the direction is efficient, and some of the camerawork is quite clever. It also finds the right balance between seriousness and light-heartedness. I also enjoy seeing some familiar faces in the cast, such as Kent Taylor, Alan Hale Jr., and Allison Hayes (who is sadly wasted in a dull role). Perhaps the biggest surprise was finding out that the Soda Shop owner was none other than Syd Saylor, a comic actor who I’ve never appreciated, but who I quite like here. In fact, he takes part in the best scene of the movie; the sequence where the killer teenager assaults the old man in the soda shop while the jukebox blares out “The Bird’s the Word” is a model of lighting, sound and editing, and is actually one of the most memorable scenes in a horror/science fiction film from the period. Not for nothing does the sole credit at the end of the movie go to the Rivingtons.

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