Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Hands of a Stranger' is a predictable thriller

SPECIAL NOTICE: When I watched this film and wrote this review in January of 2007, I was on a variety of pain meds due to an accident and subsequent surgery. I've since misplaced my copy of this film, so I have been unable to verify if I was too kind or too harsh on it. Anyone care to set the record straight if I missed the mark?

Hands of a Stranger (1962)
Starring: Paul Lukather, James Stapleton, Joan Harvey, Larry Haddon and Irish McCalla
Director: Newt Arnold
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Vernon Paris (Stapleton) is a brilliant young pianist who is maimed in an accident following the concert that was to be his final stepping stone to classical music stardom. After finding himself unable to save the hands, an unethical surgeon (Lukather) decides to use his experimental transplant technique to graft the hands of an unidentified corpse onto the young man. The operation is a success… but things end far from happily.

“Hands of a Stranger” shares many elements in common with the 1935 chiller “Mad Love," but it is completely devoid of the half-asked metaphysical questions that pop up in its predecessor. The source of the trouble here is never in doubt—it’s a combination of impatience and outright nuttiness on the part of the pianist.

Although thoroughly predictable, populated by nothing but stock characters being portrayed by actors of average talent, and very much full of both Ham and Cheese on multiple occasions, “Hands of a Stranger” nonetheless entertains, because the viewer becomes interested in where Vernon’s madness will take him next. The slow build from melodrama to horror movie is also nicely and smoothly executed, and the film’s pacing and short running time shows that the director at its helm knew how not to outstay his welcome—there’s not a stitch of padding to be found, anywhere.

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