Title: The Hand (1981)
Director/Writer: Oliver Stone (based on the novel by Marc Brandell)
Cast: Michael Caine
I was under the impression (as Im sure many of you are) that Oliver Stone's The Hand was Oliver Stone’s first feature film. It wasnt. Before making The Hand, he had directed yet another horror film about a horror writer who's stories come to life entitled Seizure. He'd also directed another Vietnam themed film called Last Year in Vietman, which was truly his first film ever. Unfortunately, neither of those films is available on DVD. But by this time, Oliver Stone was more of a writer. A writer who'd written a successful and award winning screenplay called Midnight Express (1978). But apparently his thirst for directing films never died. And as is the case with many directors who are just starting out in the business of making movies, he went with making horror films. I have to admit, I was extremely curious to see Oliver Stone handling a horror film since the guy is primarily known for making films dealing with political/social issues. But hey, Kubrick did a horror film. Heck, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg all took at stab at horror as well. And strange as it is to say it, Oliver Stone did a couple of horror films as well. I find it kind of odd because horror is not the first word that comes to mind when you think of an Oliver Stone film, he tends to focus more on real life terrors then the kind of things we see in most horror films. But still, I was intrigued. How did The Hand turn out?
Stan Winston handled the special effects of the disembodied hand moving about
The Hand is about a cartoonist named Jonathan Lansdale. He has a very successful cartoon strip on various news papers around the world. He is very full of himself, he has a beautiful house, a daughter, a beautiful wife who by the way is bored with their relationship. She wants a breath of fresh air in her life, basically, she wants to go out on her own in the world and be her own person, independent of her husband which of course is something completely understandable. Lansdale on the other hand does not take these news very well, in fact, he takes it as if his wife is trying to get rid of him. As if she doesn’t love him anymore. In the middle of the discussion (which they are having while driving a car) the wife doesn’t see a truck coming along and she swerves the wrong way and Lansdale’s hand gets chopped off by the passing car! Unfortunately, that was his drawing hand! So now he can no longer draw his comic strip! Basically, he has been stripped of his talent! Of what he uses to pay the bills! What’s Lansdale to do now?
Stone going over a scene with Caine and the child actress who played his daughter
I expect good things from Oliver Stone every time I go into one of his films. Every now and then we get the odd film (like U-Turn) but most of the time, he doesn’t disappoint, which is why I went in with a positive attitude towards this film. But with a title like “The Hand” one tends to think this will be a silly horror film about a hand that kills, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Images of Bruce Campbell battling his own hand in Evil Dead II will no doubt pop to mind. But The Hand is actually an extremely satisfying psychological thriller. The themes at the core of the film are very interesting ones, and perhaps not exactly the kind of themes we’d expect from a horror film. But there they are. Essentially, the film deals with the power struggle between men and women in relationships.
Should men dominate women’s lives and treat them like their own personal slaves? Should a woman simply be a house wife and nothing else? I found it very interesting that the filmmakers chose the theme of “the hand” to tell this kind of story because the hand is often times a symbol of power, of control. When we hold something in our grasp, we tend to think of the thing as ours, and that’s basically how Lansdale saw his wife on this film. As a pretty object that he could control, a beautiful thing he could look at after long hours of work. What we have on this film is a character that is full of himself; he thinks life revolves around him and his work, and his wife is simply around for the ride. But what happens when the wife wants to take her own ride?
Electro schock therapy will do strange things to a mans hair
It’s interesting that I decided to watch this film and Sam Mendes’s Revolutionary Road (2008) one after another because they both deal with the exact same subject matter. Women who are dissatisfied and bored with their role as housewife. They want to live their lives and be free as opposed to staying home, and keeping everything nice and tidy for her hubby. Pampering the male; doing everything for him. Same as Revolutionary Road, this movie criticizes that type of life style and essentially says: if you are not happy that way, then don’t be that way! If that is not what you want, then do make your life into that. Go out there and live your life. I am not against the idea of a housewife, I mean, there are people who are happy living that way. Once they get there, they are happy to take care of the house hold while the husband is in charge of bringing home the bacon so to speak. I mean, some people are happy with that life. But others simply aren’t, other women want more out of life then that, and unfortunately they discover it once they are already living it. In my opinion we should all be free to choose the path our lives go, including women. And the man who can’t understand that, well, he is simply wrong. We all have the right to live our lives and do as we please with it. If we want to see more, then it’s entirely within our rights to do so.
I have to say that The Hand is one of Oliver Stone’s most underrated films. It’s extremely well shot (as are most of Oliver Stone’s films) and actually manages to capture a dreadful atmosphere in some areas. Especially when Lansdale decides to live isolated in a Cabin in the middle of nowhere. Speaking of isolation, this movie has a lot in common with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shinning (1980) which came out just one year before The Hand, Oliver Stone himself compares his film with Kubrick’s during the films audio commentary which I urge any of you out there to listen to if your interested in hearing how the mind of one of our generations greatest filmmakers works. We have a crazy dad, starting to hate his life. He has a daughter, scares his wife with his violent outbursts and ends up isolated in the middle of nowhere, going completely bonkers. I myself couldn’t help and think of Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall while watching The Hand.
Kudo’s go out to Michael Caine who plays his character with amazing intensity and insanity. Caine has said that he simply made this movie so he could give a down payment for his new home, or something along those lines, but you’d never know it by watching this movie! To me it was an excellent performance from Caine. It didn’t seem to me like he was phoning this performance in at all. He plays a possessive man, who doesn’t know how to deal with the fact that you cannot control women like a puppet, women are meant to be free, same as everyone. He learns this on various occasions during the film, and on both occasions he reacts violently. Where is the horror in this film you say? Well, the horror comes when Lansdale looses his hand! They try to recover it after the accident, but the hand is simply nowhere to be seen! Is Lansdale’s hand mysteriously possessed by some supernatural force that motivates it to kill people? Not gonna say anymore because I don’t want to spoil it for you guys who haven’t seen it. I was surprised by this film and would definitely recommend it to any fan of Oliver Stone films, and to fans of a good suspense, a good thriller, cause this one my friends is a very well crafted one.
Rating: 5 out of 5