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Oliver Stone
Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe, Bruce McGill, Viveca Lindfors, Rosemary Murphy, Mara Hobel
Writing Credits:
Marc Brandell (novel), Oliver Stone

It lives. It crawls. And suddenly, it kills.

A successful cartoonist loses his hand in a car wreck, and the hand eventually comes back on a murderous rampage.

Box Office:
$6.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$566.736 thousand on 183 screens.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 9/25/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Oliver Stone
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Hand: Twisted Terror Collection (1981)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2007)

Plenty of major directors started out in low-rent horror flicks, and we can lump Oliver Stone into that category. Five years before he struck Oscar gold with Platoon, Stone directed 1981’s The Hand, an oddball tale of terror.

Comic strip writer Jonathan Lansdale (Michael Caine) lives in the woods with his wife Anne (Andrea Marcovicci) and young daughter Lizzie (Mara Hobel). As they take a drive, Jonathan and Anne argue and a vehicular mishap lops off his right hand. Attempts to locate the hand prove fruitless, and Jonathan attempts to move on with his life as a one-handed dude.

But Jonathan hasn’t heard the last of that old chopped off mitt just yet! It turns out the disembodied hand has a life of its own. It returns and starts acting out desires from Jonathan’s subconscious. The movie follows the problems that develop as Jonathan’s hand takes charge.

Perhaps memories of the atrocious Piranha 2 - James Cameron’s first flick – polluted my mind, for I went into The Hand with extremely low expectations. When a director pumps out a cheap horror film as an early effort before he goes onto bigger things, that movie doesn’t tend to be memorable. I figured Hand would be totally disposable and probably pretty crummy.

To my pleasant surprise, Hand actually offers a pretty effective little piece. Oh, I can pick out a mix of flaws. For someone who won his first Oscar as a writer, Stone doesn’t provide a particularly concise narrative here. The story kind of bobs and weaves its way along and never becomes especially coherent. It also feels stretched, like it lacks the content for a feature film but tries to expand to those dimensions anyway. This can make the viewer impatient, as it takes so long to go anywhere.

Lansdale seems like an inconsistent character. He appears strangely unaffected by his affliction, and he doesn’t display any traits that let us get a bead on him. He exists mostly as a guy missing a hand; the absent mitt has more personality than he does.

Because of this, Caine fails to provide much of a performance. Jon comes across like a drip most of the time, and that’s not a trait that plays to Caine’s talents too well. Even when Jon gets angry, Caine still doesn’t quite connect with the role.

Despite these flaws, Hand still manages to succeed. It shouldn’t, and not just because of the filmmaking problems. It’s just a damned idiotic concept for a movie, one that should leave it in the dustbin of crappy horror tales.

Hand overcomes its inherent deficits, though, to create a rather creepy little piece. Maybe Stone should try horror again, as he shows an affinity for the material. He lends a psychological darkness unusual for the genre – or at least unusual for a cheap flick like this. I certainly wouldn’t have expected much depth from a movie about a hand with a mind of its own, so the way that Stone brings out a dark side makes the picture all the more effective.

I can’t call The Hand a great film, as it suffers from too many ups and downs to be a consistent success. Nonetheless, it delivers a lot of chilling sequences and maintains an off-putting presence. Those factors turn it into a winning horror tale that overcomes its cheesy roots.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Hand appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I didn’t expect much from this transfer, so I felt pleasantly surprised by this pretty good presentation.

Only a few issues affected sharpness. The occasional soft shot occurred, but those remained infrequent. Most of the movie offered nice clarity and delineation. Jagged edges and shimmering didn’t mar the picture, and edge enhancement also seemed to be absent. In terms of source flaws, a few specks and marks appeared, but these were rare. The flick usually seemed clean.

As for colors, they showed a little of the muddiness typical of the era. Nonetheless, the hues mostly came across as natural and concise, so I thought they worked well. Blacks were fairly dark and firm, while shadows seemed reasonably clear. Low-light shots didn’t excel, but they were pretty smooth. Though the mix of minor concerns dropped my grade to a “B”, I still felt pleased with the visuals.

More ups and downs greeted the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of The Hand. On the positive side, the movie boasted an active soundfield. Environmental elements formed a good sense of place, and more active scenes kicked to life well. The dramatic pieces pumped up the scare factor and enveloped the setting in an impressive manner. Music also demonstrated good stereo imaging, and the whole package created a surprisingly strong impression.

Unfortunately, some audio quality issues materialized. The biggest problem stemmed from speech, as many lines appeared brittle and crackly. They were intelligible but too rough. Music sounded reasonably warm and rich, though, and effects were pretty good. They good be a little loose, but those elements usually appeared clear and fairly natural. Without the speech concerns, I’d have given this otherwise positive mix a higher grade than a “B”, but I still thought it was effective.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the DVD includes an audio commentary from director Oliver Stone. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Stone looks at his place in Hollywood at the time and how he came onto the project, story issues and the adaptation of the source novel, cast, characters and performances, cinematography and effects, sets and locations, and a few other production issues.

I give major props to Stone for his participation in this commentary. I would’ve thought he’d prefer to pretend this flick never existed, so it’s refreshing to hear him discuss it. Stone is also usually an interesting speaker, though we don’t get his “A”-game here.

I can’t really blame Stone for that, though. Usually his commentaries look at movies that were personal to him, whereas The Hand seems more like a job than a mission. He delves into the film fairly well, but he’s not as incisive and involving as usual. Nonetheless, we learn a reasonable amount of info and get a good look at the flick. Heck, since this DVD easily could’ve been bare bones, I just think it’s cool Stone talked about The Hand at all!

While I anticipated The Hand to be nothing more than a cheap “B”-movie, I found something more. Dark and involving, the flick offers more dimensionality than expected and proves effective. The DVD also provides pleasant surprises. It comes with pretty good picture and audio as well as a moderately interesting audio commentary. There’s enough here to warrant my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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