Cinelinx gets the bird from The Beast with Five Fingers, new on DVD from Warner Archive!
This Warner Archive release is a Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) DVD. It is made to be played in "play only" DVD devices, and may not play in some DVD recorders or PC drives. This DVD, however, played with no problems in the Toshiba DVD recorder used for this review. This title is available directly from WBShop.com by clicking here.
The severed hand of a dead piano virtuoso (Victor Francen) comes back to life and seeks to kill all within its grasp. Also stars Robert Alda, Andrea King, and Peter Lorre.
Directed by Robert Florey.
The Beast with Five Fingers is an atmospheric thriller that tries awfully hard to convince you that an old man’s severed hand is the most frightful thing you can imagine. It doesn’t quite manage to do that, but this 1946 chiller has two big things going for it: very good special effects and the incomparable Peter Lorre.
The film is set in Italy, where grumpy piano virtuoso Frances Ingram (Victor Francen) passes away, leaving his vast castle estate to his caretaker Julie (Andrea King). Ingram’s relatives don’t care much for being left out of the will, and they, along with Ingram’s assistant Hilary (Peter Lorre), an American named Bruce (Robert Alda, Alan’s father), and other assorted characters all take up residence in the castle while the will is contested.
Of course, things get weird quick, and people start dropping dead from choking. When it is discovered that Ingram’s hand is missing from his body and someone is playing the castle’s piano in the middle of the night, Police Investigator Castanio (J. Carrol Naish) comes to find the castle, and the hunt for the killer begins.
The first hour of the film borders on the dull, with few scares to be found. The hand is finally revealed in the final 30 minutes of the film, and though it isn’t particularly horrifying, the special effects are often quite good. In a few instances, though, the effects fall short: in one shot, you can easily see the strings pulling a fake hand around. Still, it’s fun to essentially see Thing from the Addams Family go crazy on the film’s disposable characters.
The film works, however, not due to the hand, but because of Peter Lorre. As he begins descending into madness when the hand of his friend goes on a rampage, his performance gives the film the creepiness it needs. It leads up to a final revelation, which you will find is either clever, or a silly cop-out. I found it undermined the story it spent the whole film building up.
Strangely, even though the bodies pile up by film’s end, the movie ends with a joke, with a character breaking through the “fourth wall” and talking to the audience. It’s a strange ending, and one can only surmise Warner Brothers didn’t want to send audiences away terrified.
While The Beast with Five Fingers isn’t a classic horror film, it entertains enough to be a worthy distraction. Keep your expectations low, enjoy Peter Lorre’s performance, and you’ll be happy.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer produces a slightly soft image, with visible artifacting, and the film print used includes minor debris throughout. It isn’t terrible, but it is hardly a clean print. The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix from the original mono soundtrack, which features pops and hisses throughout, but has enough clarity that the quality isn’t too bad.
The original theatrical trailer is included.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR NETFLIX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall grade: 5.5
The Beast with Five Fingers is worthy of watching because of Peter Lorre, and a number of decent effects shots. It starts very slow, and while it picks up later on, the ending is a huge letdown. It’s worth a watch, just for Peter Lorre, but that’s about it.
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 88 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Special features: Theatrical trailer
Label: Warner Archive