1981 rules! Of course, you should all know that by now as I've mentioned it time and time again. Yes, that magical year is the one that brought us this month's Film Club pick, Oliver Stone's The Hand. Equal parts psychological thriller an straight-up grisly horror flick, The Hand leaves us all asking but one simple question: Gawd, is there anything 1981 can't do?
Michael Caine stars as Jon Lansdale, a comic strip artist going through some tough times with his 'cuckoo for yoga puffs' wife Anne (Andrea Marcovicci). Anne wants to move to New York, Jon wants to stay put, Anne decides she's going to go anyway and take their daughter Lizzie (Mara Hobel) with her as well, yet she still expects Jon to support them. Anne, you see, is a bit of a jerk.
Unfortunately for Jon, she decides to be at her jerkiest while she's driving. Her antics put her on the wrong side of the road at the very wrong time; there's a car accident that's so grimace inducing that I...well, I grimaced and slapped my hand over my mouth. My roommate, however, screamed and made me rewind it three times. Now that's hardcore!
Jon loses his right hand in the accident- his right hand, his drawing hand...his moneymaker. Though he's fitted with a super-sweet robot-looking metal hand, it doesn't give Jon enough control to work a brush properly and he can't continue working on his strip. You may be surprised to find out that this is a bit devastating to Jon. As someone who draws for a living, I could certainly sympathize with his plight. I can't imagine losing my right hand- or rather, I can imagine it and I don't like the results. I tell ya, the only thing preventing me from getting in barroom brawls like every weekend is my fear of breaking my hand and being unable to work. I suppose I could just roundhouse kick everybody, but that's not nearly as much fun as punching someone and sending them flying through those swinging saloon doors. Not that I've ever done it, but it does look cool- though not as cool as when you toss someone and they go sliding down the bar on their belly, shattering beer steins as they go. Then the prostitutes are all like "Oh my!" and they lift their ruffled skirts and scurry away; the piano player in the stripey shirt and the little hat keeps right on playing as if nothing has happened, and the drunk guy at the bar who looks like an old(er)-timey Walter Matthau lifts his drink right as the guy on the bar slides by so he doesn't lose a precious drop of his ripple.
Wait, what was I talking about? Umm...
Oh, yeah- so Jon gets despondent. Everything begins to go really really wrong for him- he loses his comic strip, his wife, his friend, his townie girlfriend...and then he totally loses them all permanently when his severed hand appears and makes with the squeeze-squeeze. Gee, everyone who makes Jon angry ends up on the receiving end of a little five-finger justice. What in the world is going on? Is Jon's hand really scuttling about, doing his dirty work? Or has Jon himself gone mad and he's projecting? Has Jon gone mad because he's slowly morphing into Gene Wilder, or is Jon slowly morphing into Gene Wilder because he's gone mad?
There's a good chance that The Hand would be an absolutely ludicrous film were it not for Michael Caine and Oliver Stone. However, Caine puts in a great performance- one not nearly as odd and over-the-top as the one in, say, The Swarm- and Stone approaches the material as a character study of a man pushed to the brink. He doesn't skimp on the horror, though, and every time the eeeeevil hand gets busy, it's extremely violent and bloody...and not as laughable as you might expect.
Moment to look for: Stone himself shows up in an alleyway, and gives Jon the time-honored Hobo's One-Stump Salute.
The Hand isn't what I expected- what I expected was kooky, silly fun. It is kooky, silly fun, I suppose, but in a very serious way. I couldn't help but imagine what a remake of this film would be like; I doubt there would be as much time spent with the characters, building an actual story. Here, the "action", so to speak, is a long-time coming. I think in an updated version the hand would get down to business much quicker. There'd also be a scene with some guy and some girl making out...she isn't ready to go "all the way" and so the dude would take off in a huff. After she falls asleep, the hand would crawl under her shirt and she'd be all "Jeff, I told you I didn't want to. Jeff, stop it. Jeff...?" and then she'd see the severed hand grabbing her boob and she'd be like "Ahhh!" and then the hand would kill her.
What? I'm not a perv- you know that would happen.
Give it up for The Film Club Coolies! Post 'em if you got 'em, and tell me what you think!
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