Hand of Death (1962)

‘Doctor, do you realise that this is a weapon so powerful that it could conceivably banish nuclear warfare?’Hand_of_Death_(1962)

Research scientist John Agar is trying to combine a hypnotic drug with nerve gas at his remote desert laboratory. Working alone over a weekend, he has an accident and becomes exposed to a combination of rare elements and starts to turn into a cross between a tanning bed casualty and a rock monster.

Generic low-budget science fiction potboiler that starts promisingly enough but runs out of story almost as quickly. At the halfway point, Agar disappears behind the monster makeup and is not seen again. All the creature can do is grunt so even his voice is not used. His romantic prospects with Paula Raymond (‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)) were looking a little shaky anyway and it turns out that she’s not turned on by the psychotic mutant look. This is where the movie disappears into a slow, suffocating tedium that is barely broken by the underwhelming face-off at the climax, by which time most of the audience will be sleeping anyway.

The shoot for the new Autumn catalogue was not going as well as expected...

The shoot for the new Autumn catalogue was not going as well as expected…

Director of Photography Floyd Crosby has shot ‘High Noon’ (1952) but the McCarthy blacklist had placed him on the margins of the industry. Producer Roger Corman picked him up to work on his ‘Poe’ series though, which was a big part of the reason why they transcended their low budget origins. Ruth Terry was a big singing star in the 1930s and was once under exclusive contract to Howard Hughes. Here she choses to close out her career with a split second cameo as ‘Women With Packages’. Unless she decides to come out of retirement at the age of 93 of course!

This film was thought lost for over 40 years so it’s good that it’s available now and there’s a lot of theremin on the soundtrack, which is as haunting ever. Just a shame that the rest of the end product is so unremarkable.

If there’s a message here, I think it’s this: if you choose to work weekends, you get what you deserve!

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