THE HAND is the only DVD in Warner Brothers' TWISTED TERROR COLLECTION that offers an audio commentary track. Oliver Stone, who adapted a novel by Marc Brendel, provides his running thoughts on THE HAND, which was his second feature as a director (after 1974's SEIZURE) and his first for a Hollywood studio. I don't think it's a very successful film, though it does have its moments of suspense and develops themes of obsession and paranoia that run throughout Stone's later, more famous films.
1981's THE HAND is a "psychological thriller" starring Michael Caine as Jonathan Lansdale, a comic-strip artist whose career is jeopardized when he loses his drawing hand in an auto accident (re-created in an excitingly edited and brutally realistic manner by Stone and his special effects crew). Frustrated by his employers' attempt to keep the strip alive with inferior artists and by his wife Anne's (Andrea Marcovicci) lack of interest in their marriage, Jon, on the verge of cracking up, moves alone out West to teach art at a small college. There he becomes involved with a sexy student (Annie McEnroe) amid a series of murders that may or may not be the handiwork of Caine's missing hand, which was never found after the accident. Could the five-fingered fiend have a mind of its own, killing indiscriminately? Could Caine be manifesting his own inner rage in the form of the hand? Or maybe it's all a figment of his--and our--imagination?
THE HAND's strength lies in its ambivalence between Grand Guignol horror and psychological terror, not letting us know exactly what's going on until the very end. When Stone throws us another curve. Caine is excellent in the lead, registering confusion, rage, paranoia and dementia in a manner we hadn't seen before, at least not from Caine, who normally played good guys. Stone used to disclaim his early horror movies in print, often considering SALVADOR his "first movie," though he seems to have come around, judging from his commentary track. As with any of a director's early work, Stone finds faults here and there, but seems to overall be quite fond of THE HAND. He originally filmed it with less overt horror scenes than are in it now, the product of studio-ordered reshoots he willingly complied with. I think THE HAND would work better with either more straight horror or less, but the fence-walking approach tends to water down the suspense, I think.
THE HAND is not a bad picture, but a frustratingly obtuse one. I recommend it for Caine's performance and for the thrilling stunt sequence.