The Beast with Five Fingers
Film: The Beast with Five Fingers
Director: Robert Florey
Writer: Curt Siodmak
Starring: Robert Alda, Andrea King and Peter Lorre
This film begins telling us that we are in a small village in Italy and that this happened fifty years ago. We have an American couple that sits down at a café where they meet Robert Alda. Alda tells them he is an antiques dealer, but he is a really a conman. He persuades them to buy something that is really not worth it. He is then confronted by the local policeman, played by J. Carrol Naish.
Alda then goes to meet a rich man. This man is played by Victor Francen. He is an accomplished piano player, but he has lost the ability to use his right side and he is wheelchair bound. He does play beautifully with only one hand. Sitting with him is his nurse, played by Andrea King, who Francen is very fond of. Francen speaks with them both and tells them that they are going to have dinner together.
Also invited to this dinner is a man that is living in this house as well, he’s played by Peter Lorre. Lorre is very interested in the occult and astrology. Francen happens to have a lot of books on the subjects and allows Lorre to do his research here. King tells Lorre that she will be leaving soon and this makes Lorre panic. He wants to be able to continue his research and feels without King, he will have to take care of Francen. She tries to convince him otherwise.
These four sit down for dinner and joined by an attorney, played by David Hoffman. The reason he is there is that Francen decides to have a new will and uses Lorre and Alda has his two witnesses. Francen goes out of his way to ensure that they all know he is of sound mind before they sign as well. After dinner, it turns out that King and Alda have feelings for each other. Alda is actually an accomplished pianist himself and wrote the song that Francen is playing. Alda wants King to get away, but she wants to be with him. Lorre overhears all of this.
Francen begins to call for King, but she can’t hear him. Lorre does and he tells him about what King is doing. This infuriates Francen to the point that he tries to kill Lorre by choking him to death. King comes in and stops it, but not before Francen tells her that he wants Lorre gone.
Francen is out of it for most of the night, but when he comes to, King is gone. Francen goes to find her and ends up falling down the stairs. He dies from this.
The mourning doesn’t last long when his last two living relatives arrive to gain what they feel is rightfully theirs. There is a father, Charles Dingle and his son, John Alvin. They learn that the new will left everything to King. Dingle and Alvin are irate and want to challenge this will. Hoffman agrees to help them for a fee.
That night there is a light in the tomb of Francen. As Alda goes to investigate, it goes out. Hoffman is drafting up a letter to petition the court, but he is attacked by a hand.
Naish is called in to investigate and he finds fingerprints, but they do not match any of theirs. The piano begins to play by itself. Lorre is accused as well as King, but neither of them can play as well as it is being done. They also discover that Francen’s hand is missing from his tomb.
Is it Francen’s hand that did the murder and then attacked Alvin? Or is it someone in the house who is doing the attacks? Is this supernatural or someone using the circumstances to their advantage? Or has someone lost their grip with reality?
I have to say that the acting for this film is good, for the most part. Francen doesn’t have much of a role as he dies pretty early on and he spends most of it trying to convince us that he is not crazy. I do feel King overacted a bit. The real star for me though was Lorre. His character’s change was the best job of the film. Naish isn’t bad as a police officer as well as the comic relief. The effects aren’t bad for the time period either. I do have to say that the best part of the story was the twist at the end. I didn’t expect it to go that way and I thought it was good.
My biggest issue with this film was that it is kind of boring. Not a lot happens and I feel the acting wasn’t good enough to drive the story. I did not like Alda and I thought his character was way overdone. I liked him as the conman, but when they tried to convince me that he is a great concert pianist and music writer, I didn’t see it. Dingle and Alvin don’t bring much for me either. I felt the film meandered until the twist and then it drew my interest.
With that said, if you like 1940s horror films, then I would recommend giving this one a viewing. There is some good acting and some not so good acting. The story is a little bit boring until the twist and then I found it interesting. The effects aren’t all that bad and trying to determine if the hand is killing on its own or if someone is using this to their advantage was my favorite part. This is not the best horror film from the era, but still pretty enjoyable. I will warn you though that this film is in black and white.
My Rating: 6 out of 10