The Crawling Hand

11/29/2019 06:30

Film: The Crawling Hand

Year: 1963

Director: Herbert L. Strock

Writer: Bill Idelson and Herbert L. Strock

Starring: Peter Breck, Kent Taylor and Rod Lauren



This was a film that I actually never heard of. It was listed as a film to check out in a horror movie encyclopedia that I’m working through. I found it interesting that this is from the 60’s, just missing out on the 1950’s horror/sci-fi boom that happened. The synopsis is the hand of a dead astronaut comes crawling back from the grave to strangle the living.

We start this seeing an astronaut as he looks out of the window. This is how it gives us the credits for this film. We then shift to the Earth where Steve Curan (Peter Breck) looks stressed. He is in charge of a mission where they put a man on the moon and they’re trying to bring him home. The problem is that they lose contact on the way back and that’s where we currently are. They have a countdown until the oxygen runs out as well.

He then meets with Dr. Max Weitzberg (Kent Taylor) as they try to figure out what could be happening. That is when they hear the astronaut calling out for help. They turn on a monitor and his face appears. The skin is all white and dark circles around his eyes. He is begging them to blow up the ship. They’re reluctantly, but relent.

We then shift to a small town in California. We’re at a little soda shop where we see Donna (Allison Hayes) and her friend Marta Farnstrom (Sirry Steffan). As they’re chatting, the owner (Syd Saylor) states that they’re all going to die the following day. There was a large fireball that fell from the sky, but the two young women laugh it off. Paul Lawrence (Rod Lauren) then shows up. He is seeing Marta and they’re going to go swimming. Before they can, they stop by the place she is staying. Her grandfather is Prof. Farnstrom (Edward Wermel). He’s Paul’s teacher and through interactions, we learn that Paul is a lone wolf and keeps to himself.

The couple goes off to the beach and goes swimming. They get a scare when they find a severed arm of an astronaut in the sand. Paul can’t stop thinking about it and goes back to collect it later that night. Things go dark though when the arm frees itself from the shower curtain Paul collected it in. It then attacks Mrs. Hotchkiss (Arline Judge), the owner of the place he is staying. Paul calls the sheriff, Townsend (Alan Hale Jr.). He knows there’s something not quite right and thinks Paul could be involved. It takes a turn when they learn who the fingerprints found at the scene belong to. Paul has a change come over him as well.

Now I can say, I came in knowing that this was going to be cheesy as I was trying to find a copy of this to watch and the most popular was a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version. Despite this, I still try to give films like this a chance to find whatever I can positive from it. I love sci-fi and space in general as both are just something that amazes me. For fiction it is interesting to see what people come up with and space, because we know a lot and yet there’s still so much that we don’t know about it as well.

I do have some issues here though with some of the things that are presented. The first thing is that if they blew up the ship, then there’s no way this arm could have made it to Earth. It would have burned up in the ship or would have burned up in the atmosphere. I can ignore this though as during this era that might not completely realized. I did like that Dr. Weitzberg introduces to Steve that a rat they sent up was different when it came back. The radiation in space changed it. That then explains why this arm is trying to kill like it does. The issue though is that this just isn’t plausible. I’m assuming in the rat, the radiation changed something in the brain, so this arm wouldn’t be able to do things it does. Having it move isn’t the issue, but the motives.

The last thing I really want to cover is that Paul is altered as well. This I don’t mind, but what they should have done is have a better reason why he’s acting different. Being choked out to change him doesn’t make sense. I also don’t like what happens with him in the end either.

That takes me to the pacing, which is fine. The film comes in running about 89 minutes and it never really drags. I think the problem really is with the writing because I don’t really care where we are going since I can’t buy into what they’re trying to sell me. The ending doesn’t work for me and just feels like they took the easy happy route. If they could have made a more plausible story with say another subplot, I think there are some interesting possibilities.

To the acting of this film, I think it is fine for a movie like this. Breck does show some emotions and I do get that feeling he’s frustrated this mission isn’t working. He also is bothered when he learns what is happening in California. Taylor plays well off him as the scientist for the movie. Lauren is also solid in the role he plays. The issue I see is that he comes off quiet and brooding so I didn’t see much when he becomes ‘evil’. I was fine to see Hale in this, as I know him from Gillian’s Island. Steffan is quite attractive and seeing her in a bikini was nice and Hayes was pretty good looking too. It is funny that we have a ‘Crazy Ralph’ character long before Friday the 13th with Saylor. He and the rest of the cast rounded out the movie for what was needed. I do have to point out as a goof, I could see Judge breathing when she was supposed to be dead and she blinks at one point as well.

As for the effects, they’re really aren’t much. The offices and scientific supplies look real enough. They do really well in hiding using a fake arm by having it come from out of the frame. The fake arm also looks fine as well. The make up of Paul when he turns is basic, but nothing too impressive. I would have to say that the film is shot just fine as well.

Now with that said, this isn’t a good movie. You can really see that they didn’t have much in the way of budget. There’s a good concept there, but I think that what they decided to do doesn’t work. I would say that the runtime is good, but I really just don’t care as I can’t really buy into what they’re selling and the ending isn’t very good either. The acting is fine, but there’s no one really stands out. Much in the same way, there’s not really anything in the way of effects, but they were practical and look fine. The soundtrack really didn’t stand out to me aside from them using the ‘The Bird’s the Word’ by The Rivingtons. This film is really not very good. It is boring and there are much better sci-fi horror films out there to check out.


My Rating: 3.5 out of 10