FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jun 20, 2024

Chilling Classics Cthursday: THE DEVIL'S HAND (1961)

Got a li'l treat this week with The Devil's Hand, a film that would be at home as the superior half of a drive-in double feature with another Chilling Classic, I Eat Your Skin. The two share a kind of early 60s feel, although The Devil's Hand keeps any beach blanket vibes contained to its surf tune-flavored opening credits.

One thing I really appreciated about this film is that it's a lean 71 minutes and it wastes no time before it gets to the goods. There's no fat on this baby, no useless scenes full of, like, character development, it's just boom-boom-boom laying it all out there. 

Rick and Donna (Robert Alda--father of Alan!--and Ariadna Welter--excuse me, how cool is the name "Ariadna") are engaged to be married, but Rick's been having dreams about a sultry blonde in a diaphanous gown...and the dreams have got him all stirred up.

One day Rick spies a doll that looks just like the dream woman in the window of a shop--and hey, there's also a doll that looks like Donna in the shop. What gives? 

I'll tell ya what gives: this is no ordinary doll shop. It's a doll shop by day, but by...well, also by day but sometimes by night, it's home to a cult that conducts their ceremonies and sacrifices and the such in the basement, all in service to The Great Gamba, Highest Executioner Supreme, Devil-God of Evil. (But you can just call him Gamba.)

One contrived doll delivery later, Rick meets Bianca (Linda Christian), literally the woman from his dreams. Again, The Devil's Hand eschews any coyness around what's what with all of this, as Bianca tells Rick Hey, I'm in a Satanic-adjacent cult, I used mental projection to lure you to me, I want your bod, but you have to convert to the cult before we can Do It.

Rick asks no questions, says Absolutely!, and promptly ghosts Donna, who oh by the way is laid up in the hospital after a voodoo attack from the cult's high priest. This sounds like some terrible behavior from Rick, and it is. Donna's great! And she's in the hospital! But on the other hand--the devil's hand, you might say--Bianca is a sultry babe who can traverse the planes and engages in witchcraft. Donna never stood a chance.

FUN FACT BREAK: Ariadna Welter was the younger sister of Linda Christian, and her acting career was largely based in their native Mexico. Christian, however, was persuaded to abandon her dreams of becoming a doctor (yay?) and give Hollywood a shot by none other than Errol Flynn, who also gave her the "Christian" surname after his performance as Fletcher Christian in a production of Mutiny on the Bounty.

Christian went on to marry Tyrone Power and would later gain a bit of infamy with a 1957 photograph dubbed "The Kiss of Death," wherein she was snapped kissing a race car driver during a pit stop. Moments later a tire blew, he crashed the car, and several people (including the driver) died. Hmm, I guess that's not really a "fun" fact, but you know what I mean.

The old Hollywood connections are some of the best things about these Chilling Classics, I tells ya.

Anyway, things proceed apace in The Devil's Hand. The cult engages in a few sacrifices, lots of jamming out to bongo beats, and the accruement of wealth and power. Rick remains into Bianca, telling her "If I thought I'd lose you, I'd kill you!" which...well, I guess a worshipper of Gamba doesn't see that as a red flag, so who am I to judge?

Rick's got a Robert Mitchum-lite kind of way about him, but otherwise I'm not sure why Bianca found him so alluring that she hopped on the metaphysical highway to chase him, but again, who am I to judge?

The Devil's Hand is worth 71 minutes of your time if you're in the mood for some 50s-feeling early-60s cult action. It's one of the first films released by Crown International Pictures, producers and distributors of some of the finest B-movie dreck (I say that in a loving way) you'll find, such as perennial Final Girl favorites Zoltan: Hound of Dracula and Click: The Calendar Girl Killer

No, The Devil's Hand doesn't have a colon in its title like Zoltan and Click do. But you'll never catch me hating on a movie where there's a business called "Amalgamated Industries" and the sinister cult has a wall lined with dollies that look just like its members. 

Never mind the mental projectionist sultry blonde, getting a doll carved in my likeness is reason enough for me to sign up. All hail The Great Gamba, Highest Executioner Supreme, Devil-God of Evil!


Riccardo said...

Thanks, I did find this supernatural melodramatic soap opera fun (and easily available on YouTube in good quality). The cult reminded me a bit of the (much less effective) suburban "evil" coven from the Canadian Dark Shadows knock-off Strange Paradise, with their indoctrinations and love triangles. But they mostly just get together, talk about evil and, I dunno, think they're cool. At least this one came with live music and stock tips.

I really only know Robert Alda from his later gray-haired TV appearances -- like as Mrs. Garrett's suave ex-husband on The Facts of Life -- where he seemed ... much taller? And I think the "distinguished" look really worked for him better than whatever's going on here. He tended to get those "distinguished gentleman" parts frequently from what I recall.

Someone on the Classic Horror Film Board pointed out that the seating arrangement of the cult implies that they're couples which could infer that the (male) spy and his (male) sponsor are also a couple. The sponsor was played by Bruno VeSota who I recently found out has quite a following among fans of grade-Z fare, appearing in such films as Attack of the Giant Leeches and The Wasp Woman, and directing Invasion of the Star Creatures and The Brain Eaters. He does do a pretty good stunt fall into pillows here.

I also didn't notice until I read elsewhere that the cult leader also played Commissioner Gordon on the 1960s Batman TV show. I guess I see it now (though I really haven't seen all that much 1960s Batman).

Stacie Ponder said...

Holy moly your comment is a treasure trove!

I agree with the spy-sponsor couple and I CAN'T BELIEVE I DIDN'T CLOCK IT. I think I was too dazzled by the racial diversity amongst the couples!

I love all movie cults, Satanic or Satanic-adjacent. But suburban is best. (I'll toss Rosemary's Baby into that pile even though technically they're urban.) Give me the witches of Bay Cove(n) or whatever having a meeting after they run some quick errands, that's the vibe I want.

Richard said...

Oooo, this is definitely going on the list. Last year we ran Arrow's "cold war horror" box set that includes delicious plums like Zombies of Mora Tau. It reawakened my love for exactly this period and exactly this cheapness.