Friday, 17 October 2014

THE DEVIL'S HAND












d. William J. Hole, Junior (1961)

Robert Alda plays Rick Turner, a somewhat feckless electronics engineer with a penchant for panelled cardigans and lots and lots of pomade. Rick is disturbed by dreams of a beautiful, exotic woman, something that his less beautiful and less exotic fiancée is surprisingly sanguine about.

The story gets interesting when it is revealed that the beautiful dream woman is actually astrally projecting herself into Rick’s life by talking to a doll that has his face. It’s all part of the recruitment process for a cult run by creepy doll maker Neil Hamilton (perhaps best known as genial Commissioner Gordon from the Adam West Batman series)*. The cult is ostensibly about voodoo (hence the dolls), as personified by Gamba, ‘the Devil-God of Evil’, but it’s a somewhat ramshackle group, seemingly having no real purpose outside of being a cult, i.e. they sit around on bean bags listening to bongo music and watching interpretive dance.

Every now and again someone is killed for revealing the dark secrets of the cult, i.e. that they sit around on bean bags listening to bongo music and watching interpretive dance. It’s not the greatest film in the history of cinema (there are no monkeys in it for a start) but it has momentum, its own crazy logic and occasional flashes of style, as well as ticking four of my (multitudinous) boxes: it begins with a dream sequence; it ends in a fire; there is slinky ethnic music, and the ending hints at a sequel that is never, ever, ever going to happen.

* The dolls are creepy, and so is Hamilton, so that sentence works in all sorts of ways. I particularly like the scene where the creepy creepy doll maker, surrounded by his hideous homunculi, is interrupted mid rant by a ringing telephone: 'hello', he purrs, 'doll shop'

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