Friday, 4 September 2015

THE CURSE OF THE STONE HAND











d. Jerry Warren (1964)

The Curse Of The Stone Hand only really makes sense if you know the story behind the production, so here it is. Producer Jerry Warren, a man who revelled in his reputation as a hack, grew tired of the expensive and time consuming process of making his own films, so took to buying foreign productions, hacking them to bits and dubbing them, filming a few inserts, recording some narration and putting them out with a sensational new title. It's not art, baby, but it is most definitely commerce.

This film is made up of two other movies, one from Argentina and one from Chile, and there are some new and poorly matched framing sequences making it a sort of poor man's portmanteau, or poormanteau as I have now decided it must be called. 

The first story looks like it might have been quite good in its original form, an occasionally stylish tale of a man who joins a gambling club where the price of membership is to kill or be killed, depending on the turn of a card. The editing is so choppy to render it almost unintelligible, but you are just able to get the gist. It doesn't help that Warren compulsively cuts any scenes that feature more than a couple of lines of dialogue (too hard to dub) and clearly has no idea that Durham is not on the outskirts of London. It's a frustrating experience.

The second story is completely incomprehensible, but is something about a depressive nobleman and the terrible way he treats his family. Again, it looks like it was probably quite well crafted at one time but, apparently cut by a third, the edited version provides little more than movement and sound. There is endless, meaningless narration and new clips of old John Carradine to pad out the running time (and give Warren a directing credit) but none of it helps. The ending, a new sequence, posits the idea that the nobleman locks himself in a basement and paints a series of self-portraits as he dies. It's ridiculous, but his mouldering skeleton provides a minor shock to close on.

So, a terrible film, but a fascinating concept. Warren was clearly some sort of monster but, luckily, he was in the film industry, one of the few professions where that really isn't a problem. It's a shame in many ways, as, every now and again, there are glimpses of a much better film waiting to be coaxed out. Oh well. As Jerry might say 'fuck it, it's only a movie''.  

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