The Hand (1981):

The instability of form -- of the body housing the ideas -- is essential to Oliver Stone's bludgeoning approach, and the body here, his sophomore directorial effort, is too stable, despite the protagonist's boiling anxieties. A lobster dish clenches up into a fist at a dinner meeting, and a shower handle sprouts digits -- hallucinations from cartoonist Michael Caine, still suffering from having his (drawing) hand cut off at a car crash, arterial spray and all. Or are they? Caine meets the first stirs of impotence at home, and the severed limb, left decomposing in a field full of bugs, starts crawlin' and clutchin'. Soon, the hand has graduated from discarded appendage to id figure, doing its master's unconscious bidding; straying wife Andrea Marcovicci's throat is the one most in danger, though flirty college student Annie McEnroe and randy redneck teacher Bruce McGill also get their necks massaged. The points of reference run back to The Hands of Orlac and The Beast with Five Fingers, even The Exterminating Angel, though the Bu˝uel work Stone may had have in mind for the character's glowering paranoia is El. His assertion (thus, his masculinity) undermined both at home and work, Caine's breakdown leaves a trunk load of bodies and signals a patriarchy indictment along the lines of the 70's subversive castrating-rampages of De Palma or Cohen, which possibly accounts for the picture's horror-trash status even to this day. The stolid camera could use some of the spilling-over hysteria of Seizure, Stone's debut; still, the epilogue drops in Viveca Lindfors to psychoanalyze Caine's surplus rage (and summarize the movie's themes) only to end up on the checkered floor, blood spreading as the malefic Walter Mitty takes over (in freeze frame, natch). With Mara Hobel, and Rosemary Murphy.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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