May 26, 2011

Gunslingers and Graveyards

Curse of the Undead (1959)

If it weren't for the unambiguous title, I'd be tempted to classify Curse of the Undead as a western, albeit with strong horror elements. Certainly all the classic Western plot elements are there: a dispute over water rights; a beautiful, plucky heroine doing battle with a corrupt land baron; the heroine's hot-headed younger brother who itches to mix it up with the land baron and his hired thugs; the straight-as-an-arrow fiance who at first urges caution, but in the end must fight for what's right; a well-meaning but ineffectual sheriff trying his best to keep the peace; drunken cowboys drawing on each other in a saloon, and of course the hired gun dressed in black… who just happens to be a vampire.

While I was never a big fan of westerns as a kid (I've certainly come to appreciate them over the years), Curse grabbed my attention when it first played on local TV. It never occurred to me that you could mix monsters and six-guns, so, despite being a bit slow and talky in places, it made a bigger-than-average impression on me. It was like discovering that Little Joe on Bonanza was secretly a teen-age werewolf.

It didn't occur much to filmmakers of the era to mix the two genres-- an IMDb search for horror-westerns between 1940 and 1970 only pulls up 30 or so titles, most of them obscure, low-budget Mexican films made in the 1960s. What's left is a small, undistinguished list including z-grade fare like Teenage Monster (1958; a boy in a western town becomes a hideous killer after being irradiated by a meteor), Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966), and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (also 1966). The less said about these, the better.  Obviously, the film industry didn't see much potential in this sort of genre melding. (Although, horror-westerns seem to have come into their own in the past decade, with some very interesting-sounding titles: Legend of the Phantom Rider, 2002; The Ghosts of Edendale, 2003; Dead Birds, 2004; The Quick and the Undead, 2006; The Burrowers, 2008; Blood River, 2009; Gun Town, 2009; and the forthcoming Dances with Werewolves, 2012.)

In the midst of a horror-western desert, Curse of the Undead stands out as a very interesting, if somewhat flawed, genre-blending experiment. Set in an unnamed western town, Curse starts off on an ominous and somber note as Doc Carter (John Hoyt) and his daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley) drive their carriage past house after house with funeral wreaths on the doors. The doctor has come to see yet another young woman who is wasting away from some mysterious illness. The pair meet the worried parents and preacher Dan Young (Eric Fleming), who has spent the night by the girl's bedside, praying for her recovery. The doc admits that he's baffled by an epidemic that seems to affect only young women: "I'm tempted to throw away my bag and come over to your side." Dan responds affectionately, "You've always been on my side."

The bedridden girl seems to be recovering, so the relieved caretakers and parents assemble in the kitchen for a needed break and some breakfast. The pleasant scene is suddenly interrupted by a cry from the bedroom, and as they rush in they see to their horror the girl's lifeless corpse sprawled over the side of the bed. The roller blinds in a nearby window are flapping, as if someone or something has just escaped outside. Discreetly, preacher Dan examines the dead girl's neck and finds blood flowing from odd puncture wounds.

With a different setting and costumes, this could be the set-up for any gothic vampire film. But the film veers quickly from classic horror set-up to classic western, as we learn from Doc Carter's son Tim (Jimmy Murphy) about greedy land baron Buffer (Bruce Gordon) and his nasty plot to dam up the stream providing needed water to the Carter homestead. Tim's just been beaten up by Buffer's hired thugs, and he's itching to get back at the arrogant landlord and redeem the family name. In short order, the good Doc turns up dead, his blood-drained corpse falling out of the carriage seat just after it pulls up to the front door of his home. Tim, blinded by rage, blames his father's death on the no-good Buffer, and ends up in a pine box himself after baiting Buffer into a shoot-out. Interspersed in all the mayhem is the figure of a mysterious, black-clad gunman, who is first seen spying on the Doc, and then hanging around the cemetery on the day of his funeral.

The mysterious man in black takes a nap between gunfights.
Grief-stricken Dolores is suddenly head of the Carter household, and in a simmering rage tries to nail up wanted posters for Buffer around town, but the by-the-book sheriff pulls them down as fast as she can post them. The upstanding preacher (and Dolores' beau or fiance, it's not quite clear which) tries to calm her down. In a neat little bit of business, she replies to him in exasperation, "If the Devil can stop some of this pain in me, I'll even pray to him!" Just at that moment, the shadowy gunfighter in black, Drake Robey (Michael Pate) comes calling with the wanted poster in hand. Dan tries to get her to throw the "professional killer" out, but she's too intent on revenge, and Robey's silver tongue wins the day: "Preacher, you've been reading the good Book too long. You should look at life as it really is. Miss Carter's in trouble… why don't you think of me as a professional soldier come to help…?"

Preacher Dan knows evil when he sees it, and spends the rest of the film's running time trying to get his beloved Dolores to see the man for what he really is. His fears are doubly-realized when he stumbles upon an old diary at the Carter place, and finds out that it was formerly the site of Casa Robles. It seems that the two Robles brothers were in love with the same woman, but she ended up marrying Don Drago Robles. When he came back from a journey to find his brother making love to his wife, he killed him in a fit of rage, then, filled with remorse, committed suicide. The father writes of the terrible curse that fell on the village in the aftermath, as one-by-one young women were found drained of their blood. He describes the horror of grappling with a phantom figure in the dead of night, only to discover that it is his son Drago! Just in case there's any question about who's who and what's what, Dan finds a small portrait conveniently tucked into the diary's slipcover-- and it's the spitting image of Drake Robey! Hmmm… Drake Robey, Drago Robles…

It's interesting that Curse's director and screenwriter Edward Dein (along with co-writer and spouse Mildred Dein) dredges up the old eastern European conception of vampires as the revenants of suicide victims. What he lacks in budget and overt thrills, he makes up for with unique touches like this. We never see so much as the hint of a fang, and precious little blood. What we do see is a tortured soul (Drago/Drake) wrestling with two desires: to love the beautiful and strong-willed Dolores, and to feed off her blood. Despite being a monster, he has a strict code of ethics. When Dolores has a change of heart and tells him to forget about killing Buffer, she offers to compensate him for his time. "No thanks," he responds, "I don't take money for something I didn't do."

Like many a good movie villain, Robey is so dynamic and interesting that the ostensible good guy suffers in comparison. Preacher Dan is straight-laced and conventional to a fault, and it doesn't help that Eric Fleming's performance is mostly stiff and colorless to match the character. Watching Dolores calmly negotiating with hired gun Robey to kill Buffer, Dan rudely inserts himself into his fiance's business: "I'm not asking you to turn this man [Robey] out, I'm telling you to!" When she rebuffs him with "You keep your telling to the pulpit!", we cheer for her (and by extension, Robey).

The final showdown between good and evil.
As the preacher and and the monstrous gunslinger battle for the good woman's soul, it hardly seems a fair fight. Robey is dark, handsome, and sophisticated. Dan is conventionally handsome, but self-righteous and wooden-headed. Toward the end of the film, after Dan has learned Robey's secret, they duke it out not with guns, but with words. Robey protests that he never wanted this curse, but to simply live and love. Now he has another chance-- with Dolores. Dan of course, is having none of it:
Dan: How can you speak of love, when all you do is kill?
Drake: I kill to exist -- that is my life -- it's a force I can't control!
Dan: Why don't you call that force by its right name? Your force is the Devil!
Drake: He's so much a part of this world, he must be in me too. Now remember, without the Devil, you'd have no profession. You should be grateful!
Some deft use of eerie imagery and other unusual touches complement the elaborate dialog and help the film stand out from the usual B picture fare. After discovering the sheriff's body with familiar bite marks on his neck, Dan is chased through dark, deserted streets by a shadowy presence. Cowering at the front door of his church, he's saved by the well-placed shadow of the church's cross (see the clip below). Additionally, we get to see not once but twice what an unfair advantage an undead gunfighter has-- he can be as slow on the draw as he wants, since bullets can't kill him! Robey saunters away as one of his bewildered victims insists with his dying breath that "I'm sure I hit him dead center!" And, the climactic showdown between good and evil features a very unique, but logical method for killing an immortal vampire gunslinger. (Interestingly, the shootout appears to take place in broad daylight!)

Curse of the Undead is a neat little neoclassical tragedy masquerading as a B horror-western. It deserves a better fate than near-total obscurity. Creepy Classics has a good DVD-R copy for sale.

Preacher Dan Young is stalked by a shadowy figure as he walks down the dark, dusty street:

May 17, 2011

Breaking the Space-Time Barrier

World Without End (1956)

I have a confession to make-- I have a weakness for "classic" sci-fi with wise-cracking astronauts piloting needle-nosed spaceships to the Moon, Mars or other planets and discovering lost civilizations while battling various and sundry mutant creatures along the way. I'm talking about Rocketship X-M (1950), which won the movie version of the space race when it was rushed into distribution 3 weeks ahead of Destination Moon (1950), becoming America's first "realistic" depiction of manned space flight to hit the theaters. I'm talking about Flight to Mars (1951), Queen of Outer Space (1958), and It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958).  I'm talking about far-out voyages to planets of every size and description:  Angry Red Planet (1959), The Phantom Planet (1961), and Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962). I'm even talking about stinky lunar cheese like Cat-Women of the Moon (1953), Missile to the Moon (1958) and 12 to The Moon (1960).  And then of course there's the big daddy of them all, the greatest space opera of all time by the biggest, grandest studio in history: Forbidden Planet (MGM, 1956).

These films grabbed the headlines of the day -- broken sound barriers, satellite launches, rocketplanes flying to the edge of space --  and propelled them out of earth orbit into new frontiers of great, imaginative adventure. For a kid like myself born at the beginning of the space age, this was irresistible stuff-- it was one thing to read about rockets, spacemen, and bug-eyed monsters, and something else again to see it on the big screen (often in glorious cinemascope and technicolor). Adults might worry about rockets delivering atomic warheads, but space age kids saw them as the ticket to brave new worlds and civilizations. (Now, decades later, the bloom is definitely off the space rose, with only one shuttle flight left to go and some serious questions about whether a dithering, debt-ridden U.S. will abandon manned space flight altogether.)

If you were to pick one sci-fi flick to represent the era in a time capsule, you could hardly do better than World Without End. It packs just about every space opera / sci-fi element you can imagine into its crisp 80 minute running time: a gleaming, silvery-sleek spaceship; time travel; astronauts in military fatigues and bomber jackets; atomic war; an advanced underground civilization; alluring babes in revealing outfits; giant spiders; one-eyed humanoid mutants… all in glorious, colorful Cinemascope.

In the year 1957, America's first ambitious manned space flight is an orbital reconnaissance mission to Mars -- no cautious sub-orbital flights to start things off for this fictional America! The mission is headed by the distinguished Dr. Eldon Galbraithe (Nelson Leigh). John Borden (Hugh Marlowe), Herbert Ellis (Rod Taylor), and Henry 'Hank' Jaffe (Christopher Dark) round out the crew. As they fire the ship's engines to take them out of Mars' orbit and head home, Galbraithe makes a comment about Mars "sliding off into the distance." Borden wryly responds that "it'll be there when we come back." Suddenly and without warning, the ship hits some kind of field disturbance-- the ship and crew are battered around as it accelerates out of control, seemingly engulfed by fire. Gauges and dials spin wildly, and then the crew blacks out. When they wake up, they discover that they've landed on a rocky, snow-covered plateau (see the clip below). The acceleration gauge broke at the max readout of 100 miles per second-- Jaffe, the navigator, wonders if they weren't going even faster (maybe somewhere in the ballpark of 186,282 miles per second?)

Wherever they are, gravity feels about the same as earth's, and they discover to their delight that there's plenty of oxygen in the atmosphere. They grab supplies and weapons and head out to explore their new environs. Fortunately, it's only a short hike (very, very short) from the cold, arctic-like place where they crash-landed to a temperate area with trees and other flora (the transition is so abrupt it almost looks like a continuity error). However, the fauna is another story. In the space of only several minutes they're set upon by German Shepherd-sized spiders (unconvincing rubber props), and their camp attacked by disfigured, primitive humanoids dressed in animal skins and howling like dogs.  In defending themselves, they kill one of the humanoids ("mutates" according to Doc Galbraithe), and observe that the ugly cuss seems to have been born with only one eye. The place seems so earth-like, and yet, the earth they left didn't have giant spiders and mutated cavemen…

Attack of the giant rubber spider
They soon come upon a graveyard with a very interesting headstone indicating the grave's occupant died in the year 2068. These being very educated, scientifically trained men, they quickly put two and two together. Galbraithe recalls talking to another scientist shortly before the mission about Einstein's theory of relativity and time dilation. The ship's instruments indicated they were going over 100 miles per second before they broke. Galbraithe points out that they could have been going 10 or even 100 times that speed. His reluctant conclusion: "While we were blacked out for what seemed like minutes to us, the slow centuries were passing on earth."

The crew doesn't have too long to mull over what's happened before they're attacked again by the relentless mutants. Escaping into a cave, they discover a smooth metal door in one of the cave walls. Before you can say "exponential time displacement," they're standing in what looks like a modernistic office reception area, complete with potted plants. Jaffe discovers a lens behind one of the plants-- "Hey, we're being spied on!" he exclaims. A disembodied voice warns them not to touch anything. What's a poor, confused space-time traveler to think?

It seems they've discovered the last bastion of civilized man in post-atomic war earth-- an intricate underground city populated by gentle, almost anemic men in silvery tunics and skullcaps, and beautiful, lively women in low-cut mini-dresses. Jackpot! They meet with the underground city's council (all men of course), and learn of the atomic war in 2188 that killed off most of humanity and left a world full of surface-dwelling mutants and underground-dwelling "normals." Now, in the year 2508, civilized man has harnessed the heat of the earth's core for energy and learned how to recycle metals (a veritable environmentalist's dream).

So, considering the 20th century men's predicament, what's there to complain about? Jaffe, the only member of the crew to leave behind a wife and son, is hopeful that the tunnel people can help them figure out how to reverse the time displacement that's stranded them in the future. Borden is skeptical: "They have no guts." It appears the tunnel-city isn't much of a paradise after all. Much is made of how listless and bloodless the men are. Galbraithe tries to convince the council that the radiation levels are low and the surface is livable, but the council is uninterested. He can't even get a single volunteer to hike with them back to the ship to salvage supplies. Disappointed, he tells the others: "Underground life seems to have drained all the courage out of these people… safe and comfortable, that seems to be all life means to them!" Jaffe reports that the few children he's seen are weak and listless. "Safe and comfortable" may well spell the doom of civilized man.

World Without End shows its cold-war heart and soul in the conflicts between the 20th and 26th century men. The one villain among the tunnel dwellers, the treacherous Mories (Booth Colman), just happens to be the most passionate pacifist. He tries to turn the council against the 20th century interlopers, decrying their weapons and their crude ways (not to mention the way they look at the women). "We're sick of weapons and war!" he declares. He tries to get Galbraithe & company booted out of town by killing one of the council members and pinning it on them. But the plot is exposed and Mories himself is driven out to the surface, to be quickly dispatched by yowling mutants. Clearly, if the world is to be remade in the image of the good ol' U.S. of A., then Mories and his pinko, pacifist kind must go.

Assorted mutants gather to watch the final battle
And remade it is. With the help of the chastened tunnel people, our heroes fashion a space-age bazooka, and literally carve out the new world with well-placed shots that scatter most of the mutants to the four winds. In the coup-de-grace, manly Borden challenges the cruel mutant chief, the one-eyed Naga, to a fight for supremacy. He prevails by staying on Naga's blind side. In this primitive culture, whoever defeats the leader becomes the leader. The film ends with what looks like a documentary on the Peace Corps, as the 20th century protagonists help the natives build a new community on the surface, and teach the now revitalized children English in an open-air school.

Writer-Director Edward Bernds worked his way from radio in the 1920s, to sound work on early "talkies," to directing shorts, to finally directing features in the early 1950s. His other sci-fi credits include Space Master X-7 (1958), Queen of Outer Space (1958), Return of the Fly (1959), and another time-travel epic, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962; the best feature-length Stooges effort by far).

Hugh Marlowe lent his square-jawed presence to a couple of other '50s sci-fi classics: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956).

World was Aussie Rod Taylor's first substantive role in a feature film. Rod has had steady work ever since, doing drama and comedy with equal aplomb. His notable sci-fi and suspense credits include The Time Machine (1960) and Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Most recently, he played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009).

In an interview with Tom Weaver, veteran film and stage actor Booth Colman confessed that his memory was somewhat hazy about the production:
I can't remember very much about it: It was a quickie, it was done in eight or ten days I would say. The Australian actor, Rod Taylor-- I think it was his first job here. He subsequently went over to MGM. And the director, Edward Bernds, was a very nice man. I saw the picture recently because someone gave me a tape of it, and... it's just a quick job of the day. I'm sure it did very well, I'm sure they made a lot of money on it. The actors didn't [laughs]!  (I Was a Monster Movie Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers, McFarland, 2001)
World is a somewhat schlocky, yet energetic and entertaining cold war / atomic / space age artifact. Its worst moments aren't so much the poorly-realized special effects (the lifeless rubber spider is just plain bad even for the era), as much as the long stretches of cold-war propaganda dialog and some perfunctory, cringe-inducing romantic scenes between the lusty astronauts and the scantily clad tunnel women. Its best moment comes in the cemetery, when it becomes clear to the men that they've been marooned in time on an utterly alien earth.

World Without End is available on a "double feature" Warner Home Video DVD along with Satellite in the Sky (1956). The restored print is just beautiful.

"We've unleashed the power of the atom... and now this!"

May 6, 2011

Everybody Needs a Helping Hand

Hands of a Stranger (1962)

So, imagine that you've been in a terrible car crash, and your hands have been pulverized beyond all hope. While you're unconscious, a brilliant, renegade surgeon unilaterally decides that your only hope for fully functioning hands and a normal life is immediate transplants-- and he just happens to have some very good candidates from an anonymous donor in the morgue. When you awaken and see the enormous braces and bandages, the good Doc tells a white lie -- for your own peace of mind --  that he was able to save your hands and that everything is just fine. Sometime later the bandages finally come off, and you're stunned that these are not your fingers and this is not your flesh… but then you realize you can move the new fingers and thumbs. The doctor shows you photos of the mangled, useless flesh that was the result of the accident. The operation has been a complete success -- with a little more practice and patience, your new hands will be perfectly normal! How would you react? Would you think you'd just won the medical equivalent of the Powerball? But then, what if you were one of the elite, talented few who use their hands to create sublime music or art, or wield scalpels with incredible, life-saving skill? And now, you can't get your clumsy new hands to perform worth diddly-squat. Would you still feel lucky?

Vernon Paris (James Stapleton), the recipient of the Hands of a Stranger, is not only ungrateful, he is utterly, irredeemably bummed. You see, he was a world-class pianist still basking in the glow of his greatest concert triumph when a careless cab driver lost control of the vehicle in which he was riding. Before he had even regained consciousness, a brash surgeon convinced his sister and business manager to allow the useless, mangled things that had once been his hands to be replaced with the hands of a unidentified murder victim. Now, weeks later, even though he has full movement in his hands, they might as well be hooks for all the good they do him. They're useless for the one thing he has spent a lifetime trying to achieve -- making the piano keys dance to create beautiful, otherworldly music.

This being a horror-thriller, we know somebody's going to pay for this sorry state of affairs. An almost suicidally-depressed Vernon first confronts his gold-digging former girlfriend (Elaine Martone), who won't return his calls now that he's a nobody. In a fit of anger, he shoves her into a table lamp, which somehow instantly lights her on fire (bad wiring??!) Next, he visits the home of the cab driver responsible for the accident. The driver's young son makes the mistake of inviting him in, explaining that his father's gone off to get him a dog, but should be back shortly. The chatty boy finds out from Vernon that he is (was) a pianist. When he innocently urges the sullen Vernon to play something for him on the family piano, very bad things happen.

Up to this point, the wretched man seems to be stumbling zombie-like through a waking nightmare, scarcely knowing what he's doing. After the tragedy in the cabbie's home, something in him snaps, and he transforms from a sleepwalker into a very aggrieved man bent on punishing everyone he blames for stealing his life from him. But instead of going after the arrogant head surgeon Gil Harding (Paul Lukather), he picks off low-hanging fruit in the form of the young doctors who assisted in the fateful operation.

This film-noirish version of The Hands of Orlac (Les Mains d'Orlac) by Maurice Renard downplays, but doesn't eliminate, the supernatural idea that the hands of a murderer are compelling their new owner to kill. Shortly after the operation, Vernon's distraught sister Dina (Joan Harvey) demands to know "whose hands he [Dr. Harding] put on my brother's arms!" Dr. Harding defends himself and medical science in his uniquely aggressive, clumsy way: "If you're concerned with the possibility that he [the donor] might have been some kind of madman, let me assure you that psychotic tendencies don't transfer themselves mystically to the physical extremities after death!" Even though Harding has given the police fingerprints from the donor hands, by the end of the film we still don't know the donor's identity, or if he was a solid citizen or a murderer. Part of the film's charm is that it leaves the viewer wondering.

The hands of a stranger: pre-op
Hands of a Stranger is something of a schizophrenic film (and I'm not referring to the mental state of the protagonist). The imagery is striking, the black and white photography by Henry Cronjager is superb, and parts of it are as suspenseful and well-crafted as anything in the A-list crime-thriller/film noir canon. On the flip side, the dialog is so ripe and over-the-top, I found myself in a more or less constant state of bemusement, thinking "did he/she really say that?!" The characters talk like second-rate college English professors who've smoked a little too much weed and are trying to impress each other with their wit and erudition. For example, the detective investigating the shooting of the unidentified man at the beginning of film seems to be something of a frustrated philosopher:
"Hands… amazing things when you think about it. A genius device of flesh and bone that can paint a beautiful picture, control a scalpel, press a trigger. And perhaps the delicately lined pictures on the tips of those hands themselves can tell me all I want to know."
Or how about this exchange toward the end between the doctor and the demented Vernon:
Doc: "You're interested in nothing but vengeance? Beauty is no longer important to you?"
Vernon: "On the contrary, justice is a form of moral beauty, or is that too unscientific?"
Whew! The filmmakers should have let the great black-and-white imagery do more of the storytelling, and dialed back on the bombastic talk. And yet, when the film is good (and mostly silent), it's very, very good. The title sequence is particularly impressive. A timpani strikes an ominous note over a cityscape at night. Cut to a drainpipe dripping onto a discarded garbage lid on a deserted sidewalk. In the background, a neon hotel light is flashing. A man carrying a briefcase walks into the shot and heads down the sidewalk, away from the camera. Cut to a medium shot of two men in a car, their faces hidden in shadows. We see them glance at each other in close-up-- only their eyes are visible. We see the driver's hand start the car. We see the man continuing down the sidewalk. The car glides down the street as the music builds. The man with the briefcase pauses, looking over his shoulder… then suddenly, he bolts. The car picks up speed and the headlights pop on. Close-up of a hand and gun -- shots ring out. The man collapses dramatically against a streetlamp. The car screeches to a halt, and one of the dark-clothed assassins jumps out. He rifles through the dying man's coat, grabbing his wallet and other valuables. He jumps back into the car and it screeches away from the scene. Cut to the lamppost: the dying man's hands inch their way up the post as he desperately clings to life… the music swells as the main title appears.

The hands: post-op
I remember as a kid sitting open-mouthed in front of the TV during that opening sequence. After almost 50 years, it still packs quite a punch. Another great example of letting the pictures do the talking is the carnival scene late in the film. The Doc and Dina take the troubled Vernon to a carnival with the idea of easing his obsession for a couple of hours. In the midst of the bright lights and tumult, Vernon's tentative smiles quickly turn to frowns and despair as everywhere he looks, he's reminded of the gift that he's lost: a player-piano churns out honky-tonk music as if mocking him; a clown skillfully juggles with nimble hands; a fun-house mirror displays his reflection with monstrously-elongated hands and fingers… (See the clip below.)

Hands of a Stranger was Newt Arnold's first producing/directing job, and practically his last-- he only directed two more pictures, the Phillipines-based Blood Thirst (1971; he also produced) and Bloodsport (1988), a martial-arts epic with Jean-Claude Van Damme. His resume as an assistant or second unit director is much more extensive (55 films), ranging from The Godfather Part II (1974) to Blade Runner (1982) to A Simple Plan (1998). Given the promise of his directing debut, it's a shame he labored so many years in the relative obscurity of assistant/second unit work. But then Fate doesn't always lend us a helping hand.

A side note: The fictional Dr. Harding was nearly 40 years ahead of his time-- the first successful long-term hand transplantation wasn't achieved until 1999.

Hands of a Stranger is available from the Internet Archive, and on DVD from Alpha Video.

A fun night at the carnival turns creepy and disturbing as ex-pianist Vernon Paris (James Stapleton) is reminded at every turn of the precious gift he has lost: