The Devil’s Hand (William J. Hole, 1962)
One of the great things about having a Roku, and the proliferation of channels on same showing silly public domain movies, is that rafts of Z-movie silliness that has been unavailable for decades (even during the video store age, who was going to carry this stuff when DTV had suddenly become A Thing?) is now as close as the Play button on your remote. For years I had this basic idea—call it the disease of nsotalgia—that every movie that had been made before the dawn of the MPAA was a Great Film and that it was only in my lifetime that people were making crap. I am certainly glad I found out different…but how much different, well, sometimes you have no idea until you’re surfing around Netflix and you come up with ridiculousness like The Devil’s Hand.
Rick Turner (Imitation of Life‘s Robert Alda, Alan’s dad) and his fiancee Donna Trent (Three Sad Tigers‘ Ariadna Welter) are blissful and looking forward to their upcoming marriage, house, and two point four kids. That is, with the exception of these odd drams Rick has about hot chicks dancing in midair. But…what if they’re not just dreams? As it turns out, the dancer is a real person, Bianca Milan (How to Seduce a Playboy‘s Linda Christian), who has ties to a nefarious cult. Rick finds himself drawn to them…but in order to join, he will have to make a sacrifice that calls into question everything he holds dear.
I always think of that line from Billy Joel’s “Zanzibar” when I watch movies like this: “melodrama’s so much fun/in black and white for everyone/to see…”. Oh Cold River, the melodrama. You know exactly where this is going, don’t you? Hole took an idea that could have been used for at least a few chills (or, more likely, some unintentional hilarity) and instead created something with aspirations to a weepie, with a bit o’ coochie dancing to keep the males in the audience from gnawing their own arms off in an attempt to escape the theater. Pretty much everything about it is terrible, but it at least plasters on the goop thick enough to allow the cheese factor to shine through in hindsight; if you’re a connoisseur of awful horror movies, you owe it to yourself to give this one a watch. Others can, and should, safely avoid. * ½