Monday, March 16, 2009

The Devil's Hand (William J. Hole Jr., 1962)

A grown man who works at a doll shop is the definition of shady (and a tad creepy if you ask me). However, a grown man who leads a devil-worshiping cult, complete with human sacrifices and bongo playing, in the back of said doll shop, is the epitome of cool. It's this kind of off-kilter aura that made The Devil's Hand such a strange cinematic journey. I mean, one minute you're just a regular guy in a leather vest meekly apologizing to your insipid, duck feeding girlfriend for being late for a date, and the next, you're hand delivering a doll to the mysterious woman who talks to you in your sleep (the doll looks exactly like her, and, of course, she has one that looks just like you). The allure of the mystery woman in the dainty nightwear is the key to the film's success. In that, if we're not enticed by the sight of a smokey-voiced blonde with visible underwear, then someone is doing something wrong. Luckily for us, all the right decisions are made, as the film's lead sap finds himself sucked into a soul crushing vortex of ill-defined perdition. Actually, as far as cultish hells go, it's not that bad at all. In fact, I felt like joining on several occasions as the film progressed. Sure, the film tries its best to demonize these voodoo enthusiasts by portraying them as a multi-ethnic cult where large pillows are sat on for comfort, leggy women cavort openly to bongo music, and the disloyal run the risk of being ritualistically stabbed on a cold slab. But you do get your own doll.

Again, the doll can be used against you in a negative sort of way, and technically doesn't belong to you, but as long you stay true to the teachings of the great devil-god Gamba, the doll master won't stick any pins in your doll. You win, evil wins, it's a good deal. Besides, the beliefs espoused by the cultists in this film may seem kooky and extreme, but at least they work (ask the guy who's doll got a pin shoved in its head if Gamba isn't real). Which is something that separates them from all the other pushers of superstitious gobbly-gook floating about in the universe.

The faith-based curiosity of Robert Alda as Rick Turner, the everyman who trades in his bland brunette for hot sex with a satanic blonde, is what makes The Devil's Hand a bit more interesting than your average cult flick. You really get the sense that Mr. Alda (father of Alan) is genuinely fascinated by the world of Gamba (even when he's undermining him). It's true, his main goal was probably to get his cock touched by the demented Bianca (Linda Christian), but I thought Alda did a fine job of balancing his insincere love of Gamba with his incessant hunger for unkempt witch poon.

I've mentioned the bongos a couple of times, and I'm mentioning them again because every time Jack McCoskey's expertly wielded camera would focus on the cult's bongo player, I would start wonder about his well being. I mean, what kind of money does his make? Does he have a personal life? As expected, these questions weren't answered at all. To be honest, I, myself, could barely muster the energy ask them (I'm one lazy motherscratcher). But you know a movie is on an entirely different level of magnificence when you start to care about the bongo player at a low-class cult being run out of the back of a fire hazard-laden doll shop.


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3 comments:

  1. What makes this one priceless for me is that Commissioner Gordon is the high priest of Gamba! Neil Hamilton is the epitome of exotic depravity, is he not?

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  2. "his incessant hunger for unkempt witch poon."

    This will be on my tombstone under "cause of death." :)

    Great write-up. I watched this one and enjoyed it well-enough, getting a chuckle out of the way they never shortened the name of the deity--it was always THE GREAT DEVIL-GOD GAMBA! Never just "Gamba," always the whole phrase. And they had to say "devil-god Gamba" instead of "just the devil," because after all, it was
    1962.

    Looking back at my own review, I see that I too was fascinated by the drummer at the voodoo rituals, as well as the sole black couple in the cult who seemed to be there just to get up and dance during the ceremony. I'm guessing they and the drummer were the only people in the room who realized that this is totally *not* how voodoo works. ;)

    Great stuff!

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  3. Samuel Wilson: According to IMDb: Neil Hamilton played Commissioner Gordon on something called "Batman." Call me kooky, but never saw that show. Anyway, good call on calling him "the epitome of exotic depravity," as he is quite depraved. You know, as far as doll shop owners go.

    The Vicar of VHS: Thanks, man. I like how every time you write "THE GREAT DEVIL-GOD GAMBA! in your review" it's written in large red letters. It gives Gamba... I mean, THE GREAT DEVIL-GOD GAMBA!, the added font oomph he clearly deserves.

    I was genuinely intrigued by the multi-ethnic make-up of the backroom cult. I mean, from what I've heard, most religious gatherings in North America are segregated. So, to see blacks, whites, Asians, and Beatniks all worshiping under the same roof was quite illuminating.

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