12/6/06

106 The Crawling Hand

(1963, SciFi/Horror, b&w)

I smell a big, juicy transformation scene.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

A young man is driven mad by the possessed, disembodied hand of a deceased astronaut.

Summary:

It's a very specific constellation, only readable from space.In The Crawling Hand, the fledgling space program struggles as high-level bureaucrats force astronauts into space before they’re ready. During a countdown to the latest doomed astronaut’s death (apparently they calculated the exact second when he would asphyxiate) two NASA scientists shout at each other in oddly impassioned voices and slap their tables abruptly. Hours later, they’re still hanging around when the supposedly dead astronaut calls them up, wearing the bad eye makeup of a Cure fan. He requests that they kill him. After some debate they oblige him, blowing him and his spaceship into tiny pieces.

In the meantime our hero, Paul, and his hot Swedish girlfriend Marta are frolicking on the beaches of Southern California, when they notice a severed hand on the ground. Yes, it’s a piece of the doomed astronaut that somehow survived reentry with only minor blisters. Over his girlfriend’s grossed-out objections, Paul takes it home for further study. While he’s not looking, it sneaks away and kills his landlady, causing the local Sheriff (Alan Hale, Jr., aka the Skipper) to suspect him.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the two of NASA scientists reach the one inescapable conclusion. The space mission’s failure was due an alien virus created by the sun’s unrestricted radiation on the human body, causing bad eye makeup and uncontrollable homicidal urges. When the astronaut’s fingerprints turn up at the landlady’s murder site, they fly in to investigate.

Meanwhile, Paul has fallen victim to the infection and the aforementioned bad eye makeup and runs around on a strangling rampage. Fortunately for his victims (the local curmudgeon and his hot Swedish girlfriend), he’s not very good at it and never quite manages to kill anyone. In his spare moments of lucidity, he hunts the surprisingly mobile astronaut hand while the inept NASA scientists and the even more inept Sheriff hunt him. They all meet up in a junkyard in a climactic showdown where a medium-grade fever kills off Paul’s homicidal infection and a pair of cats eat the hand.

There’s also a pair of really irritating undertakers/deliverymen.

Introduction:

In a few moments, Crow will have thought that was Dale.Cambot plays recorded applause for Joel.

Host Segment One:

Joel cuts off his fingers with a circular saw. They’re fake fingers and it’s a fake saw. The Mads demonstrate a limb lengthener that stretches your arms to ridiculous lengths.

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the ‘Bots argue over what game they’re going to play. Joel pulls rank and the ‘Bots mock him. Joel regrets his decision to give them free will.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots take turns doing William Shatner impressions with plastic hands attached to their throats.

Host Segment Four:

Crow is overcome by a giant inflatable hand!

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots do their “good thing about the movie and a bad thing about the movie” routine. Dr. Erhardt attacks Dr. Forrester with his lengthened arms, while Dr. Forrester does his Shatner impression.

Thoughts:

Our star, ladies and gentlemen.  Let's all give him a big hand...  Sorry, sorry!  Don't hit!Hmm, if every part of this astronaut is independently animated, think of the endless possibilities for sequels. They’d take place simultaneously all over world. Set in New York, The Crawling Scalp—in Ireland, The Crawling Trachea—in Poland, The Crawling Section of Small Intestine. Yessir, it could have been a successful franchise to rival the James Bond series.

Well, actually it couldn’t. Even the bad Bond films oozed charm and style, but The Crawling Hand has neither. The NASA scientists are constantly emotional, as if they thought they were doing a play by Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams. Someone should have shown them the entire script and told them to ham it up a little. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Skipper (sorry, I mean the Sheriff) is hammy both in appearance and acting style. Also, if the alien infection can survive the intense heat of reentry, why is it killed off at the end by a medium-grade fever? At least there was a hot Swedish babe in a bikini.

The host segments are kind of dumb in this one, the inflatable hand sketch being especially silly. I kind of liked the Shatner impressions, though. It cracked me up to see Joel holding a plastic hand to his throat to say, “hand … so … young-looking … I thought … you were … Dale.”

The riffing through the movie segments, however, is some of the funniest stuff in the first season. Included are lots of hand puns, references to the NASA actor’s attempts to “method act”, a brief discussion of sheer outfits, and an amusing bit where Joel forbids the ‘Bots to sing the Gilligan’s Isle theme song during the Sheriff’s screen time. This, combined with a movie that at least moves well, makes for a decent episode.