The Devil's Hand (1962)

Rick Turner (Robert Alda) is a Fifties cocktails-and-convertibles type of Southern California guy. His fiancee (Ariadna Welter) is a Plain-Jane brunette named Donna, who loves him dearly, even if he is kind of a lout and largely unemployed. Rick starts having dreams of a barely dressed blonde floating in the sky outside his bedroom. He sleepwalks to a doll shop, where he sees a doll that looks a lot like the dreamy blonde. The next day he takes Donna to the doll store, where they find a second doll that looks like Donna. The spooky doll shop owner (Neil Hamilton) claims the Donna doll was made to order for Rick, although Rick has never been in the store.

Donna thinks Rick is strange. Rick thinks the shop owner is strange, but is intrigued with the blonde doll. When he meets the blonde bombshell, Bianca Milan (Linda Christian), on whom the blonde doll is based, he is sucked into her world of creamy dreamy martinis and satan-worship. Rick and Bianca's sleazy affair gives living-in-sin a new name. Meanwhile, Plain-Jane Donna comes down with a nasty case of heart murmur, because some evil voodoo master has plunged a needle into the chest of the brunette doll that looks like her.

The mysterious Bianca finally gets Rick oiled up enough to take him to her "church," a cult of Southern California satanists, who believe in voodoo, telepathy, human sacrifice, modern dance routines, and other West Coast Sixties stuff. Their leader is the evil doll shop owner, Francis Lamont, who performs human sacrifice by spinning a ceiling-mounted wheel-of-fortune that drops knives onto unfaithful victims. Meanwhile, back at the hospital, brunette Donna's condition gets worse under the watchful eye of an evil nurse sent there by the cult. Ever more clueless Rick allows Bianca to lead him by the hormones as he joins the evil cult.

Having effectively sold his soul, Rick starts to see some success in his life and wonders why his hospitalized ex-girlfriend is getting closer to death by each passing day. He meets a woman in a bullet bra whose life has apparently been ruined by the cult, but he doesn't heed her warnings. The clue, of course, is the brunette Donna doll, still nailed to the wall of the doll shop. When Rick quits nailing the slinky blonde and finally un-nails the Donna doll, his Plain-Jane girlfriend starts to improve and leaves her hospital bed. The evil Bianca and her buddy, the voodoo master, contrive to make the innocent brunette their next human sacrifice. A subplot involving a newspaper reporter spy inside the cult serves to unleash the final conflagration of chaos and stock footage. It's a basic boy meets girl, boy sells his soul for steamy blonde satanist, boy tries to escape blonde's voodoo master boyfriend, boy rescues girl from stock footage disaster formula B-movie.

Known variously as THE NAKED GODDESS, DEVIL'S DOLL, and LIVE TO LOVE, THE DEVIL'S HAND was written by Jo Heims (THE GIRL IN LOVER'S LANE, PLAY MISTY FOR ME) and directed by William Hole, Jr. (SPEED CRAZY, GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW). The dreamy blonde is played by Linda Christian, Tyrone Powers' ex-wife, who had appeared in pictures since the mid-1940s, including TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS (1948), SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953), THE V.I.P.s (1963), and HOW TO SEDUCE A PLAYBOY (1966). She was the first James Bond girl (years before DR. NO's Ursula Andress) in CBS Television's 1954 Climax Mystery Theater production of CASINO ROYALE with Nelson Barry and Peter Lorre. Robert Alda, who plays the sucker Rick and whose most famous production was his son actor Alan Alda, was mainly a television actor, but had appeared in the films THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946), TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL (1950), and LISA AND THE DEVIL (1974). Character actor Neil Hamilton (Commissioner Gordon from the Sixties' TV series BATMAN), who plays the voodoo master, had appeared in movies since the 1930s, including HONEYMOON LIMITED (1935), KING OF THE TEXAS RANGERS (1941), and GOOD NEIGHBOR SAM (1964). Ariadna Welter, who spends most of THE DEVIL'S HAND on her back in a hospital bed or on her back on a sacrificial altar, looks like a poor man's Sandra Dee. Welter is a Mexican-born actress whose other films include THE LAST REBEL (1956), THE BRAINIAC (1961), and RAGE (1966). She is, in fact, the little sister of Linda Christian, who was born Blanca Rosa Welter and was also of Mexican heritage. THE DEVIL'S HAND was their only appearance together. Linda Christian was at least 39 years old when THE DEVIL'S HAND was made, but she manages to look as good as her image on the movie poster, not an easy act to follow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enticing recap. Thanks.