Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Beast with Five Fingers, The

US movie (1946). Warner. Pr William Jacobs. Exec pr Jack L Warner. Dir Robert Florey. Spfx H Koenekamp, William McGann. Screenplay Curt Siodmak (1902-2000). Based on "The Beast with Five Fingers", in The Beast with Five Fingers and Other Stories (coll 1928) by William F(ryer) Harvey. Starring Robert Alda (Bruce Conrad [listed in credits as Conrad Ryler]), Victor Francen (Francis Ingram), Andrea King (Julie Holden), Peter Lorre (Hillary Cummins), J Carrol Naish (Castanio). 88 mins. B/w.

Wheelchair-bound pianist Ingram, pillar of the small US community in an Italian fishing village, is murdered, and later his left hand vanishes from his coffin. Ingram's will, leaving all to his lovely young nurse, Holden, is disputed by greedy relatives and a crooked lawyer. The latter is strangled and one of the relatives attacked, both seemingly by the autonomous hand. So far this could be a Psychological Thriller, but now we see the hand flaunting itself in front of Ingram's secretary (and murderer) Cummins; at last, as he tries to burn it, it crawls from the flames to choke him. The conclusion attempts to persuade us we have merely seen Cummins's crazed Hallucinations; but this rationalization (see Rationalized Fantasy) does not explain all. At the very least TBWFF is a fantasy of Perception; it reads better as a Dark Fantasy. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.