Inspired by Stephen Bissette's recent piece on the film in issue 7 of Monster!, I sought out the 1962 John Agar monster flick Hand of Death and gave it a screening last night (my first - though I had heard and read about the film a number of times). Bissette’s article on Hand of Death looks at the similarities between the film’s monster, and the Thing from Marvel’s Fantastic Four comic book. Since the movie and the comic book both appeared around the same time, it’s interesting to ponder if one inspired the other creatively (Bissette’s quest for a definitive answer is ongoing, though like me he leans towards the ‘comic inspired the film’ side). Of course, the similarities could also be completely coincidental. But they are definately there, not just in the enlarged, rocky-like features which Agar’s character develops during the film, but in the way he slinks around in a coat and hat (which was usually Ben Grimm/the Thing’s amusing way of trying to walk around incognito in the early comics).
Thing similarities aside, Hand of Death is a strange little film and a fine addition to John Agar’s outre genre career. It looks more like a film made in 1956, not 1962. At 59 minutes, it barely qualifies as a feature, but it’s brief running time certainly works to its advantage, coming off like a weird tale from some pre-code horror comic published by Atlas or Harvey ten years earlier. Throw in the lovely Paula Raymond (granddaughter of pioneering Weird Tales pulp editor Farnsworth Wright), one-time Stooge Joe Besser (of the Three Stooges, not Iggy and), and an appearance from a pre-Eddie Munster Butch Patrick, and Hand of Death becomes an enjoyable bottom feature to any classic genre triple-bill from it’s period.