Happy Birthday, Hand of Death (1962)

It was fifty years ago today that THE HAND OF DEATH (1962) (aka FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH) – NEITHER title related to martial arts films of the same names – was released. It’s the story of a scientist (John Agar) who works on a nerve gas & a serum/antidote and gets over-exposed to both. He then mutates into a scaly monster whose mere touch of his hand causes instant, painful death. It’s similar in some ways to THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON (1957). The appearance of the monster, replete with dark trenchcoat and hat, is VERY reminiscent of Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, of Marvel’s Fantastic Four.

Well, THIS one has me feeling embarrassed. For decades this was considered a lost film. The only images of it was printed in FAMOUS MONSTER OF FILMLAND, copies of the movie poster one sheet and the film’s trailer that were still in circulation amongst collectors. However, in doing a bit of research for today’s anniversary, I’ve only JUST discovered that it was actually FOUND in the vaults of Fox, and shown on their AMC cable channel late nights back in 2002. Though never officially released to home video, apparently it’s doing a thriving business for several, um, ‘discount‘ purveyors. I’ll have to look into finding it now. Going back to the Ben Grimm comparison, it’s been suggested that Stan Lee was influenced by the film, but the film was released more than six months after the publication of FF #1, so perhaps it could be the other way around. Perhaps THAT’S why it was a ‘lost film’ for so long. Well, though it’s no longer lost, it would seem that HAND OF DEATH will always have some air of mystery about it.


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