Hand of Death (1962)

John Agar was a versatile actor appearing in nearly 100 features and television appearances.  He was adept at a wide range of roles in westerns, war flicks, melodramas and sci-fi films.  I especially liked him in the scientist role in various monster flicks such as Tarantula, Attack of the Puppet People, “Zontar“, The Brain from Planet Arous, and Hand of Death (1962).

Hand of Death was allegedly a lost film, but started showing up as bootlegs at various conventions.  I’m not sure of the source.  My copy appears to have originated from the UK, possibly from a 16mm print.  The copy is crummy, but doesn’t appear to be from videotape.  Nevertheless, I like this film, but it’s no lost classic. Agar plays a military scientist working on a nerve-agent weapon to eliminate the threat of the atomic bomb.  He experiments on himself and turns into a hulking, charred and grotesque monster often compared to Ben Grimm (The Thing) from Marvel’s Fantastic 4.  The makeup is actually superb and was crafted by Bob Mark, who worked on the Lost in Space TV series (1965) and a lot of westerns and war films.

Agar acquires the “touch of death” ala Janos Rukh (Boris Karloff) in Universal’s The Invisible Ray (1936).  Here Joe Besser is about to meet his fate.  Poor Joe.  This film also introduces us to Butch Patrick, who plays a young kid who encounters the ailing Agar.

Hand of Death is an odd little film.  It runs under an hour, but the pacing moves at a decent clip.  It’s largely an excuse to have Agar run around in monster garb to weird jazzy bongo music .  Yup -score by Sonny Burke (Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, 1955).   To me it totally works —but this is a crappy little film really for completists and fans of Agar.  



2 Responses to “Hand of Death (1962)”

  1. I had only seen still photos of this film for years before I was able to tape it off the Fox Movie Channel when they showed it in 2002. I really like this film–it’s one of Agar’s last b/w sci-fi films. It shows signs of having been thrown together too quickly, and is low budget but should be interesting to anyone who likes mystery pictures or B-movies.

  2. Perry Armstrong Says:

    One of my fondest childhood memories is watching this film with my father at our local cinema in Petone, New Zealand. That cinema was marvellous, as it always showed rare, off-beat stuff such as ‘Hand of Death’ and the Italian James Bond rip-off ‘From the Orient with Fury’ – ah, those were happy times!

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