There is one big role that I associate actor Neil Hamilton with. He was Commissioner Gordon in the late 60’s Batman TV series. That’s enough to secure your legacy right there. His take on Gordon was as a sort of grandfatherly leader of the Gotham City police department, which makes his role in today’s film very unusual for him. He shows up as the leader of a bizarre cult complete with voodoo dolls and human sacrifices in a little horror film from Crown International, 1961’s The Devil’s Hand.
The story centers on a man named Rick Turner (Robert Alda) who has been seeing visions in his dreams of a gorgeous woman in the clouds. Then, one day he and his girlfriend Donna (Adriadna Welter) happen upon a doll shop displaying a doll in the window that looks just like the woman he sees in his dreams. When they go in to investigate, they learn from the shop owner, Frank Lamont (Hamilton), that it was Rick who actually ordered the doll and provided a photo of the woman for the doll to be modeled after. Furthermore, there is another doll in the shop that more than resembles Donna. After the couple leaves the shop, Frank shoves a large pin into the Donna doll’s chest, she then ends up in the hospital with a heart condition.
The next day, Rick goes back to the shop and picks up the doll of his dream woman. He then ends up meeting the actual woman he’s been seeing, Bianca (Linda Christian). Long story short, the two start an affair, which involves Rick being ushered into the cult that both Bianca and Frank are a part of. They even take part in a ceremony where a woman is almost sacrificed to their god, Gamba.
After joining the cult, Rick pretty much abandons Donna. He also finds all sorts of things going his way. He does well in the stock market and has lots of luck at the race trace. However, he soon learns that Donna’s health issues are being caused by the cult. He takes it upon himself to break into the doll shop and remove the pin from the Donna doll…but he still keeps sleeping with Bianca. Soon, Frank finds out about this and Rick has to decide what he’s going to do when Donna is brought in as the next human sacrifice.
The Devil’s Hand is a decent enough little horror flick that, though entertaining, doesn’t quite ramp up the creepiness factor enough. What makes the film engaging is two pretty solid villains. Neil Hamilton especially does a great job. Like I said earlier, on Batman he came across as everyone’s lovable grandpa who happens to be best friends with a superhero. Here he’s effectively sinister. He’s not at all lovable in this. He looks like he’s burning a hole in all the other characters with his eyes. Plus, the guy hangs out in a store full of weird looking dolls all day. On the other side of things, Linda Christian also makes an interesting villain, but more sensual than sinister. Though, I do have to admit that I was a bit confused about exactly why these two are so interested in adding Rick to their fold…other than the fact that she wants to bump uglies with the guy. Even so, why is Hamilton’s character so determined to do Bianca’s bidding when A. he’s clearly the man in charge, and B. he obviously wants to roll in the hay with her himself.
Though our two villains are quite interesting, the good guys are a bit, to be honest, boring. Robert Alda does not come across as charismatic in the least, which just furthers the confusion as to why Bianca is so obsessed with him. Likewise, Ariadna Welter’s Donna is so lacking in emotion that she doesn’t even bat an eye when a smirking doll shop owner informs her that her beau is ordering dolls modeled after women he sees in his dreams. Does anyone seriously believe there is any woman on this planet who would be okay with that?
The film does have a few fun horror moments. There is a subplot involving a reporter who has infiltrated the cult whose doll surrogate gets a pin in the forehead, which ends up causing a spectacular car crash. The fiery conclusion to the film is also quite good. The ultimate end, though, is a bit of eye-roller moment. It features a brief appearance by Linda Christian’s Bianca to essentially indicate that she’ll be back to do this again with some other guy next week. It’s a bit goofy.
The Devil’s Hand is definitely an uneven little horror film, but it’s still mildly satisfying. As a film that likely played many a drive-in, though, it’s fairly mundane. The two main villains are a step in the right direction, but had the shocks been amped up a bit, we could’ve gotten something a bit more sensational.