Updated: Nov 19
NOTE: This review originally appeared in print in the August 2020 edition of Drive-In Asylum.
In The Devil's Hand (1961, though filmed in 1959), Rick Turner (Robert Alda) thinks he has met the woman of his dreams in Bianca Milan (Linda Christian). She appears from the clouds proposing breathlessly, “let’s enjoy each other.” She offers to sing and dance the forbidden dance for him: “Should I dance for you as your blood races through your veins?”
But more quickly than he can grab a moist towelette from Bianca’s mute Tibetan man servant, Rick’s under the control of a satanic cult headed by high executioner Francis Lamont, played with stink-eyed intensity by Neil Hamilton, who had hundreds of acting credits going back to 1918 but who has been best known for the past 50-plus years as Batman's Commissioner Gordon. Lamont uses voodoo dolls and precise enunciation equally to keep members and others in line. Rick’s girlfriend, Donna Trent (Ariadne Welter), pays the price, landing in Belmont Hospital with a coronary condition after Lamont sticks a pin in her doll’s heart. An undercover reporter gets it even worse for trying to expose the cult, whose meetings seem largely to revolve around brief interpretive dances while Chaino (aka Leon Johnson) beats his bongo and members who sit on big pillows yell out, “Gamba!” occasionally and watch Lamont force people to prove their loyalty through encounters with a ceiling fan from hell.
Director William J. Hole Jr. (Hellbound, Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow) keeps things stylish and slightly spooky but with a definite light touch that lets 70 minutes or so of satanic shenanigans slip by devilishly fast. The enticing Christian (Slaves of Babylon, Murder in Amsterdam) is a lot of fun, saying things like “I saw you. I wanted you. That’s what made you special.” Music from Chaino and legendary session guitarist Rene Hall as well as a killer and magnificently sleazy opening dance theme from Baker Knight add mightily to the movie’s appeal.