In The Devil’s Hand, a man named Rick Turner (Robert Alda) has visions of a beautiful woman (Linda Christian), a potential cause of jealousy for his girlfriend, Donna Trent (Ariadna Welter). The plot thickens when Rick sees a doll who looks exactly like his “dream girl” in a local shop. It turns out the place is far more than a doll shop, and Rick ends up immersed in a strange world enraptured by Gamba, the Great Devil God.
That’s right. Oddly enough, I kind of like this movie because it’s different. It’s not about some serial killer stalking a woman walking the moonlit streets, or a hulking supernatural maniac, vampire, or werewolf. In many ways, The Devil’s Hand is about the power of seduction. Not only does Rick get seduced away from his wife, with the possibility that the woman disappears forever. Turner’s wife and voodoo doll mythology blend into a story of betrayal and, ultimately, guilt.
Frankly, this movie delivers pretty well on a simple level. It’s even semi-disturbing, for what it is. Granted, there are no freaky grandma’s emerging from a bathtub filled with formaldehyde (or whatever was going on in The Shining). Admittedly, this movie does not deliver those kinds of shocks. However. if you’re interested in reading into betrayal, temptation, Satanic loyalties and rites, and desire versus principle, this movie is reasonably effective. There is also an element of mystery, although the investigation is resolved not long after it ensues.
The doll (or dolls) becomes both literally and figuratively symbolic, and it’s interesting to see Rick become a near-total automaton when it comes to lust. Yes, it’s obvious that The Devil’s Hand deals with physical attraction leading to surrender. How far will he go to…you know? I appreciate that this movie doesn’t simply bash Rick for being a horndog. In fact, it’s always clear that Linda Christian’s character knows what she’s doing, and that she takes pleasure in causing a rift between Rick and his current woman.
In other words, the writing here isn’t just a cookie-cutter, chickenshit “man-bashing” movie. He is, to some extent, also a victim in this bizarre, cult-driven exchange. Interestingly, the movie was written by Jo Heims, the woman who wrong “Play Misty for Me,” where a woman is perilously obsessed with Clint Eastwood’s character. Apparently, Heims was interested in female characters who use their beauty to get men into trouble. Though, to be fair, Rick isn’t entirely innocent here, either. Sure, some of his problems might be magical, or the power of attraction, but a portion of it’s probably also just plain horniness.
The Cult Angle
In a way, I’ve been downplaying the cult angle in The Devil’s Hand, but that is likely due to preference. Still, on a basic level, it is entertaining that some random people united in the basement of a doll shop to worship some devil god named Gamba.
These segments are only interesting in pieces but are properly assembled to provide a cohesive picture. They lend a weird human touch to an otherwise mysterious tale of supernaturally-driven lust and obsession. Cults are definitely interesting, and scary enough, but this story never lets us forget that, in many ways, Rick’s boner is the real enemy.
In actuality, the cult is basically the killer here, too. Or, rather, the people who use it to their own sick ends. Anyone can become the victim of Gamba if they’re not careful. There’s also the voodoo doll element, and we’ll never know all its secrets. Also, whenever people frenetically dance in the doll store basement, all these story elements come together in frenzied, Satanic “voodoo” glory. Praise be to Gamba! May he rise again!
Do you bear the mark of The Devil’s Hand? Bow before Gamba in the comments!