Janie and I, being fully vaccinated, felt secure enough to accept impromptu invitations to gather with old friends (fully vaccinated) and some long-missed acquaintances (fully vaccinated) three different evenings this week. There were wines and margaritas and tales…all potent, but non-infectious. We gathered around outdoor flames, and we gathered with rain on the roof. It was all fine.
The last year has been so tough for so many. And yes, Janie and I have seen death and the threat of death in our family. But we have hunkered down for a year with each other, and not “discovered” each other, but reveled in each other, and that’s been rich.
But this last week of jet-setting within a few blocks of our house spurred giddiness.
Giddiness is not my forte, fretting is.
This week we celebrated and discussed birthdays, surprise weddings, artistic achievements, job interviews, pet antics, current books being read, and Casa Amigos Reposado. What was missing from all of these world-renewing conversations was any mention of Trump. It was as if he never happened.
But he did…and still does.
Covid happened…and still does.
There is infection in our country and in our world. We seem to be holding it at bay, but it lurks and festers.
We must inoculate ourselves with vaccines and alertness and facts…
We think of Hammer Films and we think of Dracula and Frankenstein and strawberry-red blood dripping on otherwise pristine sets in sunglass-required lighting that comes from everywhere and nowhere in particular. But even as these money-making machines were being crafted, Shepperton Studios was cranking a bunch of other films just as interesting…if not as lucrative.
This is one of them. THE HANDS OF ORLAC (1960), directed by Edmond T. Gréville, is another
retelling of the transplanted hands saga and not the best of that gruesome genre. That dubious award would go to Peter Lorre’s MAD LOVE (1935) in my book.
But THE HANDS OF ORLAC is a pretty entertaining flick. It is encumbered by a somnambulant performance by Mel Ferrer, but it features a nice turn by Christopher Lee as a blackmailing stage magician. Lee’s character shrieks a ridiculous wild laugh (always wisely off-camera) that sounds like a cross between Snidely Whiplash and the happily surreal cackle preceding the Ventures’ “Wipe Out,” (which, I understand was inspired by one of the Maddox Brothers). Whew, that last sentence should give everyone fun things to google.
Even better than Mr. Lee’s performance are the ladies in the flick. I thought I had never heard of Lucile Saint-Simon before, but I see that she’s also in a blade-filled Italian giallo from 1963; THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG (more tamely released in the US as HORROR CASTLE), directed by sanguinary maestro Antonio Margheriti and also featuring a murderous Christopher Lee. I remember being moderately engaged by the flick a few years ago, but I’m gonna have to watch it again now. Ms. Saint-Simon is sympathetic and rocks her negligee, though the backlighting in this effort is insufficient to satisfy my more demanding geezer cineastes. Dany Carrel, however, more than makes up for that technical deficiency. Her night club act with Chris Lee is eye-popping…literally. The white-haired guys in the audience are dropping their monocles and checking their pacemakers.
And in addition to those actors, a small appearance by the ubiquitous Donald Pleasence provides a coup de gross for the evening.
The ending ties things up in a way-too-convenient way. You might call it a deux-et-manicure copout.