Jon Lansdale (Michael Caine) is a fairly successful author of a newspaper comic strip who likes to work in seclusion at his lakeside retreat. His family - a wife, Anne (Andrea Marcovicci) and daughter (Mara Hobel) - stay with him as well, but recently Anne has being making it plain that she would like to live in New York City, and not necessarily with Jon, something which infuriates him more than he'd care to admit. So it is that she is driving him into town when an argument erupts about her leaving him for a while, which is complicated when the traffic forces them into an accident. Horrifyingly, the incident severs Jon's right hand - and it cannot be found...
Oliver Stone will be best known for his bombastic melodramas from the eighties onwards, but not a lot of people know him from this lower budget horror film, the one which really started his directorial career. He had made his debut with Seizure back in the seventies, but while that had opened up a few avenues for his writing, what he actually wanted to do was bring his scripts to the screen himself. Not being able to secure backing for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, despite having won a screenwriting Oscar for Midnight Express, he settled with Orion, the newly-titled AIP of Hollywood exploitation movie fame, to make this.
He did write the screenplay, but it was not an original, having been based on a novel called The Lizard's Tail by Marc Brandell, a television scriptwriter whose messy divorce had inspired him to channel his frustrations in book form. This could be why the tone of the resulting movie is so anti-female if you take the side of the protagonist, with everything feminine presented as something weak and at the very least annoying, to outright rage-fuelling. Most of this is embodied in the Anne character, whose embracing of New Age mysticism and such pursuits as yoga and vegetarianism are proof that she is not to be trusted; this is not even put across in a humorous fashion, as every way which she irks her husband is far from lighthearted.
So no sitcom level business here, and the fact that Anne was probably the one who was the cause of Jon losing his hand with her poor driving skills (spot the cliché) does not improve their relationship, although she does show signs of remorse. Of course all this misogyny would be hard to take if there was a sign that Jon was to be regarded as a personality who we are supposed to look up to, but actually he's more to be pitied, a fact that does not entirely exonerate his aggressive feelings towards the opposite sex. But let's not forget that as well as being the battle of the sexes laid bare, it's also a horror movie and a rerun of The Beast with Five Fingers to boot, so after a short while Jon starts to suspect that his missing hand is missing for a reason.
That reason being that it has crawled off on it own, powered by its owner's emotions to take out his anger on those who have slighted him by strangling them to death. This is all very well in a forties chiller, as that was intentionally offered up as a bit of creepy fun, but where we're supposed to take it totally seriously the scenes of the rubber appendage crawling its way towards its victims, or more absurdly grabbing them around the neck for the actor in question to make with the "Argh! It's got me!" thrashings, don't do the film any favours. Wisely, Stone kept his monster hand offscreen for as much as possible, so he just about gets way with it, though the near-climactic battle between Caine and his errant body part is more likely to elicit unintended chuckles. For what it's worth, even though Caine did this strictly for the money, he was a professional and lifts this above what could have been a showcase of prime ham, but you don't take away a shiver from the suspense, more an uneasiness about its attitude towards the females. Music by James Horner.
Didactic, aggressive and in-your-face American writer-director who, after directing a couple of horrors (Seizure and The Hand) and writing Midnight Express and Scarface, settled into his own brand of political state-of-the-nation films like Salvador, the Oscar-winning Platoon, Wall Street, Talk Radio, JFK, Natural Born Killers and Nixon. Slightly out of character were The Doors and U-Turn: respectively, a celebration of the late sixties and a sweaty thriller. In 2004 he experienced his biggest flop with Alexander, a historical epic, but followed it with the reverent World Trade Center and a biopic of then just-leaving President George W. Bush. A belated sequel to Wall Street and gangster movie Savages were next. Say what you like, he has made his mark and loads of people have an opinion on him.