Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Despite the exigencies of the Nazi occupation of France, veteran filmmaker Maurice Tourneur managed to turn out a classic psychological horror film, La Main du Diable (The Devil's Hand). A variation of the Faust legend, the film's "Mephistopheles" is a smarmy Vichy-government civil servant, brilliantly played by Palau. When struggling artist Pierre Fresnay sells his soul, Palau binds the bargain by giving the artist a severed, withered, yet "living" human hand. Years later, Pierre, on the verge of death, is forced to learn the identity of the man from whom the hand was stolen, lest he burn in eternal damnation. The film's highlight is a nocturnal gathering of all the previous owners of the hand who unfold their tales of woe to the beleaguered Pierre. Eventually, the hand is returned to its rightful owner, an ending that is at once happy and tragic. Like most of Tourneur's best works, The Devil's Hand is far better seen than described (prints are available, though most are in deplorable condition). Completed in 1942, the film finally made it to the U.S. several years later.
artist, deal-with-the-devil, fate, grave, obligation, power, Satan, soul, struggle