The Beast with Five Fingers

The Beast with Five Fingers is a 1946 mystery horror film directed by Robert Florey from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak, based on a short story written by W. F. Harvey and first published in 1919 in The New Decameron. The film stars Robert Alda, Victor Francen, Andrea King, and Peter Lorre. The film's score was composed by Max Steiner.

The Beast with Five Fingers
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Florey
Produced byWilliam Jacobs
Screenplay byCurt Siodmak
Harold Goldman
Based onThe Beast with Five Fingers
1919 short story in The New Decameron
by William Fryer Harvey
StarringRobert Alda
Andrea King
Peter Lorre
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyWesley Anderson
Edited byFrank Magee
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
December 25, 1946
Running time
88 min.
CountryUnited States


Francis Ingram (Victor Francen) is a noted pianist who lives in a large manor house near a small, isolated Italian village. Ingram suffered a stroke which left his right side immobile, and he has to use a wheelchair to get around. He has retreated to the manor house for the past few years—seen by only a few close friends. These include his nurse, Julie Holden (Andrea King); a musicologist (and amateur astrologist), Hillary Cummins (Peter Lorre); a friend, Bruce Conrad (Robert Alda); and his sister's son, Donald Arlington (John Alvin). Ingram has fallen in love with Julie Holden, and has changed his will so that she receives the vast bulk of his enormous estate when he dies. But Julie is secretly in love with Conrad. The change in the will disinherits Arlington and Cummins, and Cummins tries to expose Holden's affair. Ingram, outraged at the slander on his beloved's good name, tries to choke Cummins to death. Only Julie's arrival (after meeting Conrad in the garden) saves him.

Later that night, Ingram begins to suffer hallucinations from poison put in his food and drink. He climbs into his wheelchair, makes it to the top of the stairs, and calls out for Julie (who never comes to his aid). Ingram falls down the stairs, breaking his neck. (The audience does not see if Ingram was pushed or he fell.) Commissario Ovidio Castanio (J. Carrol Naish) of the local police investigates the death, but finds little sign of murder.

A few days later, Raymond Arlington (Charles Dingle) (Donald's father) arrives, determined to ensure that his son gets the inheritance. Duprex (David Hoffman), Ingram's attorney, is "persuaded" (by the agreement of his getting a third of the estate) into helping Raymond overturn the new will in favor of the old one, telling him that there are suspicions regarding Ingram's death. That night, Duprex is murdered by an unseen assailant. Commissario Castanio begins to investigate. The Arlingtons try to search for the old will, while suspicion falls on Cummins after he tries to remove several expensive old books from the manor house. That night, everyone hears Ingram playing the piano in the main hall, but when they go to check no one is there. Donald, too, is attacked and almost choked to death. Commissario Castanio discovers that someone has broken into the Ingram mausoleum and that Ingram's left hand has been cut off. But it seems impossible for anyone to have gotten in or out.

The audience now begins to see a disembodied hand moving around the manor house. The hand attacks Cummins, but he is able to assuage the hand's quest for vengeance by returning to the hand Ingram's signet ring. He locks the hand in a closet, but when Conrad and Holden appear to see what has happened — the hand has disappeared. Meanwhile, Donald Arlington remembers the combination and location of an old safe in the house, and Commissario Castanio and his father accompany him to the room where it is located. They discover the old will...and the disembodied hand. In a fit of madness, Donald Arlington flees the house with Conrad in pursuit. He comes to his senses, and is not harmed. Julie realizes that Cummins, who is now firmly convinced that the hand is out for vengeance and even sees it playing the piano, is responsible for the attacks and confronts him; he tries to kill her, but she is able to escape by claiming to believe his claims about the hand. Cummins (now completely mentally unhinged) tries to burn it in the fire, but the hand crawls out and chokes him, fading out of existence after he dies.

Commissario Castanio and Conrad discover a hidden record player with a recording of Ingram's piano playing and conclude that Cummins had been playing it to scare people. He theorizes that Cummins cut off the hand, killed Duprex, and tried to kill Arlington. By that point, his mind had snapped, making him believe his own fabricated plot.



The film was Warner Bros.' only foray into the horror genre in the 1940s and was Peter Lorre's last film with the studio.

Graham Baker was reported as working on a script for Warner Bros in 1945.[1] Robert Florey was assigned to direct with Andrea King and Paul Henreid to star.[2] The screenwriter Curt Siodmak had originally written the film for Henreid, who turned it down.[3] Robert Alda was cast instead.

Filming started 27 November 1945.[4] The piece much played throughout the film is a slightly modified version of Brahms' transcription for left hand of the chaconne from Johann Sebastian Bach's Violin Partita in D minor, performed by Warner Bros. pianist Victor Aller. The hand of pianist Victor Aller is shown playing the piano and throughout the movie.


Home media

The film was released for the first time on DVD by Warner Brothers on October 1, 2013.[5]

It was released on Laser Disc by MGM/UA Home Video on March 16, 1999.


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 18 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 6.6/10.[6] Author and film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film two and a half out of a possible four stars, calling it "[an] Intriguing, if not entirely successful mood piece".[7] Bob Mastrangelo from Allmovie gave the film a positive review, calling it "effectively eerie", and praised the film's special effects.[8]

See also

  • The Hands of Orlac (1924) – Austrian silent film adaptation of the novel by Maurice Renard
  • Mad Love (1935) – American sound remake of The Hands of Orlac
  • The Hands of Orlac (1960) – British-French adaptation of the Renard novel
  • The Hand of Fear (1976) – Doctor Who episode inspired by The Beast with Five Fingers
  • The Hand (1981) – remake of The Beast with Five Fingers directed by Oliver Stone
  • Evil Dead II (1987) – reference of The Hand and The Beast with Five Fingers


  1. NEWS OF THE SCREEN: Bogart and Stanwyck Will Star in 'Fountainhead'-- 'Moscow Skies' Due at the Stanley Today Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Jan 1945: 16
  2. WARNERS RESUME WITH HAYS OFFICE: Film Company Announces Its Return to Fold--Two New Attractions Due Today Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 07 Nov 1945: 20.
  3. p.262 "Curt Siodmak Interview" by Patrick McGilligan, Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s, University of California Press
  4. JOHN FORD SIGNED TO DIRECT FOR FOX: Will Return to Studio for 'My Darling Clementine'--Five Films Arrive This Week Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 26 Nov 1945: 18
  5. "The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) - Robert Florey". Allmovie. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  6. "The Beast With Five Fingers (1946) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  7. Leonard Maltin (2015). Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-14-751682-4.
  8. Mastrangelo, Bob. "The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) - Robert Florey". Bob Mastrangelo. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
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