The Beast with Five Fingers

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The Beast with Five Fingers
The Beast with Five Fingers.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Florey
Produced by William Jacobs
Written by William Fryer Harvey (story)
Curt Siodmak
Starring Robert Alda
Andrea King
Peter Lorre
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Wesley Anderson
Edited by Frank Magee
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
December 25, 1946
Running time
88 min.
Country United States
Language English

The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) is a horror film directed by Robert Florey and with a screenplay by Curt Siodmak, based on a short story by W. F. Harvey first published in the New Decameron. The original music score was composed by Max Steiner. The film was marketed with the tagline "A sensation of screaming suspense!"

The film is notable as Warner Bros.' sole foray into the horror genre in the 1940s, and as Peter Lorre's last film with the studio. Siodmak had originally written the film for Paul Henreid, who turned it down.[1] The piece much played throughout the film is 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 Ervin Nyíregyházi is shown playing the piano.

Plot summary[edit]

Francis Ingram 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; a musicologist, Hillary Cummins; a friend, Bruce Conrad; and his sister's son, Donald Arlington. 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 of the local police investigates the death, but finds little sign of murder.

A few days later, Raymond Arlington (Donald's maternal uncle) arrives, determined to ensure that his nephew gets the inheritance. Duprex, Ingram's attorney, tells Raymond that there are suspicions regarding Ingram's death that may lead to overturning the new will in favor of the old one. 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 cut off Ingram's left hand. 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 giving 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. Again, Ingram's distinctive piano playing is heard. In a fit of madness, Donald Arlington flees the house with Conrad in pursuit. He comes to his senses, and is not harmed. Cummins discovers the hand again, nails it to a board, and puts it in the safe. When Holden discovers the hand, Cummins (becoming more and more mentally unhinged) tries to burn it in the fire. But the hand crawls out and chokes him to death.

Commissario Castanio discovers a hidden record player and concludes that Cummins was playing it to scare people. He theorizes that Cummins cut off the hand, killed Duprex, and tried to kill Arlington.


See also[edit]

  • 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 (1981) – remake of The Beast with Five Fingers directed by Oliver Stone


  1. ^ p.262 "Curt Siodmak Interview" by Patrick McGilligan, Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s, University of California Press

External links[edit]