The arrival of a strange parcel containing a rotted hand allows a bitter vengeance to be meted out.
The Hand was especially adapted from the Guy de Maupassant classic, for the Mystery Theater, by Ian Martin, and starred Alexander Scourby, Ian Martin, Mildred Clinton, and Guy Sorel.
It has taken eighty episodes, or one hundred and ten, if the repeats aired are also included in the count, to reach one, but it had to happen at some point. What had to happen? I have finally come to an episode that I can clearly remember listening to, way back in July of 1979.
For whatever reason, probably a bout of summer vacation induced boredom, my younger brother and I decided it would be fun to camp overnight in the backyard of the house where our family lived. I brought with me my portable radio/cassette player, so I could record the Mystery Theater episode that would be airing that night. That did not quite go as planned, however. While I heard the episode, the cassette recorder did not work and I did not get the episode on tape, for later "on demand" listening. I was quite perturbed by this, as I really enjoyed the episode that night. A creepy and atmospheric tale of horrible vengeance, from beyond the grave.
The episode was The Hand, of course. While my frustration at not getting a recording could, and would, be enough for me to recall the title of the episode I missed, it cannot account for my vivid recall of the episode itself. No, the credit for that goes to adaptor Ian Martin, who pulled out all the stops and delivered a graphic, ghastly, and, um, great tale of terror.
What really stuck in my mind were the many gruesome descriptions of the titular hand. Here is a snippet of what follows the quote at the start of this review:
"Not a skeleton hand, all bright and clean, but a hand black and desiccated. With traces of blood upon the bones at the point where they had been severed, as with the blow of an ax, at the middle of the forearm..."
Then there are the descriptions of the lengths that the cursed Sir John Rowell (Guy Sorel) goes to, just to keep the hand "contained":
"Round the wrist, an enormous chain of iron had been rivened about the foul relic, and this chain fastened the hand to the wall by a great ring, solid enough to hold an elephant in leash."
Not too difficult to understand why I would remember it so well, now is it? And those are just a small sampling of the many gruesome goodies to be found in this episode.
But how does it hold up today, forty years later? Rather well, I think. It's well paced, well acted, and, especially in the third act, it has a gothic ghastliness that will no doubt chill the bones of many a new listener. Not just a great episode, but one of the series very best.