Arlecchino Cinema > 09:00


Robert Florey


Sunday 26/06/2022


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

When wheelchair-using pianist Francis Ingram is found dead, his entourage comes under suspicion: could it have been his nurse Julie, or his secretary Cummins, or perennial hanger-on Bruce, secretly in love with Julie? When Ingram’s last will and testament makes Julie his sole heir, his family gets ideas of its own, including bringing up an (as-yet unwritten) ‘earlier’ testament. Meanwhile, Cummins starts to worry ever more about his library as whoever inherits the house will also get possession of these treasures. By the time of The Beast with Five Fingers, Peter Lorre’s type had been cast in iron: everything on the farther side of sane and decent. For all the crafty screenwriting by the great genre moralist Curt Siodmak, the big question in The Beast with the Five Fingers was never: “who killed Francis Ingram?” but always: “How would Lorre play the culprit Hilary Cummins, and how would everybody else look in comparison?” In this case not all of Cummins’s madness was expressed by Lorre’s horror film speciality: the wounded soul with somnambulist grace – some excellently executed special effects plus formidably stylish direction courtesy of Robert Florey added a few layers to this particularly outré performance. With hindsight, it’s difficult not to see Lorre’s own troubles at the time in this anguish-laden assault on the viewers’ nerves: Warner had severed its ties with him, leaving Lorre adrift in a moment when his career was slowing down; also, his well-known friendship with Bertolt Brecht as well as his leftwing political convictions made living and working in Hollywood ever more risky.

 Olaf Möller

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal racconto omonimo (1919) di William Fryer Harvey. Scen.: Curt Siodmak, Harold Goldman. F.: Wesley Anderson. M.: Frank Magee. Scgf.: Stanley Fleischer, Bertram Tuttle. Mus.: Max Steiner. Int.: Robert Alda (Bruce Conrad), Andrea King (Julie Holden), Peter Lorre (Hilary Cummins), Victor Francen (Francis Ingram), J. Carrol Naish (Ovidio Castanio), Charles Dingle (Raymond Arlington), John Alvin (Donald Arlington), David Hoffman (Duprex). Prod.: William Jacobs per Warner Bros. Pictures – 35mm. D.: 88’