Film (1963). Joseph F Robertson Productions. Directed by Herbert L Strock. Written by Bill Idelson and Herbert L Strock, based on a story by Joseph Cranston, Bill Idelson, and Robert M Young. Starring Peter Breck, Kent Taylor, Les Hoyle, Rod Lauren, Alan Hale Jr, Allison Hayes, Sirry Steffen, Arline Judge. 89 minutes. Black and white.
When the second astronaut to land on the Moon, Mel Lockhart (Hoyle), takes off for his return flight, monitors on the ground lose track of his Spaceship (the same thing that had occurred during the first moon flight); during the opening credits, we see him in his spacesuit, looking at the stars and trying to contact Earth. Hours later, after a dial indicates that he has run out of oxygen, programme official Steve Curan (Breck) assumes he has mysteriously died; but a gaunt-looking Lockhart then contacts Earth and asks Curan to press the red button that will destroy his spacecraft. Scientist Max Weitzberg (Taylor) theorizes that he has somehow been infected by a lifeform created by human travel into space, rhetorically asking: "Does the living cell from Earth romance a cosmic ray and give birth to an illegitimate monster who makes its nest in Lockhart and Nelson [the first lunar astronaut]?" It transpires that after the explosion, Lockhart's intact arm somehow falls onto a beach on Earth, where it is discovered and retrieved by teenager Paul Lawrence (Lauren) and his girlfriend Marta Farnstorm (Steffen). The animate hand then strangles Lawrence's landlady (Judge) and infects him with the same impulse to strangle people. Fortunately, it is discovered that the alien organism cannot survive temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, so Lawrence is freed from his affliction. However, the surviving remnant of the hand (which had been chewed on by cats) may return to cause problems because the men delivering it to scientists are tempted to open the box that contains it.
The familiar horror trope (> Horror in SF) of a detached hand with a murderous mind of its own is here given a scientific explanation – of sorts, since it is never explained why spontaneously combining human and alien cells would naturally create an organism driven to slaughter every being it encounters. Like similar precursors like The Quatermass Xperiment (1955; vt The Creeping Unknown US) and First Man Into Space (1958), the film devotes little time to its Space Flight and instead focuses on terrestrial efforts to track down and neutralize a Monster created by space travel. The film's conclusion seems to lay the groundwork for a sequel that thankfully never appeared. [GW]
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