Sunday, March 16, 2014

Film characters with prosthetic hands

The last in this series on hands in the cinema. Those with prosthetic hands, from the human-like to animated, to out of this world.

Included are some books that explore the sociology and psychology of cinema and disability, stereotypes in general. Where do they come from and why do they thrive in certain genres over others why do they continue at all?

The Best Years of Our Lives
Harold Russell
The important thing about this first set of movie characters is how close they actually are to people we might know or meet. 

What percentage of the time do we see a character with a missing limb portrayed as a pirate, a villain or a victim? The psychology may be revenge for what's happened to them.

Harold Russell as Homer Parrish in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), directed by William Wyler also starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo. 

The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Russell who was not an actor. Here was a situation of their hiring a person who had lived what the character had lived. Russell was a WWII veteran, a double amputee who had the disability the character had. 

There is a great scene in a diner where a patron says what he thinks about the war while Russell is sitting there having given so much for his country.  

Whatever your political beliefs, it's a good film to see particularly now when we once again have disabled veterans returning home.

Not many people know that the talented and suave actor with the mellifluous speaking voice Herbert Marshall had a prosthetic leg. The fact was kept quiet from the public. He lost his right leg while serving in WW1 due to a sniper's bullet.

In May 2014 the final Debbie Reynolds Auction included a prosthetic index finger and thumb which Harold Lloyd used after having had an accident with explosives in one of his stunts. The piece, circa 1930, had blackened over time. Bidding started at $1200 and went to $3000. A pair of later personally owned glasses was also included in the lot.


The Steel Claw 1961 George Montgomery is a wartime drama set in the Philippines during World War II. It is an action-adventure film about a disabled ex-Marine on a mission to rescue an officer in the early days of the Japanese invasion. **It has no relation to the comic book series Steel Claw. 

Forest Whitaker plays Cyrus Cole in Smoke (1995).
Cyrus lost his left arm in a car accident. He wears a prosthesis with a hook.  

The film follows the lives of multiple characters, all of whom are connected by their patronage of a small Brooklyn tobacco shop managed by Auggie (Harvey Keitel).  

Cole comes to terms with a long lost son and other situations in his life during the course of the movie.

Cary Grant fights with Scobie on the Roof
in Charade
Charade 1963, stars Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. One of the bad guys, Herman Scobie played by George Kennedy has a hook hand as a leftover from WW2. 

There is a memorable rooftop struggle between Grant and Kennedy, who uses his hook as a weapon. 

Charade is a very good movie that
includes this character with a stereotypical feature.

The Claw, the villain from Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947). He's described as, "Steve The Claw Michel, A quiet, compulsive killer." He's played by Jack Lambert. To further create the stereotype of the villain, it's said that, "He has an extreme fondness for cats." Like James Bond's Ernst Stavro Blofeld and images we've seen of Marlon Brando as The Godfather with cats on their laps.Ralph Byrd played Dick Tracy in the movie.

TCM, Turner Classic Movies looked at "A history of disability in film." This one is particularly important as it looks at how the disabled, how our veterans and minorities have been portrayed in film and treated in society. Irving Thalberg said that the movies would be the best record of how we once lived.

Hook, Captain Hook Peter Pan. Dustin Hoffman played the character in Hook (1991). Captain Hook and Peter Pan have been long-term rivals. 

Captain Hook, the character we think of today is not quite the same who was the original antagonist of J. M. Barrie's early 1900s play, Peter Pan or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. 

Occasionally, I've seen images of Captain Hook merged with Long John Silver from Treasure Island (a character who has a wooden leg.)

In the 1959 B-movie Alligator People, Lon Chaney Jr.'s character has a hook after losing his hand to an alligator. None of these movies show disabled persons in a positive or realistic light. His father, Lon Chaney Sr., played several disabled characters throughout his career, perhaps most notably The Penalty in 1920 and in The Unknown with Joan Crawford (1927) he is a knife thrower pretending to be armless.

Poster for Dick Tracy's Dilemma, Ralph Byrd, Kay Christopher, 1947

Movies such as Adventures in Babysitting and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer tap into campfire stories of killers with disabilities. 

Monsters, cartoon and mythological characters

Actually more of them than we'll discuss. But here is a sampling. You'll see a common thread. A number of the characters have what film-goers have called Swiss-Army Appendages.  

This type of character probably dates back to earlier stories and legends. These characters serve as popular toys.
Joseph Wiseman James Bond Dr. No 8x10" Photo #C1147

Sanford Scolex (aka Dr. Claw) from the 1999 Inspector Gadget movie. Dr. Claw is leader of the evil M.A.D. organization.

Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) fitted himself with metal manual prostheses after Tongs cut off his hands. Dr. No is a 1962 James Bond film starring Sean Connery. 

He is the main antagonist and a reclusive member of SPECTRE. Certain DVDs of the movie come with collectible figures of the character.

In Live and Let Die, Tee Hee Johnson (Julius Harris), The Dragon to Big Bad Kananga, has a vicious-looking pincer in lieu of a right hand. Roger Moore is James Bond.  In fact, his whole arm is mechanical — he lost it to a caiman. He threatens to cut James Bond's little finger with it during an interrogation.

The Claw (Leonard Strong) from Get Smart is a parody of Dr. No. This is only one of many parody TV and film characters I'm mentioning.

Ron Perlman as Hellboy 2004, directed by Guillermo del Toro. The Allied team discovers an infant demon with a right hand of stone came through the portal. If you get the film on DVD you'll get extra including visits to the "Right Hand of Doom" set and a two-hour documentary.

March 22, 2014 you can celebrate Hellboy Day, marking 20 years of comics' favorite paranormal detective. Have you heard of Itty Bitty Hellboy from Darkhorse Comics? Things from Another World TFAW

Ash’s wrist-mounted chainsaw in Evil Dead 2 (1987). They describe his metal hand as Steampunk. 

Robert Englund appeared on the July 23, 2014 episode of SyFy's Face Off competition show for special-effects make-up artists. Englund talked a little about playing Freddy Krueger. He said that actors love accessories. The glove was like "an extension of the badness." Englund was also on the cooking challenge show, The Last Great Baker on the same evening, where bakers had to make horror themed cakes.

Sort of similar to Edward Scissorhands and Freddy Krueger, there's Wolverine’s claws from X-Men (2000). Played by Hugh Jackman, he is so iconic that people are getting tattoos of the character and he will appear on a tattoo competition show, Ink Master on March 25, 2014. 

In March 2014, it was announced that March 3, 2017 is the projected release date for the next solo Wolverine film. The screenwriter, David James Kelly is scripting the new Wolverine film, which will once again star Hugh Jackman in the title role. 
-- movie info from SlashFilm

A poster for 1965 film Knives of the Avenger shows star, Cameron Mitchell armed with long knives held between each finger ready to hurl at the bad guy.

Wolverine Bone Claws
Skeletal Replica Diamond Select Toys

There are so many collectible
Wolverine Costumes & Toys
Try making Origami Claws?
Innerspace (1987)  Mr. Igoe’s has a number of prosthetics for his hand, some of which shoot bullets.

The Hobbit, Orc Chief Azog has a metal prosthetic hand and forearm....

Gandalf: "Your grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the Mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin."
Thorin: "Curse his name, yes."  

Some animated movies:
With animation you can do just about anything.

John Silver’s arm in Treasure Planet (2002) His arm can be a weapon but a cooking gadget.... But then, I seem to recall that Edward Scissorhands did a little cooking with his hands, too. He sure did some
Sideshow James Bond
Julius Harris / Tee Hee
Live and Let Die

Gobber’s arm in How To Train Your Dragon (2010). It can be a cannon andan axe, but it also transforms into a a tankard for his ale.

Christopher Lloyd (Judge Doom) in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Judge Doom had a variety of tools and weapons for hands, a chainsaw if you wanted to be a killer or a lumberjack.

Gigan, a monster who you'll find in Godzilla vs. Megalon. Gigan has razor sharp hooked blades, the "tips of the hooks can release an explosive charge on contact with an enemy."

A few others that people mentioned to me that kind of do and kind of don't belong....

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) pre-code film with Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu and Myrna Loy as his daughter. Karloff displays long trademark fingernails, very villainous. Loy's character does as well on her pinkies, though hers are of the jewelry type. 

While this is a cult favorite movie, having Karloff and Loy playing Asian characters is not as acceptable by today's standards. We still have many able
Myrna Loy in Mask of Fu Manchu
bodies actors playing disabled characters.

Thai brass dancer's fingernails are one thing, but now with long knuckle rings in fashion, Myrna would have no problem finding something to suit her fancy.
10Pcs 3 Sizes Gothic Punk Black Crystal False Nail Claw Talon Finger Ring Cosplay Fashion Jewelry.

In The Piano (1993) we see Holly Hunter's character lose a finger. She receives a silver replacement finger fashioned by Harvey Keitel's character. Losing limbs isn't uncommon in movies (horror movies especially) but this is the only one I've heard of where something like this happened. The film also stars Sam Neill and Anna Paquin.

Uma Thurman's unnaturally large thumbs in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues 1993. 

Speaking of disability... With more and more baby boomers getting older and our own hearing getting worse (and despite regulations), we don't find enough closed captioning on television or on the streamed content. Sooner than later that's going to start to hurt vendors in the pocketbook. 

Books about History, Stereotypes in Film, Television, Media
Stereotypes, perception, imagery based on Disability, Gender, Racial, Ethnic, more...

Many are available now as eBooks for Kindle, Nook, Sony...

The Bigger Little Book of Hollywood Cliches: a Greatly Expanded and Much Improved Compendium of Movie Cliches, Stereotypes, Obligatory Scenes, ... Shopworn Conventions and Outdated Archetypes Lazy filmmaking? Roger Ebert

Hollywood Goes Oriental: CaucAsian Performance in American Film (Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series) Think of Asian stereotypes in the movies

Images That Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media

Film and Stereotype: A Challenge for Cinema and Theory (Film and Culture Series)

Cinema Of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies

Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body

Disability and the Media (Disability Library)

Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric (Critical Perspectives on Disability) is available digitally for Kindle and in paper. It talks about Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr. and much more.

The Science of James Bond: From Bullets to Bowler Hats to Boat Jumps, the Real Technology Behind 007's Fabulous Films  

Related pages of interest:

Disabled Actors should play disabled characters

Hands in film fashion, surrealist influences, The Women, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Elsa Schiaparelli

Movies with rogue, disembodied hands

Movies with transplanted, possessed hands

Buying, Selling, Auctioning Academy Awards : Harold Russell sells Oscar to pay for his wife's medical needs

Have a Charade movie watching party

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