Now here’s one that you may or may not have seen. THE BEAST WITH 5 FINGERS is a typical late ‘40s, let’s play the audience horror movie that only has one good thing to recommend it; and that is Peter Lorre.
The story concerns a crippled pianist, played by Victor Francen, living in an Italian village who dies and leaves his estate to his caretaker nurse, played by Andrea King. The locals in the town believe that evil has taken over the villa after several murders are committed and it is believed that the severed hand from the pianist’s corpse the grandfather of Thing in the Addams family) is responsible for the deaths. The story now turns in to a supernatural who-done-it with an array of possible suspects including, the nurse (King), the nurse’s fiancé (Robert Alda), the only two blood relatives of the deceased, the secretary of the pianist (Peter Lorre), and of course, the hand. Rounding out the cast is the inevitable police Commissario (J. Carrol Naish), who must try to make sense out of all this in the Miss Marple/Poirot style and is pretty good in the support role.
The movie starts out poorly acted and is very slow for at least the first half of the film. Alda provides one of the most boring performances I’ve ever seen with a total lack of emotion. The film shows its low budget, poor script writing and lack of scene continuity and scene jumping that I found irritating to say the least.
What makes this movie (fill in your own words here … good, almost good, great, tolerable, etc) is the performance by Peter Lorre when he faces the “beast”. It is a masterful performance, the stuff that Peter Lorre is known for. It's too bad it's only about 15 minutes of the film. I won’t go into details, because I don’t want to spoil the story if you haven’t seen it. Unfortunately, to get to this performance, you have to go through the “not so good” parts of the movie, because the story line and set-up for his performance are necessary. There are some good special effects in the film, also. I say “good” meaning for 1946. The performance of Victor Francen should also be noted. His portrayal of a formally famed, now paralyzed pianist with his anger and obsessions is well done and makes the film work (if you think the film works); and this performance sets up the believability of the "beast".
So again, this is worth seeing if you want to see a small portion of “Peter Lorre 101”, or just have some fun around the tube watching some nonsense vintage ‘40’s horror flick. I just gotta hand it to them, I rate it a 7 out of 10.