A Handful on The Beast with Five Fingers

Peter Lorre's last film with Warner Brothers deserves a round of applause. The mystery-horror film found several characters tied to the death of a wealthy recluse whose hand lives on after his death. Below are five more reasons to love this wild ride of a movie.

1. Lorre wasn’t the first considered for the lead.

Warner Brothers bought the rights for the eponymous short story in 1942 from W.F. Harvey’s widow for 200 pounds. Director Robert Florey wanted Paul Henreid, who was completing Casablanca at the time. However the studio didn’t think he could play opposite a hand. Lorre, of course, could. The film had a 10 week shooting schedule and a budget of $750,000.

2. Lorre was a prankster.

Peter was quite the stinker when it came to the prop hand. He hid it in his co-star's dressing room whether it was stuffed in a drawer, smushed in her shoe, or hanging out in her robe pocket. Andrea King said, “That hand could and would be somewhere… But I did know it was Peter.”

3. Lorre enjoyed the spotlight.

He was often finding ways to make his co-stars laugh. During the serious dinner scene, Lorre put celery in his ears and a carrot up his nose, causing laughter fits among the stars. Robert Alda said, “[He] was a tremendous scene-stealer and that you had to be prepared for this all the time."

4. The script went through many revisions.

The murder-mystery aspect helped break the story, but even then, the director and Peter Lorre himself helped shape the film. Originally, the concept was to see the story more through Lorre’s madness, but the studio wanted a more straight-forward story. A deleted scene even had the main characters discovering the charred remains of the hand and realizing it was an imagined enemy.

5. There were a lot of hands on deck.

A mechanical hand was mounted on wheels and functioned like a toy train as it inched like a caterpillar, fingers hunching then flattening out. When the hand played the piano, it was actually pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi’s hand with the rest of him covered in velvet. Other times, Director Robert Florey’s hand emerged from the box to wiggle its fingers, and another hand was made from wood and wax.