Producer Newton Arnold & Michael du Pont
Director Newton Arnold
Written by Newton Arnold

Dr Gil Harding Paul Lukather
Vernon Paris James Stapleton
Dina Paris Joan Harvey
Dr Ross Compton Ted Otis
Dr Ken Fry Michael du Pont
George Britton Michael Rye
Lieutenant Syms Larry Haddon
Eileen Hunter Elaine Martone
Sue Sally Kellerman
Tony Wilder, the cab driver George Sawaya
'Skeet' Wilder Barry Gordon
Carnival Barker David Kramer
Holly Irish McCalla

The very last film that Irish McCalla appeared in was yet another (disappointing) remake of a famous German silent film called Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac) (1924).  The original film, which was based on a book by the French science-fiction pioneer, Maurice Renard, was a classic of German Expressionist filmmaking.  The film reunited the creative team of director Robert Wiene and actor Conrad Veidt who were responsible for the brilliant The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, one of the first art films to achieve international acclaim.  The star, Conrad Veidt, eventually emigrated to America and is well known to Western audiences for his classic portrayals of the wicked Grand Vizier, Jaffar, in The Thief of Baghdad (1940) and the scheming Nazi, Major Strasser, in Casablanca (1942).

The first, and best, remake of this classic tale was Mad Love (1935), Peter Lorre's first American film.  Lorre had played the charming villain in Hitchcock's first, and English, version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), which paved the way for Lorre's move to Hollywood.  Mad Love catapulted Lorre to success as an American horror and thriller icon, a position he held until his death in 1964.  The weak 1961 version of The Hands of Orlac (see poster right), which was made only one year before the version Irish appeared in, was a joint British-French production.  The film, which starred Mel Ferrer and Christopher Lee, was released in both French and English language versions.
This property obviously generated a lot of interest amongst people of many nationalities, probably because of the universality of the theme of fear of one's own body.  The 1962 version with Irish has some chilling noir moments, especially the scene where Vernon Parish, the deranged killer, crushes the hands of the son of the taxi driver responsible for his accident (left).  Much of the dialogue is clichéd and stilted but some of it is also very effective.  The police lieutenant, Syms, has the best dialogue, and acts as a kind of Greek chorus commenting on the moral dilemmas faced by the other characters.  Good cinematic use is also made of the hand metaphor.  Hands feature prominently throughout the film - the hands of the wounded killer climbing the pole; the talented hands of the concert pianist; the clapping hands of the adoring crowd; the skilled hands of the surgeon; and the captivating hands of the juggler at the fairground.  The best use of this device is the scenes in which Paris is tragically reminded of what he has lost (Wikipedia & IMDb).

• Paul Lukather plays Dr Gil Harding, the surgeon who has developed a revolutionary method of transplanting human limbs.  He received a bachelor of arts from Drake University and a master's degree from Yale, and at the time this film was made he was the head of an established Drama school.  As Paul London he made his film debut playing a deputy in Make Haste To Live (1954), a low-budget noir film about a gangster tracking down the wife he was sentenced to prison for killing.  Through the 1950s and 60s his principle work was in making guest appearances on television shows like Have Gun Will Travel, Rawhide, 77 Sunset Strip and The Man From Uncle.  He also provided voices for numerous animation projects.
• The concert pianist Driven to madness by the trauma of having his hands mangled and substituted by the hands of a ruthless killers was played by James Stapleton.  This films was his movie debut.  After attending the University of Denver, Stapleton obtained a bachelor of arts in theatre at the University of Minnesota, where he also minored in psychology.  He claimed this helped him understand the homicidal and paranoic tendencies, as well as some of the inner motivations, of Vernon Paris.  He did not have an extensive acting career and besides this film only made half-a-dozen guest appearances on minor television series like Two Faces West and The Blue Angels.
• Vernon Paris' sister, Dina, who falls for Dr Harding, was played by the attractive Joan Harvey.  Ms Harvey, who retired from acting after this film, was reportedly injured slightly when James Stapleton slapped her very hard during the filming of one scene.  Director Newt Arnold had instructed Stapleton to make it look realistic and the inexperienced actor struck Harvey a blow that caused swelling to her left cheek.  She was attended by the studio nurse, given medication and rest before filming could recommence.  Prior to this film she had made only one other film, Pretty Boy Floyd (1960), the tale of the infamous 1930s outlaw.  In the Eighties Ms Harvey directed and edited a couple of antinuclear documentaries - We Are the Guinea Pigs (1980) and America: From Hitler to MX (1983).
• Child singer/dancer/musician/actor, Barry Gordon, played his first Dramatic screen role in this film.  Born in 1948, he was an exceptionally talented individual with a gifted mind who went on to an extensive acting career in television (see Lynx below).  He played the role of "Skeet" Wilder, the piano-playing son of the cab driver responsible for the accident that resulted in the loss of Vernon Paris' hands.  Interestingly, several years earlier both Barry Gordon and Irish McCalla had appeared on the same episode of The Milton Berle Show, although not in the same skits.  Elvis Presley and Debra Paget also appeared (see Irish McCalla - Personal Appearances page).  His acting career spanned fifty years and began with appearances on early television series like Leave It To Beaver (1957-63) and Dennis the Menace (1959-63).  Gordon went on to appear in LA Law (1986-94), NYPD Blue (1993-2005), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-99) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001).  On top of that he was also the President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1988 to 1995 and unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for the US Congress in 1996 and 1998.  He currently hosts an LA radio show, Barry Gordon - Left of Field, and is a proud sponsor of Camp Will-A-Way, a camp for the mentally and/or physically disabled.  An incredible person.

• The young actor who played Dr Ken Fry, one of Gil Harding's surgical team, was also the CO-producer of the film.  He was a member of the wealthy Delaware family famous for duPont chemicals and his own company, Glenwood-Neve, produced the film.  Du Pont was an avid flyer and flew a converted P-51, a World War II fighter, to Hollywood to work on the film.  However, Glenwood-Neve's insurance company refused to allow Du Pont to fly while the film was in production.  He only appeared in one other film as an actor - From Hell to Borneo (1966) - but was involved in the production and direction of several low-budget horror films.

• The small part of Sue, Ken Fry's girlfriend, was played by 25-year-old Sally Kellerman.  Kellerman's lengthy career in film and television was given a major boost when she was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Sgt. "Hot Lips" Hoolahan in Robert Altman's cynical antiwar film, M.A.S.H. (1970).  In a 1996 interview with Scarlet Street magazine Irish McCalla said that she enjoyed working with Sally Kellerman on this film.  Irish also said that at the time of filming she was dating Gardner McKay, a friend of Kellerman's, and the three of them would spend time relaxing in coffee houses.  McKay, a tall Hollywood heartthrob, was very well-known at the time because of his regular television appearances as Adam Troy, captain of the Tiki III on Adventures In Paradise (1959-62). (Wikipedia & IMDb)


Like many of the parts in Irish's films, the role of Holly, Gil Harding's lovelorn nurse, was a very minor one.  She does appear in a handful of scenes but has less than a dozen lines of dialogue overall.  In the Scarlet Street interview Irish said that she worked on the film only two or three days.  The press book for the film described Irish as a "green-eyed glamazon" and added she was probably better known in any hamlet in the world than in her adopted town of Hollywood.  It said that she received fan mail from distant places because of her regular appearances as Sheena on television screens from Japan to Puerto Rico and because of her far-flung personal appearance tours.  The promotional material claimed that she is very keen to be recognised as an actress and to break free from being stereotyped as a tree-swinging jungle queen.  The truth, however, was that Irish was beginning to distance herself from the Hollywood studio scene and was desperately struggling to establish herself as a professional artist.  This was her last role in a feature film and her sparse acting career would include only two more roles.  In 1963 she would make a guest appearance on Have Gun Will Travel and later the same year she would make her very last screen appearance on an episode of 77 Sunset Strip (see Personal Appearances page).

The film's pressbook also points out that the role provides some light comedic moments in the intense operating room scenes.  It is an undemanding role that Irish handles with competence and charm.  

The hands of a talented concert pianist, Vernon Paris, are badly mutilated in a taxicab accident.  A gifted and adventurous surgeon, Dr Gil Harding, transplants the powerful hands of a murdered man onto the wrists of the unconscious Paris.  The operation is a success but Paris is psychologically unable to accept the new hands, which previously belonged to a killer.  Harding and Paris' sister, Dina, are attracted to each other and grow closer together and Police Lieutenant Syms begins to investigate the killer's missing hands.  Paris kills his shallow girlfriend, Eileen, during an argument.  He then visits the home of Tony, the cab driver, and kill's Skeet, Tony's son, when he learns he is a a talented pianist.  Paris then wreaks his vengeance on Dr Fry, one of Harding's assistants and kills him and his girlfriend. Syms begins to suspect Paris. Paris' next victim of vengeance is Harding's other assistant, Dr Compton.  Harding confronts Paris alone in an empty concert hall and is unsuccessful in his attempts to make him see reason.  Paris attacks Harding and tries to strangle him but Syms and Dina arrive and Syms shoots Paris.  Harding and Dina can now find happiness together.  

To view a full set of lobby cards for this film click on the image below:

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Hands of a Stranger pressbook - private collection
Scarlet Street No. 23 magazine 1996

• The main Hands of a Stranger poster image and the French 1961 Hands of Orlac poster were pilfered from eBay auction items
The photo of James Stapleton and Barry Gordon, and all of the cast close-ups were taken from video captures from the Hands of a Stranger DVD, Alpha Video 2003
The cast photo is from my private collection - (standing left to right) Joan Harvey; Michael Rye; Michael du Pont; Irish McCalla; and Ted Otis; (seated) James Stapleton (left) and Paul Lukather (right)
The coloured photo of Irish as Holly is from the Hands of a Stranger DVD case, Alpha Video 2003
• Read Paul Lukather's lengthy filmography at IMDb

• This film is frequently offered on DVD on eBay

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, non-profit, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2005 Paul Wickham