A “hand with a mind of its own” story, and not a bad one at that. “The Hand of Borgus Weems” is reviewed here.
“The Hand of Borgus Weems” ***
Teleplay by Alvin Sapinsley, Story “The Other Hand” by George Langelaan
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
George Maharis as Peter Lacland
Ray Milland as Dr. Archibald Ravdon
Joan Huntington as Susan Douglas
Patricia Donahue as Dr. Innokenti
Peter Mamakos as Detective Nico Kazanzakis
William Mims as Brock Ramsey
Robert F. Hoy as Everett Winterreich
The story begins with Peter Lacland (George Maharis) driving in a crowded city street. He can’t seem to control his hand or his foot. Suddenly, he drives right at a pedestrian, hits him and crashes. The pedestrian is uninjured but glares at him.
After seeing an ad on a bus, he visits Dr. Archibald Ravdon (Ray Milland) and asks the doctor to cut off his hand. Ravdon asks why and Lacland writes a prescription in Latin, a language he doesn’t know and adds, “It makes my hand do things I don’t want to do.” It tried to commit murder three times Lacland stopped it. Or himself. Whatever.
The doctor refuses to amputate the hand under such conditions and wants to refer Lacland to a psychiatrist and Lacland proceeds to pick up a large, heavy paperweight and bring it down with full force on the evil hand, smashing it into uselessness, thus forcing Ravdon to remove the hand out of medical necessity.
Explaining in a series of flashbacks to Dr. Ravdon who is later joined by a psychiatrist, Lacland begins that a while back, he was to have a business meeting at a man’s apartment, and while at the buzzers, got distracted and pushed the wrong one. He goes up to the wrong apartment and meets Susan Douglas, launching a very whirlwind courtship that ended up with them engaged three days later.
But things took a near violent turn due to the hand and Lacland has resorted to demanding that Susan keep away from him to he won’t kill her. The incidental music here is a little ironic and irritating, but kind of creepy in an early-70s futuristic synthesizer sort of way.
He says he first consciously thought he was not in control of his hand when he was leafing through the phone book when suddenly his hand stopped. Then it called the number it stopped on. “It was almost as though I weren’t there—only my hand,” he explains.
A man answers the phone and the hand writes “Borgus Weems.” The man says “this is Borgus Weems speaking.” Freaked out, Lacland hangs up and burns the paper the name was written on. “Not a single one of those actions was performed by me of my own free will,” he insists.
Later at his apartment, a man named Brock Ramsey (William Mims) arrives and says he knew someone who lived at Lacland’s place five or six years ago. The hand reaches for a letter opener. Ramsey says he has reason to believe Lacland phoned him earlier (when he called Borgus Weems). The hand raises up with the weapon, the phone rings, Ramsey says “please, you don’t understand” and Lacland manages to get the hand to drop the letter opener. It’s Susan calling.
Days later, driving to visit a client, Lacland realizes his foot is co-operating with the hand. Here we have a reprise of the opening scene where he tried to run down the pedestrian.
Afterward, he begins to plan to murder Susan. He buys a gun. Says his brain was now co-operating with the hand, concealing his own true thoughts.
He goes to Susan’s place, draws the gun, then pulls it back as his brain fights itself. He then moves the gun toward his own head but Susan pushes it away. It goes off harmlessly (except perhaps to whatever furniture it may have it). He tells her to leave.
Back in real time, Dr. Ravdon has a policeman visit Lacland at home. He knows about Weems. Four years ago, Weems was pushed to his death from a window in this very apartment and in that act, his right hand was lopped off at the wrist. The cop thinks Weems’ niece, Susan and her boyfriend Ramsey did it. The lawyer who got them off was the man Lacland tried to run down in the street. Weems used Lacland as an “instrument of revenge” the cop concludes.
Dr. Ravdon then starts to write a tranquilizer prescription for Lacland but it’s in Latin. The cop happens to read Latin and translates. It’s from Virgil. “Arise my avenger out of my bones.” Ravdon looks up, realizing Weems’ hand is now possessing his and with an expression of shock and fear says “Good Lord” as our story comes to a close.
This is a deliberately-paced segment and it kept me thoroughly interested throughout all the way to the surprising, chilling conclusion.
Ray Milland was of course a big star in the 40s and 50s. He remained active mostly in television up until his death in the mid-80s. At this point in his career, he was in the first of an unrelated trilogy of sci-fi/horror tales that, let’s be honest, were not roles as dignified as those he had played for among others, Alfred Hitchcock. The next year (1972), he would star as a rich man who hates nature and is gets his comeuppance by Frogs and, somewhat hilariously (it has to be seen to be believed), as a rich racist who plans to prolong his life by having his head attached to another body and whose head is attached to the body of black former football player Rosie Grier, except Grier’s head is still on, and they become The Thing With Two Heads.