The Beast With Five Fingers

Photo of Peter Lorre and Andrea King starring in "The Beast With Five Fingers." Warner Bros., 1946.

Peter Lorre and Andrea King star in “The Beast With Five Fingers.” Warner Bros., 1946.

In 1946, Andrea King stepped reluctantly in front of the cameras at Warner Bros. to make what is now probably her best-known film.

“We absolutely hated the title,” says Andrea with a sigh. “It sounded like one of those campy B-Movies, and I had just come off of a starring role opposite Ida Lupino in ‘The Man I Love.’ Bob Alda, Peter Lorre, and I felt that it had to be a step backwards.”

They tried in vain to get out of doing it, but one look at the fascinating script soon excited all three of its leading players. It was a taught, psychological thriller … a mood piece … with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Set in Spain at the turn of the 20th century, Andrea was to play the American nurse Julie Holden, a constant companion to an elderly, partially paralyzed, retired concert pianist (Victor Francen), who lives with a modest staff in a large gloomy mansion. Peter Lorre was set to play Victor’s personal secretary Hilary Cummins, and Robert Alda was starring along with them as Bruce Conrad, an American con man who also happens to be in love with Julie.

“We took the film very seriously after reading the script … except when Peter got bored one day,” Andrea recalls. “He just loved practical jokes! We were filming a scene at the dining table, when Victor Francen’s character questions each of us about his sanity. It was supposed to be a very somber scene, before he announces to us that he’s rewritten his will.”

According to Andrea, the setup around the table should have taken only a half-day to shoot.

Left to right: Robert Alda, Andrea King, Patricia Barry, William Edmunds, Belle Mitchell, Peter Lorre, Victor Francen, and David Hoffman in “The Beast With Five Fingers,” Warner Bros., 1946.

Left to right: Robert Alda, Andrea King, Patricia Barry, William Edmunds, Belle Mitchell, Peter Lorre, Victor Francen, and David Hoffman in “The Beast With Five Fingers,” Warner Bros., 1946.

“Instead, every time Victor asked Peter a question, Peter would turn to us very seriously and say his line with a carrot hanging out of his ear or a piece of parsley dangling from his nose. Bob and I got the giggles and couldn’t fight our way back out of it. Victor grew more and more angry. And if that weren’t enough, our director Robert Florey was so furious after several more takes that he stormed right off the set, and filming was canceled for the rest of the day!

“Only a star with enough clout as Peter Lorre could’ve gotten away with a stunt like that,” Andrea laughs. “We finished the scene the following day, and that was that.”

Or so Andrea thought. Peter was back at his pranks again in no time. Andrea found the dreaded rubber, mechanical “hand” prop stuffed into her dressing room makeup drawer and covered with movie blood!

“I let out such a shriek,” says Andrea, “and of course I knew right away who the culprit was. We had such fun!”

“The Beast With Five Fingers” proved to be a popular release, although its popularity seems to have grown larger over the years. Charles Addams even used their disembodied hand as his inspiration for the character of Thing in The Addams Family.

Photo of rare Italian 3-sheet for "The Beast With Five Fingers."

Rare Italian 3-sheet for “The Beast With Five Fingers.”

“Many people remember seeing this movie when they were young children, and it scared the hell out of them,” smiles Andrea. “I don’t think it’s all that frightening by today’s standards, but it’s still a rather chilly movie. I’m just glad when I hear people say they were scared by it. We did our jobs, then.”

Photo of original 6-sheet for "The Beast With Five Fingers."

Original 6-sheet for “The Beast With Five Fingers.”



Watch the original trailer for “The Beast With Five Fingers” on YouTube now: