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Body Parts (1991)

A patchwork of the various screen versions of that old chestnut The Hands of Orlac, rather disorienting in its mixture of supposedly up-to-the-minute surgery with incredibly antiquated plot devices. Jeff Fahey loses his arm in a car crash, but brilliant experimental surgeon Lindsay Duncan is able to replace it with one sawn off a living donor. The first hour plays like an intense psychological drama as Fahey becomes disturbed by his arm's tendency to violent acts, and learns that it comes from an executed mass murderer. He makes contact with other subjects of the Duncan treatment, an artist (Brad Dourif) who has received the killer's other arm and transformed from journeyman to mad genius and a basketball player whose new legs tend to hit the accelerator pedal in heavy traffic. Failing to establish much of a mood of dread and unease, the film suddenly turns into an outrageous mad science melodrama with the murderer showing up with his head sewn back on to reclaim his missing pieces, and Duncan trying to keep a straight face with leftover Bela Lugosi dialogue about the comparative unimportance of a few little atrocities when weighed against her great work. Wild, but silly and not very scary.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in Empire.


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