The story is told in flashback to a group of travelers who happen to be stranded in a snowbound inn in the mountains, conjuring a feel of Whale's THE INVISIBLE MAN. Pierre Fresnay plays Roland Brissaud, a poor painter who, at the end of his rope, acquires from a chef (André Gabriello, pictured with Fresnay) a box that he is promised will completely revolutionize his luck. The cost? Only one nickel. The box contains the severed hand of the Devil himself and Roland is free to use it, no loss and all gain, for three years -- but he must sell it for less than he paid for it before that time runs out, or the Devil will claim his soul. To his absolute surprise, the purchase works as promised, and the beautiful woman who formerly refused to pose for him not only accepts his offer, but becomes his lover and agent. Seeing that his own name lends his exciting new work no value, Roland sells his new satanic work under the more promising and mysterious name Maximus Leo, and soon all of Paris is flocking to his exhibits. In time, he begins to believe that he is Maximus Leo and no longer needs the hand, which is when his troubles truly begin. The film attains its most intriguing and delightful passage when Roland is taken to a cosmic tribunal where he meets and hears the stories of all the hand's previous owners throughout history.
Photographed by Armand Thirard (who shot most of Clouzot's and Vadim's most famous pictures), who masterfully juggles elements of the fantastic and the pragmatic without one ever bearing too much against the other. Among the supporting players is Antoine Balpêtre, looking much younger than he appears only 14 years later in the first Italian horror film, Riccardo Freda & Mario Bava's I vampiri (1957).
Viewed on Turner Classic Movies HD.