Carnival of Sinners (1943)

Sometimes all it takes for me to want to see a movie is a single image. Somewhere in my (read: Q’s) internet travels we came upon an image of a man wearing a pig mask. I wanted to know where it was from, and thanks to the wonders of the world wide web, we were able to find out that it came from a French flick from the 40’s called La Main du Diable, or Carnival of Sinners.

Say what you will about Irène, the woman knows her hats!

Say what you will about Irène, the woman knows her hats!

The movie starts off with a pretty standard deal-with-the-devil plot, not too far from The Monkey’s Paw. Our main character Roland is a painter by trade, but no one is interested in what he’s got to sell. He’s desperate for the love of a woman, Irène, but she wants money and fame, and Roland can’t give it to her. A year after they’ve met (a wonder he’s lasted this long, she is unbearable!), she leaves him sitting in a restaurant by his lonesome. This is the perfect chance for the restaurant’s chef to unload that disembodied left hand he’s been trying to sell for all these years, you know, the one that made him the amazing chef he is today but will damn his soul? Yeah, that one.

I don't know, I probably wouldn't buy a hand in a box... not even for a buck.

I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t buy a hand in a box… not even for a buck.

Being an atheist with no belief in eternal damnation, Roland figures he’s got nothing to lose and everything to gain, and takes up the chef on his seemingly amazing offer. The next day, Roland wakes up with wonderful paintings filling his room and Irène doting on him. Hours after his first successful one-man show, Roland is approached by a strange little man who offers to take back the hand for a very small fee, indeed. Roland comes very close to accepting the man’s offer, but alas the idea of going back to the life of a starving artist is too much to bear. Okay, says the little man, the offer still stands – but my price doubles with every day!

Wouldn't you want to watch a movie like this?! Yes!

Wouldn’t you want to watch a movie like this?! Yes!

And so, despite his fame, Roland descends into madness trying to obtain enough money to buy his freedom back from the devil. Eventually he meets all the other men who’ve held the devil’s hand, all the way back to the monk from whom it was stolen! Can these men in their wisdom help save Roland from damnation and despair?!

How about a movie that looks like this?! So good.

How about a movie that looks like this?! So good.

At first, I must say, I was pretty bored by this movie. It all seemed like it was going to be pretty predictable and unremarkable, but once Roland spirals downward into darkness, things really get interesting! It helps that as the story moves along, Roland becomes a much more sympathetic character than he starts off. It also helps that the movie starts looking really good by the middle and then is just one beautiful shot after another. I’d definitely recommend this; even though it takes a little bit for the movie to pick up, it’s not even that long to begin with (running time 80 minutes!). Good luck finding a copy you can watch!

Seriously gorgeous, right?

Seriously gorgeous, right?



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