Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Severed Arm (1973)

A low-budget horror flick with anemic morality-tale elements, The Severed Arm is less about dismemberment than it is about cannibalism, because even though the topic of consuming human flesh dominates only one scene, the ghastly concept informs the whole storyline. At the beginning of the picture, a dude sneaks into a morgue, hacks an arm off a corpse, and sends the arm in the mail to Jeff Ashton (David S. Cannon). Instead of calling the police, Jeff brings the arm to his friend, Dr. Ray Sanders (John Crawford), triggering a flashback to something that happened five years previous. While exploring a cave with several buddies, Jeff, Ray, and the others were trapped by a cave-in. After two weeks without supplies, they drew straws to see who would sacrifice part of his body so the others could eat. Back in the present, Jeff and Ray determine that someone else who survived the ordeal must be tormenting them, so they enlist the help of policeman Sgt. Mark Richards (Paul Carr), another member of the doomed cave exploration. Although quite substandard in terms of technical execution, The Severed Arm gets the job done as a simple-minded riff on classic Edgar Allan Poe-type themes. Yet stupid excesses at the beginning and end of the narrative undercut the fleeting moments that work. The whole business of sending an arm in the mail is outrageous, and the dual-twist-ending finale stretches believability even further. It’s not impossible to imagine roughly the same material inspiring a decent episode of Night Gallery or the like, but stretched to feature length and juiced with silly attempts at big-screen portentousness, this plot quickly collapses in on itself.

The Severed Arm: LAME

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