La Main du diable (The Devil’s Hand) (aka Carnival of Sinners): Maurice Tourneur Horror Noir, Starring Pierre Fresnay

Maurice Tourneur directed La Main du diable (“The Devil’s Hand”), a French horror film, starring Pierre Fresnay as  struggling artist who acquires a supernatural talisman.

Guests at isolated hotel, cut off by avalanche, are surprised when Roland Brissot, a man missing his left hand, shows up with only small casket.

When he asks the innkeeper if there is cemetery adjoining the ruins of nearby abbey, he is disappointed to hear no.

After two shots ring out, the police arrive, looking for little man carrying a coffin. While Brissot is called to the telephone, his casket is stolen during blackout. Disconsolate, he gives in to the curiosity of the other guests and tells his story.

A flashback ensues.

Brissot, a struggling untalented painter, persuades Irène, an attractive glove shop saleswoman, to pose for him. One night, frustrated with his lack of drive, she breaks up with him at a cafe. Mélisse, the chef, comes over and offers solution for all his woes: a talisman that will give him everything he wants, for the price of one sou (penny).

Ange (Angel) warns him not to buy it, and the chef reveals that he must sell it at a loss before he dies or be condemned to Hell forever. The talisman turns out to be a severed left hand, which obeys the chef’s commands. Brissot does not believe the supernatural and buys it. As soon as the bargain is concluded, the chef loses his left hand.

One year later, Brissot has successful exhibition at Galerie Gabelin and is married to Irène. He begins painting with his left hand only and signs his works “Maximum Leo.”

At the exhibition, spotting a little man, he chases after him, but then notices in a florist shop window a wreath with the sash that says “In Memoriam Maximum Leo.”  He learns that a little man ordered it. Later the little man comes to his office and admits Brissot has “the Devil to pay.” Even though Brissot cannot sell the hand at a loss, the little man offers to buy it back for a sou. Brissot accepts, but then takes it back.

The little man tells him that his offer still holds, but the price doubles every day. Brissot dithers until the 23rd day, but when he tries to pay the current price, he does not have quite enough money. Later, Irène telephones, telling him she has the money he needs, but is murdered before he can get to her. Ange tells him to try a roulette system at the casino in Monte Carlo, but the little man shows up, and his lucky streak ends just before he can win the sum he needs.

Returning to the present, Brissot spots the little man outside and chases him. They fight atop the ruins of the abbey, and Brissot falls to his death, landing on top of tomb.

In the end, the casket is found empty, and the tomb’s inscription reads “Maximus Leo.”

Pierre Fresnay as Roland Brissot
Josseline Gaël as Irène
Noël Roquevert as Mélisse
Guillaume de Sax as Gibelin
Palau as Le petit homme (The little man)
Pierre Larquey as Ange (Angel)
Gabriello as Le dîneur (The diner)
Antoine Balpêtré as Denis
Marcelle Rexiane as Madame Denis (as Rexiane)
André Varennes as Le colonel
Georges Chamarat as Duval
Jean Davy as Le mousquetaire (The musketeer)
Jean Despeaux as Le boxeur (The boxer)


TCM showed the movie on Sep 17, 2021.