Even if it had nothing else going for it, The Hand that Feeds the Dead is a worthwhile view for the Italian horror fan for one of the funniest in-jokes ever: The deceased mad scientist, whose coffin remains prominently displayed in the dungeons of the mansion, is none other than Ivan Rassimov.
The actor himself doesn't appear in the film, however, making one wonder if the use of his name was a vague attempt at revenge on the part of the filmakers for his declining to work with them or similar – a motive that was behind the naming of a grave as that of Sam Peckinpah in Sergio Leone and Tonino Valerii's My Name is Nobody.
Thankfully, however, The Hand That Feeds the Dead does have plenty of other things to offer the more tolerant viewer – precisely the type who reads this and who is in a position to get the Rassimov reference straight away.
Most obviously, the film features Klaus Kinski. He probably didn't think much of the film or its companion piece, The Lover of the Monster (both were shot at the same time, on the same locations, with virtually the same personnel, and even have footage in common) but even going through the mad scientist motions as Dr Nijinksy (another in-joke, perhaps) he elevates the production somewhat.
Kinski's patented manic stare
This is something it needs more than most examples of its type on account of being an Italian-Turkish co-production, co-directed by Sergio Garrone and Yilmaz Duru: If this combination undoubtedly helped as far as the Turkish side of things went, giving a professional gloss often lacking in comparable domestic productions, it came at the cost of weakening the Italian side of things.
For while Erol Tas, who plays Nijinsky's lurching, limping assistant, Vanya, might have been the most famous villain in Turkish cinema, these associations are likely lost on the foreign viewer.
Cue zoom in on the gore
But factoring in all the other ingredients, the film does enough anyway: There's a surgical horror scenario, derived from Eyes without a Face and The Awful Dr Orloff; gratuitous violence, nudity and lesbianism; rape and revenge; a doll; mirrors; and some dialogue that's retrospectively telling without being blatant signposting (“Our minds refuse bad things”).
The Three Mothers style lady, complete with mirror and doll
It also throws in some surprises towards the end, albeit perhaps at the loss of some coherence and consistency, and features some decent production design and locations.
The other woman's head is out of shot, down there...
Sergio Garrone's direction is very much of the point and zoom variety, understandable in the circumstances but something of a let down compared to Django the Bastard.