Band of the Hand Film Review; A Totally Bonkers and Fun Slice of 80's Goodness

VHS cover scan courtesy of LostVideoArchive-vhsarchive.blogspot.com
While I already have a slew of other reviews I've already started, the second I finished this film, I felt I just had to sit down and throw my thoughts out at you on this amazingly overlooked 80's gem that kind of blew my mind. Where to start? I don't know, but I'll do my best. Here it goes...

First, here's some quick notes on the production. Released in 1986, it's produced by Michael Mann and directed by Paul Michael Glaser, a year before he took over directing reigns on The Running Man. The cast is a largely eclectic ensemble of familiar faces like Stephan Lang (playing a Native American??), Leon, Lauren Holly (Dumb & Dumber), John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Michael Carmine (Leviathan, *batteries not included), Laurence Fishburne, and James Remar (Quiet Cool, 48 Hrs.). This cast is nuts, but then there are the peculiar casting choices in general, like having Stephan Lang play a Native American, and James Remar a Hispanic named Nestor.

Now onto the film itself. I can't even begin and "try" to explain this film. It constantly shifts genre's, story lines, and tone so radically that I can't even pinpoint what type of film this is, other than just fucking awesome. It's awesome, trust me on this. Don't try to figure it out, just go with it and proceed to have your mind blown at how bizarre and off the wall this entire experience is.

A group of criminals (thugs, thieves, drug dealers, murderers) are taken and gathered from a local jail and sent to the everglades for survival training by someone named Indian Joe (Stephen Lang). Indian Joe is in charge of a program where he will train these criminals in the art of survival, in the process learning how to live with one another and learning lessons about life. Once completed they are sent to Miami to take on the local criminal activity. 

Really, that's barely scratching the surface of this film, because there is so much going on and so many different storylines, yet it works. It all works shockingly well and it makes sense, in a chaotic 80's neon sorta way. Not to mention the film just "looks" great. I don't know if this is all on director Paul Michael Glaser, or if we should really be thanking his DoP, but whatever the case, the film stylistically and aesthetically has such a large retro cool 80's vibe to it. The hair, the clothes, the bright neon colors, the music, it's all thrown together so well, it's literally a hard punch of 80's nostalgia right to your gut.

Band of the Hand was nothing like what I was expecting based on that cover. Now that I think about it, I'm not really even sure what I was expecting based on the cover art. Maybe something with a Miami Vice feel, which it certainly carries, but there's also so much more and it goes in so many different directions that it's Miami Vice inspiration is only a very small fraction of the awesome found in here. I'm shocked this doesn't have a much larger cult following. While I did some research, I discovered that this was intended as a series, with this film acting as a series pilot. When it didn't get picked up for series, they decided to release it as a theatrical feature. I'm sure producer Michael Mann (Manhunter, Miami Vice) just saw the immense potential because this thing just looks amazing. Sadly though it was a flop, not even making it's budget back. Still, I would have thought that the home video market (that's what it was called back in the day) would have seen this thing take off, where it would have really found it's audience. Thus, it did not. What's even more, I've never actually heard anyone ever discuss this, or bring it up, so I've never given this a second thought. Again, I'm shocked.

I've just discovered that while it barely got a few DVD releases in the 2000's, there's finally a Blu Ray coming courtesy of Mill Creek; I'm told in December 2016. I for one will be first in line for this one. It's a must have for my collection, and I can only imagine how striking it will look on Blu Ray.

If you've never seen this, I implore you to change that as soon as possible. Band of the Hand was just the right amount of everything thrown in but the kitchen sink that by creating something totally unique, it justifies the craziness.

*quick note:
Since I no longer have a home computer or scanner (I stick to my laptop, mostly at work), I have to rely on various sources for my VHS scans. While I do have this on tape, and the cover is considerably less worn than this image above, I didn't have a way to scan it myself. So this image comes courtesy of VHS Archive. I'll probably start looking into getting a scanner again as I have a large number of tapes that I could not find cover images for. Soon!

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