Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Sixth Finger

American cinematic (and televisual) interpretations of Welsh life, although rare, are always interesting. In films like The Old Dark House (1932); The Wolf Man (1940); and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Wales functions as a kind of substitute eastern Europe - a place of perceived ancient superstitions and dark practices.

Hollywood's most famous depiction of Wales is of course in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941). This highly sentimental portrayal of life in a Welsh mining Valley (based upon Richard Llewellyn's book) set in stone a particular stereotype that even today is difficult to shrug off. Another film in the same twee vein is The Corn is Green (1945) starring Bette Davis.

Pitched somewhere between these two worlds (the superstitious and the sentimental) is The Sixth Finger (1963) an episode of cult American sci-fi TV show The Outer Limits. Set in a remote Welsh mining village the opening narration harks back to the ancient:

"Where are we going? Life, the timeless, mysterious gift, is still evolving. What wonders or terrors does evolution hold in store for us in the next ten thousand years? In a million? In six million? Perhaps the answer lies in this old house in this old and misty valley..."

We quickly learn that central character Gwyllm Griffiths (played by David McCallum) is a coalminer sacked for being a subversive agitator. Suddenly it's Germinal meets How Green Was My Valley as we encounter characters like Gert "the bread" Evans (I shit you not) and miner Wilt Morgan.

You know the proverbial is going to hit the fan when unemployed Griffiths volunteers to be a guinea pig in an evolutionary experiment conducted by reclusive scientist Professor Mathers. Confirming the old adage that you should never volunteer for anything the experiment, of course, goes completely pear-shaped.

The now highly intelligent and super-evolved Griffiths having grown a huge head (see pic) and a sixth finger becomes malevolent. Despite being an intellectual superman he is still resentful at the way locals have treated him and determines to destroy his own village.

Will Griffiths (now a kind of Frankenstein's monster) wipe out Gert "the bread" Evans? Has the sentimental How Green Was My Valley stereotype finally given way to a perverse Welsh dystopia? Or will Griffiths' girlfriend the lovely Cathy Evans restore the natural order of things? If you want to witness The Sixth Finger's thrilling conclusion for yourself then why not get hold of a copy here.