The Vice Universe: Band of the Hand (1986)

February 11, 2017 | By

Being a human barometer isn’t easy, especially when a headache lasts as long as a storm front as it creeps over the city, and dumps a steady dose of snow. Toronto’s winter in 2016-2017 has been pretty mild, but I always know when something’s coming by, and yesterday’s cranial alert was a record at almost 24 hours of steady throbbing.

With a clear sky (and clear head), here’s the belated review of Band of the Hand (1986), a film made during Miami Vice‘s rapid ascension to hit series on NBC’ during the mid-1980s.

Look at Lauren Holly’s HAND. Her character is not yet part of the BAND, but soon she will be another FINGER that makes the HAND which forms a powerful FIST that will defeat BAD HANDS!

Like the series, Michael Mann executive produced the film which also signaled the feature film directorial debut of Starsky and Hutch co-star Paul Michael Glaser.

Director Paul Michael Glaser (hands NOT visible).

Mann wrote 4 episodes of the hit 1970s series, and gave Glaser further chances to direct on Vice, resulting in a few classic episodes and two Emmy Award nominations in 1985 and 1986 for Glaser. Band should’ve been an important stepping stone – as a B-movie, it’s perfectly fine – but as he recounted in an interview archived by the Television Academy Foundation, shit happened, and it took a few years before Glaser returned to the big screen.

The film did eventually make its way to DVD, but Mill Creek’s budget line Blu-ray sports a really nice transfer that preserves the film’s colours and film grain. Only qualm is the tepid stereo mix, which is baffling for a Mann production, because his Manhunter (1986) was noted for being an especially ‘loud’ film during its theatrical release and boasted great bass on laserdisc; and Vice itself was among the first series to be shown in early stereo by NBC.

The network had (I believe) made the first stereo broadcast with an episode of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, which Carson highlighted in his monologue, and using Vice to sell stereo TV was a smart move on NBC’s behalf. The show had a substantial music budget and showcased 2-3 new songs weekly, plus tasked Jan Hammer to create scores that blended with sound effects, songs, and enhanced epic montages.

At some point I’ll grab Mill Creek’s Blu-ray set of Vice – it’s supposed to look okay in new HD transfers – and do a retrospective of the show, which I watched to the bitter end after it lost its mind and became a parody of itself (a show’s in big trouble when a lead character, a cop,  gets amnesia and spends a chunk of the season as an enforcer), but certainly a high point for me was doing a Q&A with series composer Hammer a while back.

That interview formed the skeleton of a 2-part retrospective published in Film Score Monthly in 2003, and I’ll post links when I’ve integrated the jpeg scans into the current database.

In the meantime, here are a few online scans of the poster art used to sell Band, which are stark reminders of the graphic style that dominated the decade.

If you’re asking Why so many triangles? Why patterns derived from Maggot Banana soup and Cream of Worm Chowder? sadly, I have no answers, but would you look at that fancy hand!




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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