Following just three or four shows (depending on how you count it) after the very first cable episode, "The Crawling Eye," "The Crawling Hand" begins with an astronaut going insane in space and begging to have his capsule destroyed, which ground control (in a generic sort of set) obligingly does for him. This seems to have happened before; as with certain other MST3K episodes (the much more disgusting "The Incredible Melting Man" comes to mind), outer space is presented as a bleak and hostile environment defeating the best efforts of science to understand it.
That dark pessimism isn't all this movie has to offer, though. The astronaut's severed hand (sticking out of a ragged spacesuit sleeve) lands on a beach, to be found by a pre-med student who lives in a boarding house with a landlady who carries a massive revolver. The severed hand comes to life and strangles the landlady, then moves on to the student. Instead of finishing the job, it merely leaves him insane (suggested by dark makeup around his eyes), which cuts down on the amount of severed-hand effects they had to include in the movie.
With all of that said, this is still a first-season episode, which I can have trouble getting into. The less complicated sets do look interesting in their own way and Tom Servo is voiced in a laconic, deep-voiced way by Josh Weinstein, but the "riffing" is less frequent and seems almost less involved. This can make these episodes seem to drag; when the quip was tossed out that a beach scene, instead of being "From Here to Eternity," "just seems like eternity," I had to nod. Even so, the movie did end at last, with an attempt or two at shocking plot twists. The sheriff played by Gilligan's Island own Alan Hale, Jr. did also make me think ahead to his similar role in "The Giant Spider Invasion," included in the latest DVD set.
Just three unseen episodes left!