For Reel


The Hidden Hand (1942)
August 21, 2015, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Benjamin Stoloff
2.5 Stars
The Hidden HandAn unusually subversive take on the Old Dark House genre, The Hidden Hand distinguishes itself from other pictures of its kind by allowing the audience in on the devious plot early on. Cecil Cunningham plays a matriarch who enlists her brother (Milton Parsons), freshly escaped from the lunatic asylum, to assist her in dispatching her greedy heirs who are all-too-eager to collect on her will. That the screenplay goes at great lengths to explain this plot, and that the relatives are introduced with the bias of being ultimately selfish, means that the events that transpire are comprehended from the point of view of the ostensible villains. One might argue that this is an early variation on the slasher film, where the body count is especially high and the villain eats up the lion’s share of the screen time. Unfortunately, Benjamin Stoloff’s direction is neither suspenseful nor appropriately atmospheric, and the cast is uniformly poor. Cunningham, in particular, is a disappointment–Gale Sondergaard played the role on stage and likely would have better struck the paradoxical balance between aloof matron and cunning executioner.

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