The Hidden Hand


1h 6m 1942
The Hidden Hand

Brief Synopsis

The body count rises during the competition for a family inheritance.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Horror
Mystery
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 7, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Invitation to a Murder by Rufus King (New York, 17 May 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Film Length
6,119ft

Synopsis

Insane murderer John Channing escapes from the state asylum and manages to return home, where his sister Lorinda is waiting for him. Convinced that all her relatives are after her money, Lorinda has hatched an elaborate plot to test them. She suggests that John pretend to be the new butler, Martin. After her nephews Horace and Walter Channing arrive with their wives Estelle and Rita, Lorinda announces that she has left all her money to her secretary, Mary Winfield, who is in love with Lorinda's attorney, Peter Thorne. Soon after her announcement, a flowerpot falls out of a window, narrowly missing Mary and Lorinda as they walk together. Lorinda collapses and Dr. Lawrence Channing, another nephew, is sent for. Lorinda tells Lawrence that she wants her relatives to believe that she is dead and asks him to put her in a temporary state of suspended animation. She then tells him that he will earn $10,000 when she is revived, but will receive even more money when she dies. That night Lorinda "dies," and a short time later, a maid drinks water from a pitcher in Mary's room and dies as well. John removes the maid's body from Mary's room and tells everyone that she has returned home to her mother. After Lorinda's funeral, Peter plays a recording that Lorinda made, on which she announces that she is leaving half her fortune to Mary, one quarter to Lawrence and $1.00 each to her other nephews. According to the recording, the other quarter is hidden somewhere in the house, and it and the house will go to whomever finds the money. Lawrence is about to revive Lorinda when, realizing that he will be much richer if she dies, he decides not to give her the antidote. After Lorinda's casket is placed in the vault, other people in the house mysteriously disappear. Having found a hidden clue, Lawrence starts to follow it, only to see Lorinda waiting for him. She explains that John was instructed to give her the antidote if Lawrence failed to do so. She adds that he also helped her with her murder plans and was responsible for poisoning the maid. Now, because of their schemes, all the greedy relatives who have searched for the fortune have fallen to their deaths through a trap door secretly activated when the instructions on the clue are followed. When Mary tries the trap's fatal switch, Lorinda rushes to stop her and, in the process, falls to her own death. John's true identity is revealed, and he is returned to the asylum.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Horror
Mystery
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 7, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Invitation to a Murder by Rufus King (New York, 17 May 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Film Length
6,119ft

Articles

The Hidden Hand -


Rufus King's three-act mystery Invitation to a Murder opened and closed in short order on Broadway in the summer of 1934 and would be little remembered today had it not provided a jobbing New York actor named Humphrey Bogart with a few weeks' work while pointing him six months later to the role of Duke Mantee in Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest and a subsequent long-term contract with Warner Bros. When Warners finally made a film version of the King play, liberally adapted and its title changed to The Hidden Hand, Bogart was one of the studio's biggest stars and well beyond the league of this old dark house comedy. Clearly inspired by the example of John Willard's The Cat and the Canary (a 1922 stage play adapted for films four times before 1940 and revived on Broadway in 1937), The Hidden Hand folds an escaped lunatic (bug-eyed Milton Parsons) into the stormy night thriller about a clutch of greedy heirs called to their ancestral manse for the dispensation of their matriarch's last will and testament. Though the concept of a long-sequestered madman working his way home anticipates John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) by thirty-odd years, The Hidden Hand is played for laughs, with sliding panels and trap doors exposing or disposing of the more unsavory family members and Willie Best doing his trademark shtick as a frightened manservant. The film was shot by cinematographer Henry Sharp, better known for lensing the silent classic The Crowd (1928), the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (1933), and Fritz Lang's moody wartime noir Ministry of Fear (1944).

By Richard Harland Smith
The Hidden Hand -

The Hidden Hand -

Rufus King's three-act mystery Invitation to a Murder opened and closed in short order on Broadway in the summer of 1934 and would be little remembered today had it not provided a jobbing New York actor named Humphrey Bogart with a few weeks' work while pointing him six months later to the role of Duke Mantee in Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest and a subsequent long-term contract with Warner Bros. When Warners finally made a film version of the King play, liberally adapted and its title changed to The Hidden Hand, Bogart was one of the studio's biggest stars and well beyond the league of this old dark house comedy. Clearly inspired by the example of John Willard's The Cat and the Canary (a 1922 stage play adapted for films four times before 1940 and revived on Broadway in 1937), The Hidden Hand folds an escaped lunatic (bug-eyed Milton Parsons) into the stormy night thriller about a clutch of greedy heirs called to their ancestral manse for the dispensation of their matriarch's last will and testament. Though the concept of a long-sequestered madman working his way home anticipates John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) by thirty-odd years, The Hidden Hand is played for laughs, with sliding panels and trap doors exposing or disposing of the more unsavory family members and Willie Best doing his trademark shtick as a frightened manservant. The film was shot by cinematographer Henry Sharp, better known for lensing the silent classic The Crowd (1928), the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (1933), and Fritz Lang's moody wartime noir Ministry of Fear (1944). By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia