The Whip Hand


1h 22m 1951
The Whip Hand

Brief Synopsis

A small-town reporter investigates a mysterious group holed up in a country lodge.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
The Man He Found
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Thriller
Spy
Release Date
Oct 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Big Bear Lake, California, United States; Encino--RKO Ranch, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
7,369ft

Synopsis

At the Kremlin in Moscow, Russian military men devise a scheme to cripple the United States, selecting Winnoga, Wisconsin, as their base of operations. Sometime later, at Lake Winnoga, a rainstorm interrupts Matt Corbin's fishing trip, and as he is scrambling for cover, he slips and hits his head on a rock. The injured Matt drives to the nearest residence, a sprawling, secluded lodge, but the armed guard at the entrance refuses to help. Matt finally reaches Winnoga, where gas station attendant Nate Garr directs him to the home of town physician Dr. Edward Keller. There, Matt is greeted by Keller's sister Janet, who expresses surprise when Matt mentions that he was at the lodge. While tending to Matt's head wound, Keller explains that the lodge's owner, Peterson, is an eccentric who loathes outsiders. Keller then escorts Matt to the Winnoga Inn, where the owner, Steve Loomis, states that the lake trout were destroyed by a virus five years before, turning Winnoga into a ghost town. Intrigued, Matt reveals that he writes for American View magazine and declares that Winnoga's trials might make a good article. Later, after he has settled into his room, Matt visits elderly Luther Adams at his general store and asks him about Winnoga. Luther comments that after the fish died, the town was bought out by "newcomers," including Loomis, but that he refused to sell. Before Luther can say any more, Garr appears and stares menacingly at him. Matt then notices Janet heading for the movie theater and joins her. Janet reacts to Matt with a mixture of pleasure and fear and, before saying goodnight, urges him to leave Winnoga. The next morning, Matt upsets Loomis and Chick, his helper, when he declares that he is staying in Winnoga to write the article. Loomis orders Chick to follow Matt as he explores the town, but Matt loses Chick as he sneaks onto the lodge property with his camera. Observing what appears to be a doctor and some patients, Matt snaps a few shots of the lodge's exterior before guards descend and order him away. Later, Matt visits Janet and demands to know what is going on. She says little, but warns him that he will not be able to call or wire his editor, as all communications are controlled by Loomis' wife Molly. During their conversation, Matt notices some books on bacteriology on Keller's shelf and discovers they were written by Dr. Wilhelm Bucholtz. Unable to persuade Janet to go with him to the next town, Matt prepares to leave on his own, but finds his car will not start. Chick then smugly shows Matt his now-smashed camera, which Matt had hidden near the lodge. Trapped, Matt asks Luther to place an order with his supplier and then slip the delivery man a message for Matt's editor. The ploy works, but when the supplier reads Matt's cryptic message, he calls Luther to confirm its contents. Molly and Loomis eavesdrop on the conversation, and that night, Keller is sent to kill Luther with an overdose of a heart drug. After Matt learns of Luther's death, Loomis takes him to meet Peterson at the inn. Playing the part of the rich eccentric, Peterson offers to give Matt a tour of the lodge the next day. Once Matt retires to his room, however, Peterson orders Keller to kill Janet, who he suspects is talking too much. At the magazine office, meanwhile, Matt's editor, Bradford, receives his message and deduces that Matt has located Bucholtz, a sought-after Nazi war criminal. Back in Winnoga, Matt slips away from the inn and finds Janet. After Janet reveals that Keller has asked her to bring the heart medicine to the inn, Matt convinces her that her life is in danger. Together, they sneak a canoe onto the lake, and while Janet waits in the boat, Matt breaks into the lodge. There, Bucholtz is discussing his plan to poison the water supply of Chicago using killer bacteria he has developed, and proudly shows a colleague his human "guinea pigs." In town, meanwhile, Janet's and Matt's absence is discovered and a manhunt ensues. Matt returns safely to the canoe, then to avoid capture, he and Janet hide beneath a rock ledge, half-submerged in the lake. After Matt strangles Chick, who is perched on top of the ledge, he and Janet flee into the woods, eventually coming to a cabin owned by Mabel Turner. Mabel offers to drive them to the sheriff, but actually delivers them to Loomis and the others. Now prisoners, Janet and Matt are brought to the lodge, where Bucholtz informs them of his deadly scheme. Just as Janet fully understands her brother's complicity in the Communists' plot, Peterson orders Keller to give her the fatal injection. Keller shoots Peterson instead, but is himself shot. At that moment, government agents sent by Bradford burst into the lodge and confront Bucholtz. Bucholtz, however, is in a room protected by bullet-proof glass and threatens to blow up the entire lodge with a device he is holding. Unknown to Bucholtz, Keller has given Matt the key to the room, and Matt sneaks up and disarms the scientist. Later, Matt's article appears in American View , along with a photograph of him embracing a smiling Janet.

Photo Collections

The Whip Hand - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from RKO's The Whip Hand (1951), directed by William Cameron Menzies. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Man He Found
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Thriller
Spy
Release Date
Oct 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Big Bear Lake, California, United States; Encino--RKO Ranch, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
7,369ft

Articles

The Whip Hand


RKO owner Howard Hughes gave his anti-Communist fervor full reign with this visually distinctive thriller directed by the great production designer William Cameron Menzies. The film originally titled The Man He Found was about a magazine writer (Elliott Reid) who unearths a secret Nazi community in New England that is sheltering none other than Adolph Hitler. When Hughes saw the finished print, however, he demanded extensive reshooting to make the film more commercial. Bobby Watson, who had made a career of playing Der Fuhrer in this and other films, was cut. Instead, the Nazis were scientists experimenting on germ warfare in Michigan. And they were working for the Soviet Union, an affiliation made clear in the film's new first scene. According to Reid, most of the cast were dispirited doing the retakes. A lifelong liberal, he and the cultured actor cast as the villain, Otto Waldis, were appalled that their work was being used to fuel anti-Red paranoia. They needn't have worried; the film was a big flop. But what remains retains Menzies's visual trademarks -- tight closeups, forced perspective and massive sets -- as well as cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca's deeply shadowed black-and-white photography, making it a truly distinctive variation on film noir.

By Frank Miller
The Whip Hand

The Whip Hand

RKO owner Howard Hughes gave his anti-Communist fervor full reign with this visually distinctive thriller directed by the great production designer William Cameron Menzies. The film originally titled The Man He Found was about a magazine writer (Elliott Reid) who unearths a secret Nazi community in New England that is sheltering none other than Adolph Hitler. When Hughes saw the finished print, however, he demanded extensive reshooting to make the film more commercial. Bobby Watson, who had made a career of playing Der Fuhrer in this and other films, was cut. Instead, the Nazis were scientists experimenting on germ warfare in Michigan. And they were working for the Soviet Union, an affiliation made clear in the film's new first scene. According to Reid, most of the cast were dispirited doing the retakes. A lifelong liberal, he and the cultured actor cast as the villain, Otto Waldis, were appalled that their work was being used to fuel anti-Red paranoia. They needn't have worried; the film was a big flop. But what remains retains Menzies's visual trademarks -- tight closeups, forced perspective and massive sets -- as well as cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca's deeply shadowed black-and-white photography, making it a truly distinctive variation on film noir. By Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

This film was originally shot with the bad guys conducting the germ warfare experiments as Nazis (which is why many of the characters have German names). However, producer 'Howard Hughes' evidently had a change of heart and decided that Communists were more of a menace than crazed Nazi scientists (and it was also the heart of the McCarthy "Red Scare" era) and ordered extensive re-shooting, with the villains now becoming former Nazis but current Communists.

In keeping with the original Nazis-as-villains idea, the hero originally saw Adolf Hitler himself standing on the balcony of the villain's lair. He disappeared when the extensive re-shooting was done. Hitler was played once again by Bobby Watson.

Notes

The working title of this film was The Man He Found. The film's release title, The Whip Hand is derived from horse-racing terminology, meaning someone who has the upper hand, or is in control. RKO production files, contained at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, and Hollywood Reporter, New York Times and Los Angeles Times news items add the following information about the production: RKO purchased Roy Hamilton's original screen story in July 1949. Curt Siodmak worked on a draft of the screenplay in 1949, but the extent of his contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. In January 1950, Stanley Rubin was assigned to write and produce the picture. Although Rubin was replaced as producer by Lewis J. Rachmil, his contribution to the final script has not been determined. Some scenes were filmed in Big Bear Lake in Southern California's San Bernadino Mountains, and at the RKO ranch in Encino.
       The picture, which was shot in great secrecy, was first set in postwar New England. The original story line featured a plot to hide the still-alive Adolf Hitler. In November 1950, after viewing a rough cut of the film, RKO head Howard Hughes ordered extensive retakes. Hughes demanded that the Hitler plot line be replaced with the Communist germ warfare story. The following actors were listed in the CBCS, but were cut from the final film: Jamesson Shade, Brick Sullivan, Bob Thom, Art Dupuis, Bill Yetter, Jr., Bill Yetter, Sr. and Bobby Watson, who played Hitler. Modern sources also add Stanley Blystone and Douglas Evans to the cast. The Whip Hand marked the first time that actress Sally Bliss appeared under the name Carla Balenda. According to modern sources, the film cost $376,000 to make and lost $225,000 at the box office.