The Hidden Hand is a fun little shocker released in 1942, a B picture that stars no one of note except perhaps Craig Stevens who would go on to play Peter Gunn on television. Suffice it to say, big names or not, the film turned out to be well-acted and thoroughly entertaining as a result.
The movie concerns an elderly lady, tired of her money-grubbing relatives only coming around when they want some of what she has and so, through some long-term planning, manages to aid in her brother’s escape from an insane asylum so that she might exact some just desserts. It is not long after all said relatives have been called to the house that bodies start to drop and they do so quickly. The only thing or person looking to stop it is Steven’s character Peter Thorne and the old lady’s personal secretary as played by Elisabeth Fraser.
While the movie might have meant to be a little scary, what with Milton Parsons hiding in the walls of his family home, the titular ‘hidden hand’ of it all, reaching out for those who are visiting and more often than not, signifying a forthcoming death, it failed to be more than slightly creepy. That was not necessarily a bad thing as it was also suspenseful and one never knew just where or when that Parsons would strike. The film also managed to be slightly humorous because of the man as well, his exaggerated performance as a madman putting a smile on the faces of the audience, not to mention Willie Best who provided a few chuckles as well. Director Benjamin Stoloff would use the setting to his advantage, the house ending up being incredibly claustrophobic at times and it then lending to the overall tension felt throughout. No matter how many people would be found dead or missing and everyone wanting to leave at some point, nobody would end up doing so for fear of missing out on a possible inheritance, that too factoring into the claustrophobia and tension. After it all, the villains are discovered and there is one final death that can only be chalked up to karma.
The only downside to it all was the movie being slightly predictable, especially after Stoloff would give away the gimmick fairly early in the picture. Still, it was a solid little film and definitely worth a look.
3.5 out of 5