Welcome back to Halloweekl! TMP’s annual celebration of all things spooky in the days leading up to Halloween has been extended from four days to seven! Today’s chiller is a 1942 haunted house mystery, The Hidden Hand. Stay tuned for more through Tuesday!
John Channing (Milton Parsons) has escaped from an asylum and returned to the family home, where his sister Lorinda (Cecil Cunningham) lives.You’d think Lorinda may be alarmed by the sudden appearance of her locked-up brother, but she’s not in the least. She’s convinced that the rest of their relatives are after her fortune, and she needs John’s help to test them all.
With John posing as a new butler and Lorinda scheming to fake her own death, nephews Horace (Tom Stevenson) and Walter (Roland Drew) arrive at the mansion with their wives. And soon, they begin having odd experiences around the old mansion.
The Hidden Hand was directed by Ben Stoloff. The screenplay was written by Anthony Coldeway and Raymond Schrock from a play by Rufus King.
I was endeared to this film immediately, as the opening credits played over a shadow of a spooky hand. The action then kicks off at an asylum, where in a Michael Myers-style escape, a man is hiding in the shadows and waiting for an opportunity to commandeer a vehicle.
Clearly, we’re in for some trouble as he makes his escape! But we’re also in for some humor, too, as soon becomes apparent when a hand emerges from a wall in the Channing mansion… to steal sandwiches.
The audience is allowed to peek behind the curtain of Lorinda’s plot, offering a nice twist on the typical haunted house mystery. It isn’t every day that we get to see this type of tale from the perspective of the spook! Though we’re in on the secret, the film still holds the viewer’s attention easily.
There is a lot of jealousy and in-fighting within the Channing family, and a nice sense of mystery can be found in the film once they all arrive at Lorinda’s mansion. We know what Lorinda is planning, but other dangers start to crop up around the house, seeming to target Lorinda or her secretary Mary, who stands to inherit her fortune. There are near-deaths by falling flower pots and poisoned food.Even with these touches of suspense, the film brings no real moments of fright. There are a few tense scenes, but on the whole it’s just plenty of fun. The mansion is wonderfully designed, full of trap doors, secret hideaways, and peepholes. (One peephole, through which Lorinda shoots someone, is cut out of the eye of an ancestor’s portrait!) Lorinda also has a pet raven named “Mr. Poe.” All nice touches which, though small, enhanced my enjoyment of the film.
The cast turns out fine work, well-suited to the film’s mystery-comedy mood. Cecil Cunningham as Lorinda and her spooky brother, portrayed by Milton Parsons, were my favorites. Elisabeth Fraser and Craig Stevens also give nice performances as Lorinda’s secretary and attorney — perhaps the only good-hearted people involved in the inheritance drama!
For real chills this Halloween season there are plenty of classic spookfests to choose from, but for a fun, behind-the-scenes look at a “haunting,” The Hidden Hand is worth a watch.