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Joseph H. Lewis
Left alone in Venice to await the arrival of his estranged father, a young boy has trouble convincing the hotel staff that something is up when his father never arrives in this little seen thriller based on a Graham Greene story. The premise is promising enough and despite some intrusive (if poetic) voice-over narration, the film begins well. Richard O'Sullivan makes an appealing young protagonist and his frustration is heartfelt as he takes to wandering the streets alone when everyone rejects his claims that his father might have been murdered. The film loses this edge along the way though as O'Sullivan befriends a hotel secretary and her boyfriend, played by Alida Valli and Richard Basehart. Both are quite appealing characters, but they are nowhere near as interesting as the confused young boy, and as the film deflects to focus on Valli and Baseheart solving the mystery without O'Sullivan accompanying them, the film loses all oomph. What makes the film so intriguing to begin with is, after all, the boy's helplessness. There is admittedly some interesting in how he begins to cling to Valli and Basehart like surrogate parents of sorts, but given how the film constantly shies over the whereabouts of his actual mother (who we are told has virtually abandoned him), this angle never really takes off. When push comes to shove, it is easy to see why 'The Stranger's Hand' has fallen into obscurity over the years. It is not a film without merits, but neither it is quite the satisfying Greene adaptation that Carol Reed's 'The Fallen Idol' and 'The Third Man' turned out to be.
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