La mano dello straniero (1954) Poster

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Alone and helpless in a foreign land
sol-22 December 2015
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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Imitation intrigue.
Gerald A. DeLuca27 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
(Some spoilers) This movie was an attempt to duplicate the formula of the very successful "The Third Man" by Carol Reed. It certainly does not succeed at that. The story is less mysterious and compelling. The screenplay less rich, despite the hand of writer Graham Greene again. The zither music of Anton Karas is absent and the score by the great Nino Rota is not one of his best. The direction by Mario Soldati is much less capable. Venice is a great location but not used as evocatively as Vienna had been in the Reed film. Alida Valli, who was in the Reed film as well, is given a more one-dimensional role here.

Nevertheless, having said this, I can say that this British/Italian production is interesting enough, but only mildly so. The story concerns a young boy named Roger who is in Venice to find his father, Major Court, a British diplomat (Trevor Howard.) The man has been abducted by and held hostage by agents from the Eastern Bloc, from nearby Trieste in Yugoslavia. When daddy doesn't show up at the boy's hotel after a phone conversation, the boy is thunderstruck and during the rest of the movie enlists the help of various people to find his daddy. These include a hotel secretary Roberta (Alida Valli) and her friend Joe (Richard Basehart.) The boy is played in a one-note manner and a single facial expression by young Richard O'Sullivan.

The meanie villain, Dr. Vivaldi, played by Eduardo Ciannelli as a fatherly man who buys the kid ice cream, at first seems like a nice guy to the boy. Too bad the kid didn't recognize his own father when the police brought him into the apartment where the doctor, was holding the man, keeping him under drugged restraint while claiming to be treating him for his typhus. But then there would have been no more story.

Eventually the boy is able to convince the elders that the man he saw was indeed his father. There is some minor suspense at the end of it all when the police are able to board the ship in which Vivaldi is taking away Court and all comes to an expected happy conclusion. Director Mario Soldati has made films that are better and some that are worse.
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Overlooked Greene Classic
saints0523 May 2017
I almost gave up on this film as the TV version had very muddy sound, and I found it hard to follow at the start. I'm glad I didn't give up, as it turned out to be quite the clever little pot-boiler. I must admit to being a Graham Greene fan, and a Richard O'Sullivan fan as well. Firstly, the film: I found it a surprisingly good early fifties film, with adult themes well ahead of its time and very pleasing cinematography. I couldn't help thinking that Hitchcock himself would have had a hard time doing better with the suspense and the black and white visions of Venice. Sometimes corny and plot challenged, it remains a rather intelligent piece of post war European intrigue. Despite his young age (10) I believe that Richard O'Sullivan should have received top billing because, despite other comments on this site to the contrary, he both Starred in, and carried this film - quite a feat for one so young.
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Pesestrian almost plot less thriller
malcolmgsw23 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film gives the impression that the writers had not completed the script before the film began.We are told very little of what is actually going on.It is a bit of a mystery why Trevor Howard goes off the ferry to find out what happened to his drugged friend.Richard O Sullivan is allowed to wander around Venice on his own and by chance meets up with Eduardo Cianelli who has drugged his dad.Then to pile coincidence upon unbelievable coincidence he doesn't recognise his dad in the hospital.Then all of a sudden from nowhere comes Richard Baseheart and becomes involved in the rescue attempt.Richard O Sullivan at the beginning of his career looks rather nervous and uneasy in front of the camera.All in all a real clinker.Not worth viewing apart from the marvellous views of Venice which makes me want to visit the city.
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