THE STRANGER'S HAND
A British intelligence agent has not seen his son in four years and arranges a meeting in Venice. However, he doesn't show up; the kid, while waiting, gets a call from his dad breaking the appointment. Valli, a hotel receptionist, takes pity on the kid and talks her American boy friend, Basehart, into helping him out. It turns out the father, Howard, had spotted a colleague who was dazed and in trouble. Coming to his aid, he was himself captured and drugged. Basehart takes up the search for Howard after the police come up emptyhanded, but the villains have done such a good job of tranquilizing their captives that even the son doesn't recognize his father. The drugged agents are taken on a boat bound for behind the Iron Curtain. Since the police have no jurisdiction there, Basehart hides on board and starts a fire, getting the attention of the authorities, who free the prisoners.
"THE STRANGER'S HAND," written expressly for its Italian director Mario Soldati, is probably the first British picture to be made entirely in the Italian technique. Every scene has been shot on the actual locations and Soldati has, with the exception of the leading actors, used "natural" casting -- on the spot real life people.
In one station scene, for example, not content with using a load of passengers arriving on their private affairs, he had the barriers shut to await the arrival of a second train. Even that milling quantity of rather agitated travelers did not satisfy him, so he insisted on their being hemmed in until the third train arrived and then let the lot out, only to have then herded back four times before he got the shot he wanted.
It's fortunate that Italians seem to be a race of natural actors and presumably enter into the spirit of things for the sake of seeing themselves on the screen. On another occasion the cooperative Italian police force locked the local inhabitants in their own houses to stop them straying into the streets at the wrong moment of shooting, while sixty noisy children were confined to a courtyard all day, to be let out two or three at a time and when required.
For another show, all the small streets leading to St. Mark's Square were closed for the afternoon, and the unit, in search of refreshment at the tea break, found themselves receiving a mixed welcome from shopkeepers and cafe owners glad to have their custom but bemoaning the otherwise empty streets.
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