One day, for fun, Graham Greene adopted a pseudonym and took part in a competition for stories written in the style of Graham Greene. He came second. His friend Mario Soldati asked him to produce a film story based on this idea, and thus La mano dello straniero was born. It is a classic story of the loss of childhood innocence set against a backdrop of espionage and intrigue: a sort of cross between The Third Man and Fuga in Francia. A child is searching for his kidnapped father in a noisy and hostile Venice with the help of a beautiful nurse and an ambiguous doctor. The cinematic encounter between Soldati and Greene is a curious one, and the story was perfect. Both men shared a Stevenson-like taste for adventure and a Catholic sense of suspense. Unfortunately, the production suffered from serious financial difficulties, while the Cold War espionage backstory had to be modified for political reasons until it was barely intelligible. However, the characters’ disorientation in the city remains one of the film’s strong points, together with the extraordinary figure of the villain, played by Eduardo Ciannelli. He is the heart of the film: an actor born in Ischia who became one of the great character actors of Thirties and Forties Hollywood (he had worked with Walsh, Hitchcock and Ford, amongst others) and was now promoted to the rank of protagonist. His character of a nihilist who reads The Decline of the West, aided by his worn features, is one of the details which, as is often the case in Soldati, unifies and justifies the whole film.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal racconto omonimo di Graham Greene. Scen.: Giorgio Bassani, Guy Elmes. F.: Enzo Serafin. M.: Tom Simpson, Leslie Hodgson, Leo Cattozzo. Scgf.: Luigi Scaccianoce. Mus.: Nino Rota. Int.: Alida Valli (Roberta), Trevor Howard (maggiore Court), Richard Basehart (Joe), Richard O’Sullivan (Roger Court), Eduardo Ciannelli (dottor Vivaldi), Arnoldo Foà (il commissario), Guido Celano (questore), Jacopo Tecchio (Giorgio Luzzi), Guido Costantini (Peskovitch), Nerio Berardi (direttore dell’albergo). Prod.: Peter Moore per Rizzoli Film, Milo Film. 35mm. D.: 87’. Bn.
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