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The Whip Hand

The Whip Hand(1951)

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teaser The Whip Hand (1951)

RKO owner Howard Hughes gave his anti-Communist fervor full reign with this visually distinctive thriller directed by the great production designer William Cameron Menzies. The film originally titled The Man He Found was about a magazine writer (Elliott Reid) who unearths a secret Nazi community in New England that is sheltering none other than Adolph Hitler. When Hughes saw the finished print, however, he demanded extensive reshooting to make the film more commercial. Bobby Watson, who had made a career of playing Der Fuhrer in this and other films, was cut. Instead, the Nazis were scientists experimenting on germ warfare in Michigan. And they were working for the Soviet Union, an affiliation made clear in the film's new first scene. According to Reid, most of the cast were dispirited doing the retakes. A lifelong liberal, he and the cultured actor cast as the villain, Otto Waldis, were appalled that their work was being used to fuel anti-Red paranoia. They needn't have worried; the film was a big flop. But what remains retains Menzies's visual trademarks -- tight closeups, forced perspective and massive sets -- as well as cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca's deeply shadowed black-and-white photography, making it a truly distinctive variation on film noir.

By Frank Miller

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