Sunday, November 5, 2017

Black Hand

"At the turn of the century, there were more Italians in New York than in Rome. Many had hurried here seeking fortune and freedom." So opens Richard Thorpe's Black Hand.

Years after his father's murder, Giovanni "Johnny" Columbo (Gene Kelly) seeks revenge from those responsible. A familiar premise within this genre, yes, but bear in mind both the leading man and the studio that made it. This wasn't common fare for either of them.

Similar to what Thorpe did with Night Must Fall thirteen years earlier, he lets an actor who's typecast get a chance to flesh out their resume. In this instance, Kelly -- who'd later show his worth as a serious actor the following decade with Inherit the Wind -- steps away from musicals to dabble in a more serious project. If only Kelly had more opportunities during his career.

And though Black Hand supposedly has the titular gang as the antagonist, it's actually the Italian mafia in that role designation. (The studio thought it'd be wiser -- and less death threat-inducing -- to have a dead organization as the villain than one that's thriving.) Still, that fact doesn't diminish the film too terribly.

Black Hand may not hold up to other titles of the decade but it still has its moments. As mentioned, Kelly proves he's more than a song and dance man. And like Night Must Fall, it can be absolutely fascinating to watch most of the time.

My Rating: ****

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