Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Series 2, Episode 32

   Robert Stevens
   Francis Cockrell (teleplay); Thomas Burke (story)
   Theodore Bikel, Rhys Williams, Torin Thatcher
   05 May 1957
   24:49 (total) • 22:03 (film) • 1:15 (Hitchcock)

The Hands Of Mr. Ottermole
Set in London 1919, Herbert Whybrow walks the short distance home from the Underground station one foggy night. Upon his arrival his wife calls out to him that his dinner, kippers, is ready for him. A knock on the door distracts Herbert and as he answers it he is strangled by an unseen killer on the doorstep. Later when the police arrive they discover both Herbert and his wife dead in the house. Herbert's nephew shows up and is shocked. The police question a next door neighbour but this doesn't provide any clues.
Two days later and the members of the press are at the police station pressuring the sergeant into giving some update statement on the case but he remains tight-lipped. Two more days pass and the sergeant confronts one of the reporters, Mr. Summers in a local pub to complain that the articles about the lack of progress in the newspapers are unfair but the reporter claims that he is just doing his job.
Another victim, an elderly woman selling flowers, becomes the third to be strangled by the unseen killer and this gives the police a real headache when the reporters begin mocking them for not making any progress with the unsolved cases. Summers shares his theories with the police officers at the station, almost to the point of incriminating himself and giving the officers enough suspicion that he may be involved in the murders. The sergeant confidently assures Summers that with the extra officers now working on the case he will catch the killer if he tries another murder.
One night a police officer is found dead in the street and this arouses the suspicions of Mr. Summers who figures out who the killer is.

•At the beginning of the episode, Herbert waves to an unseen person in the street, signalling that he knew them. When he answers his front door shortly afterwards he again recognises the person who knocked, as he invites them into his house without question. This is the vital clue that Herbert knew his attacker.
•There was an alternative section of dialogue from Hitchcock during both the opening and closing scenes with him. The closing remarks were originally much longer and concluded with him saying "Good Night".
[Hitch is standing in front of a large oval mirror, wearing a dressing gown] "Good evening. I hope you'll excuse me for not being ready at show time but my watch is slow. As a matter of fact it hasn't even gotten here yet. First, I would like to announce a change in our program. Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' will not be presented tonight. We don't feel it is suitable to show in the home. All those corpses, you know. Instead we are offering a story entitled 'The Hands Of Mr. Ottermole'. Most of our stories have taken place in the United States, or one of the other colonies but tonight we offer a new locale. 'The Hands Of Mr. Ottermole' is laid in that far off land of mystery and enchantment: England. And now suppose you continue squinting at this little screen while I slip into something more uncomfortable."

[Hitch is having a tangle with a man whose back is to the camera and has his hands around Hitch's neck (he is in fact trying to help tie Hitch's bow tie)] "Help! Stop it, stop it! [Hitch then pushes the man away] I'll tie myself. It won't take long. I'm sure it'll be ready by next week's show. [Hitch points straight into the camera abruptly] And you be ready too."

The killer, Mr. Ottermole, is the police sergeant.

Another one of those 'whodunit' episodes where a murder is set up at the beginning and then through the introduction of characters we are supposed to deduce who is the guilty party. The nephew and the newspaper reporter are strong candidates but in the end the killer turns out to be rather unconvincing in its revelation. It doesn't make a lot of sense and the spoiler is presented with a lack of conviction and credibility. It's an average episode, which slows down in the middle when Summers spends a considerable amount of time at the police station discussing his theories and probabilities but all things considered the acting is okay and the story just about holds together. The excuse given by the killer as to why he murdered the innocent victims is quite frankly bloody ridiculous!
Any American production starting with the on-screen caption "London 1919" must immediately cause disquiet in the heart of an English film buff - these Hollywood chaps get so much detail just wrong - but this was very atmospheric in its depiction of an earlier, foggier London (we won't mention the tiny car that time-travelled in from ten years later. Oops, we just did). So the art direction was splendid, the gloomy little streets resembling the "Dublin" of Hitch's early talkie Juno and the Paycock. The performances were also solid and it was a treat to see little Charles Davis again, quietly going about his business of undermining authority with his charming smile. Although it was based on a celebrated short story - and visually did it justice - it seemed a pointless exercise, not really suitable material for a short telly episode. So few suspects could be introduced in the available time that the killer could only have been one of two or perhaps three people, and the borderline-creepy wild-eyed newspaperman was an obvious red herring. The ending was a bit clumsy - it was as if the episode had run its course and just stopped - but the delicious closing gag with Hitch apparently being strangled made up for it. This one was okay, interesting up to a point, but no classic.

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Sergeant Ottermole... THEODORE BIKEL
Mr. Summers... RHYS WILLIAMS
Constable Johnson... TORIN THATCHER
Officer Peterson... JOHN TRANE
Whybrow's nephew... BARRY HARVEY
Herbert Whybrow... ARTHUR GOULD-PORTER
Flower lady... NORA O'MAHONEY
Neighbor... NELSON WELCH
Bartender Ben... JAMES McCALLION
Jimmy, the blind man... GERALD HAMER
English neighbour... MOLLIE RODEN

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Acknowledgements: [IMDb]

This page was last updated on: 11 October 2020