In foggy London town, we follow a business-man who has just gotten off the train. Walking through the station, he stops at a newsstand and picks up a paper, declines to buy a flower offered from a tray by an old woman, and turns to walk down a foggy tunnel which opens onto a foggy street. Conveniently, he lives the second door down. He waves to an acquaintance whistling Greensleeves as he enters. His journey is a single shot that lasts over a minute with just one edit at the flower lady.
He arrives home and seems pretty excited that his wife is making kippers. There is a knock at the door, and we shift to the visitor’s POV. The man invites him in for dinner, but we see hands reach out and strangle him.
The man’s nephew stops by while the police are at the crime scene. A pushy reported barges in, but is turned away as the ambulance arrives. Lucky Officer Otterpoole was on the job.
The newspaper chides the cops when the crime is not solved after 4 days
Hanging out at the police station, the reporter and a cop agree that the man must be a foreigner, like the heavily accented Ottermole; who drinks tea, like Ottermole is doing at that very second; is smiling at the police’s inability to catch the murderer, like Ottermole. And have two hands — like Ottermole!!!
Next a cop is found dead, so shit gets real.
In the pub, the reporter talks about how when something is right before our eyes, we don’t stop to ask how it got there — “like that ham sandwich.” Is this a reference to Ottermole aka the police aka pigs? OED has references of cops as pigs as far back as 1811.
The reporter figures it out and brilliantly confronts Office Ottermole on a lonely foggy street. Ottermole says he doesn’t know why he killed the people. His hands seem to have a mind of their own. He strangles the reporter before being grabbed from behind.
- AHP Deathwatch: Only Theodore Bikel is still with us.
- The title just rubs your face in the fact that it is a cheat. But then “The Hands of Officer Ottermole” would have taken some of the suspense out of the story.
- A kipper is also known as a red herring.
- Ellery Queen wrote of Thomas Burke’s original 1941 story, “No finer crime story has ever been written, period.”
- The tune to Greensleeves is the same as the Christmas carol, What Child is This.