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Hand of Death

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Definitely not a friendly way to approach someone!

A particular shot commonly used in action flicks, gangster movies, horror movies, and murder mysteries. All that is shown is An Insert of a hand or a pair of hands, and possibly the murder weapon itself. This gives a sense of building tension without revealing the murderer's identity. Sinister black gloves are optional.

Often, the character is walking slowly — one might say... ominously — with a gun in his hand, held down by his side. He may well be wearing a trenchcoat.

Common in slasher films. Even more common in Giallo. Compare These Gloves Are Made for Killin'.

Not to be confused with the Touch of Death or Finger Poke of Doom. Or the 70s kung-fu film.


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    Film — Live-Action 
  • Not only did Dario Argento use this trope a lot, he frequently donned the killer's black gloves himself for the inserts. In Germany, his The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was even retitled The Secret of the Black Gloves.
  • During Cropsy's murders in The Burning, often the only part of him shown is his hands holding the gardening shears.
  • Subverted in the opening scene of Charade, where a gun pointed at the heroine by a black gloved hand turns out to be a child's water pistol.
  • For most of Circus of Fear, the killer is only seen as a gloved hand.
  • Clue is full of these. Everyone seems to wear black gloves at one point or another.
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983): When the killer sneaks into the Lyons' home, the camera focuses on the gloves being drawn on to his hands, and then on the gloved hands closing around Laura's throat and strangling her before planting evidence in her hand. His face is not shown.
  • Until the closing scenes of The Initiation, the killer only appears as a gloved hand holding a weapon.
  • Used in Iron Man 3: Tony leans over, trying to reach Pepper, and the villain's hand bursts up out of the floor and tears the arc reactor right out of his suit.
  • Combined with Murderer P.O.V. to conceal the killer's identity in Killer Workout.
  • The Ripper is only seen as a pair of boots and a hand holding a knife until their true identity is revealed in Knife for the Ladies.
  • For much of Madhouse (1974), the murderer is shown as a pair of hands in black leather gloves.
  • Private Detective 62: Bandor is chortling about tricking Janet into thinking she shot him (her gun was loaded with blanks), when a hand extends out from the curtain with a gun, and shoots and kills him for real. It's revealed later that the hand belongs to Whitey, the cocaine addict who was acting on Hogan's orders.
  • Used in Psycho's infamous shower scene. Anthony Perkins wasn't on the set while it was filmed; he had an engagement elsewhere.
  • Gloved in proper classic black in The Radioland Murders before some (but not all) of the titular hits. Appropriate since this was a homage to the radio era.
  • Modernized in Red Dragon gloved in latex. Traces of talcum powder imply the murderer removed the gloves at the crime scene. Sure enough, a partial print is found.
  • A Shot in the Dark does this with several botched attempts at killing Clouseau.
  • Subverted masterfully in The Sting. The audience knows that an assassin named "Salino" has been assigned to kill Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford). From that point on, there are numerous shots of a pair of hands in purple gloves doing various things. In the final shot they are loading a revolver. It turns out that they aren't Salino's hands at all. They are the hands of the bodyguard that Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman) hired to keep an eye on Hooker. He shoots Salino.
  • Used in Strange Days, since we see the murders through a recording of the killer's perspective.
  • Used for all the murders in the slasher parody Student Bodies.
  • The Usual Suspects does a fair amount of this.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Frequently used in the first season of The Bridge (2011), with many shots of the killer's gloved hands driving a car or committing acts of violence. The later seasons used it much less.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Lucky Numbers", the kidnapper is only shown as a gloved hand until the reveal of his identity.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The hand of the robot operator in "The Sontaran Experiment" is handled this way, to save his reveal for a cliffhanger.
    • "The Brain of Morbius" introduces Solon with a shot of his hands as they cover the sculpture he's making of Morbius's face.
    • This how the killer is depicted in the first episode of "Black Orchid", allowing for a dramatic reveal of his face in the second.
    • Heavily used in "The Five Doctors" for the person responsible for bringing everyone to the Death Zone, until their identity is revealed.
  • Frontier Circus: This technique is used in "Calamity Circus" to conceal the identity of the saboteur.
  • Jonathan Creek: How the killer is portrayed in "The Clue of Savant's Thumb": first stalking Joey and later toppling a statue off the roof.
  • Used frequently in Midsomer Murders.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: A gloved hand is shown drawing a knife and advancing on Osman Efendi in "Death Do Us Part". A spray of blood informs the viewer of his fate.
  • A frequent occurrence in the BBC Miss Marple adaptations.
  • Parodied by Police Squad!. We repeatedly see the killer's shoes as he walks, and we see his gloves and business suit sleeves as he sets up the bombs. When Drebin finally confronts the bomber, it turns out to be the suspect's wife, still wearing the glove, sleeve and shoes... and otherwise dressed like a housewife.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "A Man Alone", the victim is relaxing in the holosuite when a black-gauntleted hand plunges a knife into his back. The investigating officer Constable Odo becomes the prime suspect for the crime, as he had a grudge against the victim. However, this trope is not to conceal the fact that Odo is the killer, but that the 'victim' had cloned himself and then killed his clone to fake his death and frame Odo for it.
  • Stranger: In episode 1-7 a mysterious woman enters the ICU in an attempt to murder Ga-young via Vorpal Pillow. The only thing visible onscreen is the woman's high heels clicking along the floor, and then her leather-gloved hands as she puts the pillow over Ga-young's face. (The EKG alarm draws the nurse's attention and the mystery woman has to flee.)
  • Also used frequently when showing the set-up to the murder in Whodunnit? (UK).

  • In The Cat and the Canary, a hand twice emerges from a hidden panel, first to throttle Mr. Crosby and then later to steal the necklace from around Annabelle's throat.

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