Yakima Canutt

The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman)

While The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand doesn’t start strong, the first chapter certainly isn’t any indication of how bad the serial is going to get over its fifteen chapters and five hour total run time. It’s never Amazing, there are rarely Exploits, but there is some Clutching Hand. The Hand himself is the mystery villain, always shown from behind or in shadow. The hand shows up as a threat to various characters, sometimes a shadow with a… well, a clutching hand. Sometimes the clutching hand will strangle someone, sometimes it’ll grab a piece of paper. It’s always silly but by the end of the serial, it’s no longer dangerous.

Probably because it never goes ahead and kills any of the annoying cast.

Clutching Hand‘s lead is Jack Mulhall. He’s a master detective, or so he and everyone (and the opening title scrawls) keep saying. But he starts getting duped in the first chapter. His plans are usually dumb and never work out. He regularly lets suspects go free and never calls in backup for when he raids the gang hangout. There’s only one gang hangout. It’s a sailor bar with a bunch of offices upstairs. Both the Clutching Hand and nondescript criminal Jon Hall use the bar for their base of operations. So there are lots of fist fights in the bar. Lots of them. Like probably half the chapters have fist fights in the bar. Eventually involving Mulhall in makeup. Though no one at the bar remembers anyone so it’s unclear why the makeup is so necessary.

Mulhall’s got to wear makeup because he’s trying to find a missing gold formula. Scientist Robert Frazer has discovered a way to turn metal into gold, exciting his corporate overlords and various other peoples. The same night he discovers the formula, he gets assaulted, is apparently dead, but then is kidnapped. Clutching Hand is looking for the gold formula, which also goes missing, and Frazer.

It really is thirteen chapters of those searches too. There’s one main subplot in the serial, involving ex-con Robert Walker (who is pals with Hall) and Frazer’s possible widow, Mae Busch. Walker and Hall are always mysterious, at least until they come across some mysterious guys scamming Busch. But daughter Marion Shilling? She gets nothing to do the whole time. She kind of gets to date reporter Rex Lease, who drafts himself as Mulhall’s sidekick, but there’s no story to their relationship. Clutching Hand is five hours of thin plot contrivances.

Unfortunately, it’s not just fisticuffs, plot contrivances, car chases, and whatever other stupidity the two screenwriters and two adaptation writers come up with. It’s bad enough I’m curious how much of that badness came from Arthur B. Reeve’s source novel, but… you know… not really. Five hours is already way too much time to invest in Clutching Hand.

With a couple exceptions, every chapter is just Clutching Hand spinning its wheels and killing time. Someone has the formula, let’s chase them, no wait, they don’t have it. Same goes for Frazer. Someone sees him–or not, really, Mulhall and Lease spend a lot of time just chasing old men–he’s not really there, or he’s a young guy disguised as an old man, Mulhall and Lease lose track of him because they’re really bad at the detective game. Over and over and over again.

You’d think Busch’s subplot with Walker or the con men would be a relief, but no. Busch gets zip to do in her scenes. It’s always the guys, who are just plodding through the plodding scene. When Clutching Hand actually has decent–read, not godawful–pacing, at least it doesn’t go on forever. It usually just goes on forever. The acting, of course, doesn’t help. Everyone’s bad. Mulhall and Lease get laughable after a while. Busch doesn’t make an impression. Shilling certainly doesn’t. Ruth Mix, as Frazer’s secretary, is kind of likable. She’s unlikable or trying, which goes for in Clutching Hand.

For intrigue, Clutching Hand relies mostly on the Clutching Hand talking to his legion of agents via television monitors–I think Mulhall has a scene where he barges in on him mid-villainy conference and both neglects to identify his enemy or call the cops about the gang hangout–or Frazer’s corporate overlords plotting for their outrageous fortune, once they get the gold formula back. On and on it goes. For hours. In the exact same places. Lease almost gets poisoned twice while loitering around Mulhall’s apartment. The last few chapters–finally–introduce a new setting (a boat), but it doesn’t make much difference. It’s not like the locations are inherently bad–well, they are bad but the sets inadequacies don’t matter anywhere near as much as Herman’s weak direction. The constant fist fights are always terrible, only ever amusing when they get really stupid. Like Lease shooting up the sailor bar with a couple revolvers.

The serial’s resolution manages to be stupid, incomplete, and exasperating all at once. Clutching Hand isn’t one of those serials where you could basically skip everything except the first, second, penultimate, and final chapters. There’s nothing important in the second or penultimate chapters here. Just more nonsense. Of course, one should skip Clutching Hand entirely. It’s wholly terrible (though, in all fairness to Herman, his bad direction is nothing compared to the script or the acting).

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).



The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 15: The Lone Hand

I was expecting Clutching Hand to have a bad ending. It was inevitable. But I didn’t expect them to entirely ignore one of the major plot threads. If Clutching Hand has two plot threads, which it spends fourteen chapters suggesting are intricately connecting, The Lone Hand entirely ignores one of them. It’s astounding. Especially since the chapter uses visual motifs from the plot thread only to forget about their existence moments later.

It’s incredible.

And bad. It’s incredibly bad.

Sadly, it seemed like it wouldn’t be so bad. I mean, the final twist is really dumb and it’d be hard to not make it terrible, but I thought they’d spend the chapter with fisticuffs. They start with a lot of fisticuffs. It seems like they’re going to focus on them and not rush to “wrap” everything up in the last nine minutes.

But rush they do. There’s some weird romance implication at the end, just because they need to keep the cast around perhaps, and there are two or three subplots entirely resolved in ninety seconds of exposition. Now, at least one of those subplots wasn’t clearly a subplot until the the last scene in Clutching Hand. Fifteen chapters, five hours, not a subplot until the last two minutes. The writing is excruitatingly, unimaginably bad.

Real bad acting from Rex Lease here. It’s amazing how bad the actors have gotten as the serial’s gone on. Clutching Hand could be a case study for a film overstaying its welcome. Immediately overstaying its welcome.

The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand has been an awful serial. But The Lone Hand is a particularly awful end to that awful serial. Nothing between the first chapter and the last one matters. They couldn’t even pretend the subplots had heft.

I’m so glad it’s over.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 14: The Silent Spectre

The Silent Spectre surprised me. I didn’t think Clutching Hand would be able to surprise me after they did the boat stuff–and there’s a lot more ship-based fisticuffs this chapter–but then it goes ahead and surprises me the very next chapter.

I had no idea lead Jack Mulhall could be so exceptionally bad. He’s had some dreadful moments throughout the serial, but this chapter features his easily worst moment. He’s got to pretend he thinks Rex Lease has reunited Marion Shilling with her long lost (since the first chapter) father, played by Robert Frazer. Only we know Lease hasn’t reunited Shilling with him because Lease got hijacked and beat up for the invalid Frazer.

Mulhall’s “performance” in the scene is stunning. It’s so bad it’s laugh out loud funny, which is sort of perfect for the penultimate Clutching Hand. It’s so bad it’s mocking you for watching it.

Though a lot does happen in the chapter, maybe more than in any chapter other than the first. There’s the big fight on the boat, then there’s the Frazer-napping–evil businessman Bryant Washburn and vague gangster Jon Hall team up for that one–then there’s Mulhall confronting Washburn and Hall. Oh, and there’s Lease coming back for a minute to give Mulhall the news. There’s a second car chase (the first car chase ends with Frazer getting kidnapped and Lease getting pummeled), there’s Mulhall laying a trap, there’s a shootout, there’s a Clutching Hand note mocking Mulhall–which Mulhall hides from everyone else because he’s apparently aware he’s a joke of a detective–there’s a lot. Especially considering how long the boat fight lasts.

Who knew Clutching Hand could be so action-packed? I knew it could be idiotic, but not action-packed idiotic.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 13: The Mystic Menace

I stand corrected. Clutching Hand does do something with the ship. There’s a large scale fist fight between Jack Mulhall, Rex Lease, and their pals and the mutinying crew of the ship. It’s not good–though there are some decent stunts–but it’s there. I was wrong.

I was right, however, about the resolution to Robert Walker’s subplot with suspected widow Mae Busch being a waste of time. Thirteen chapters of nonsense for a pointless explanation. If Clutching Hand had mysteries or suspects or victims, Busch and Walker’s thread could’ve been any early red herring. Instead, it’s the main red herring except the guy dressing up like the old man.

The Mystic Menace has no mystic menaces–unless it’s some metaphor for exterting brain power on the chapter, which also has some of the serial’s most numbskulled narrative choices. First, the cliffhanger resolution. Mulhall survives his car accident. He’d been chasing murderer Jon Hall–who Mulhall caught immediately after committing murder last chapter–only for Hall to go back to his office and Mulhall to go back to his lab. He doesn’t… call the cops or anything. Just cleans himself up after the car wreck and compares Walker’s fingerprints to… Walker’s fingerprints. They identify the man as himself.

The chapter has another visit to the sailor bar. Another fist fight in the sailor bar. More with the mysterious Clutching Hand talking to his goons upstairs in his secret hideout (in the sailor bar, where Mulhall has been). After Mulhall and Lease search the place–delayed a half dozen chapters from when they should’ve–they find a cufflink matching the initial of the missing man they’re trying to find.

Lease has to tell Mulhall the inital matches the kidnapped man’s name. Because even though he’s a master detective, the script uses him as the audience dummy. Explain it to Mulhall, explain it to the audience. It’s pretty impressive how condescending Clutching Hand can be to its audience, given the script and its twists and turns are abject drivel.

But, hey, they had a big action set piece on the ship. It was lousy, but it was big.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 12: Hidden Danger

Not only is twelfth time the charm for Clutching Hand as far as chapter title matching content–there is a real Hidden Danger–this chapter also has master detective, constant cosplayer, and general goof lead Jack Mulhall actually solve a crime. And the solution is really, really clever. The reveal sequence isn’t particularly great–it’s not like director Herman all of a sudden got infused with competence–but it’s actually clever. It’s a shock.

Then there’s a terrible, tedious car chase so Clutching Hand immediately gets away from the competence and embraces its badness.

The chapter opens with Mulhall and Robert Walker escaping a boat. They’ve both been shanghaiied. Later on, after the escape and a showr, Mulhall talks about palling with the captain. He couldn’t possibly have known about the shanghaiing. It’s a little thing, but it’s dumb and draws attention to itself. The serial really wants to remind people about the young guy pretending to be an old man in a wheelchair who’s supposedly the guy kidnapped in the first chapter but not. Only Mulhall never investigates the guy in the wheelchair. Because he’s a bad detective and Clutching Hand has a bad script.

Also, it’s got a confusing amount of bland white guys walking around in suits and hats. Despite being in the serial from the first scene, I confused Walker with some other guy last chapter and didn’t realize he’d been the one shanghaiied. Luckily it matters not when considering the lousy narrative. Nothing matters when considering Clutching Hand, except wondering why one is bothering consider it.

Other than the murder solution this chapter. It’s so clever it must have come from the source novel. I can’t believe Hand’s screenwriters came up with it. Especially not considering the godawful cliffhanger they use at the end here.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 11: The Ship of Peril

The Ship of Peril features the single most surprising thing about The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand so far. They actually shoot some of the chapter on a ship. Not all of it–like when the rough and tumble crew are below deck, it’s obviously not a ship, but there are at least a half dozen shots aboard an actual vessel. Not sure if its a seaworthy vessel, but… a vessel is something for Clutching Hand. Especially since when Jack Mulhall–in his rough and tumble seaman disguise–arrives at the dock there’s no dock and just some vague industrial background. Obviously no water, which suggests no boat.

But, there’s a boat. A real boat. On real water. Big surprise.

Otherwise, of course, there are no surprises. The cliffhanger resolution is really lazy–Rex Lease comes in with his pistol and stops the fistfight before it even starts. Unfortunately, Lease isn’t wielding two pistols and shooting them off like before. It’s just a boring resolution before cutting to the Clutching Hand in the hideout Mulhall found last chapter or the one before but apparently didn’t close down because then where would the Clutching Hand be able to meet with his gang.

Most of the chapter concerns the Clutching Hand gang trying to shanghai Mulhall’s mole at the sailor bar–who’s been run out of there like three times yet still is able to keep going back–onto the ship… of Peril.

For a while it seems like the ship might actually be a new location and, if not interesting, at least new. But no, it’s just the not ship below deck and then the few quick shots on (a real) deck.

The serial’s still dragging out ex-con Robert Walker’s involvement with widow Mae Busch, which is kind of exceptional given we’re eleven chapters in and there’s still not even a whiff of logic to it. Being exceptionally bad is about the only exceptional Clutching Hand might achieve. Sadly it’s still tediously bad. But high hopes.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 10: A Desperate Chance

While he’s lost his advantage (apparently) by the cliffhanger, master detective and frequent dimwit Jack Mulhall bumbles his way into a win in A Desperate Chance. Because he’s got her house bugged (with a camera, natch), he’s able to see Mae Busch get conned and go to… rescue her? Not clear yet. He doesn’t seem worried about her safety, just apprehending the con men, which involves one of Mulhall’s sidekicks impersonating the con man in the ceremonial robe. Being a wealthy woman, Busch apparently doesn’t see anything strange in having a “Ceremony of the Jewels.” Clutching Hand is often jaw-dropping dumb multiple times a chapter. Chance is no different.

There’s also no Desperate Chance in the chapter. There are no chances, there is little desperation, certainly no special desperation. There’s a lot of nonsense filler scenes and red herrings, however.

The chapter opens at the sailor bar slash villain hideout. There are two separate villain hideouts in the upstairs part of the bar, but Mulhall only knows about one of them. In the previous chapter’s cliffhanger, the (unseen) Clutching Hand seemingly shot Mulhall dead. Unfortunately, this chapter reveals Mulhall’s got a handy-dandy bulletproof vest.

Most of the chapter involves the red herring surrounding Busch and her jewels. There’s a little with corrupt businessmen trying to strong arm Ruth Mix and, separately, get Mulhall kicked off the case, but it’s filler. Ditto the car chase and fisticuffs. Filler and filler. Clutching Hand has way too many subplots for its screenwriters; they can’t even make the main one interesting.

This chapter’s cliffhanger doesn’t even put anyone in life threatening danger. It just cuts out at the start of some fisticuffs.

The only impressive thing about Clutching Hand is how it never gets any better. There’s never a good performance–Herman wouldn’t know how to direct one–but the script never gives the opportunity for one. It’s a bunch of treading water exposition, over and over, with fisticuffs thrown in.

It’s excruciatingly bad.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 9: Evil Eyes

Evil Eyes, despite all evidence to the contrary, actually seems like it might be doing something new with Clutching Hand. After an amazing cliffhanger resolution where instead of assaulting Ruth Mix, the clutching hand of the unseen Clutching Hand takes a paper she’s reading. She’s terrified, but no one’s too concerned about it. I mean, Rex Lease goes chasing after who he thinks is the culprit but he’s wrong. But no one is worried about how the house apparently has secret passageways and so on.

Lease catches Gaston Glass, who’s Mix’s paramour. Only Glass needs Mix to get back this knife he owns because Jack Mulhall’s got it. Mulhall wants Mix to come get the knife so he sets a trap for her. More a rouse. A rouse of a trap. Only she doesn’t fall for it, becaues Mulhall’s a terrible master detective.

So he has to go to Glass’s house in makeup, which is an incredibly silly scene. It does seem, for a moment, Glass might be something new in Clutching Hand. A new suspect. A new location. Maybe even new locations–Glass’s house is really exciting after all the same locations over and over.

But then they go right back to the wharf bar. And Glass is apparently out of the serial, at least in any important capacity. He’s a red herring to get to another red herring. Though Mix is the red herring to get to Glass. Clutching Hand is convoluted as all heck but only because it’s so padded. And dumb. It’s really dumb.

It’s kind of hard not to watch the serial like Mulhall is a bad guy. He’s such a doofus, he’s so inept, how can he be the hero. Not even the other characters can be dumb enough to be impressed with the master detective bit. He’s terrible at it.

But there are only six more to go. It is actually going to end. The Clutching Hand is going to end; a not inappropriate mantra for watching it.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 8: A Cry in the Night

A Cry in the Night refers the the cliffhanger of this chapter. Not the cliffhanger resolve at the open, which is another terrible Clutching Hand resolve, but the one in the very last scene. It’s not clear it’s night out. The cry is more of a scream. Whatever.

After the cliffhanger resolution at the beginning, Jack Mulhall and Rex Lease head to the sailor bar. Upstairs from the sailor bar, in an elaborate office (which might have been used as a different office before), ex-con Robert Walker meets with widow Mae Busch and they have a mysterious conversation. Only to the viewer. Walker and Busch know what they’re talking about.

Mulhall is downstairs in some of his make-up, but this time he doesn’t fool the sailors, who confront him. A brawl ensues, broken up when Lease comes in with two pistols and fires off a bunch of shots. Everything bad and tedious about Clutching Hand is on display in Cry.

After Mulhall and Lease get away, they go to see who’s using Busch’s car. It never occurs to master detective Mulhall it might be Busch. He’s a jackass. At least he’s not Lease, who’s sidekick to a jackass.

Back at Busch’s house, Lease seems to get suspicious of Busch but apparently gets distracted by love interest Marion Shilling, who talks to him about Busch for a scene, then starts telling Mulhall he’s got to go see Ruth Mix. There are no scenes between Shilling and Mix so it’s unclear how Shilling knows Mix wants to see Mulhall.

There’s some more about the missing gold formula, which is still missing, and Mulhall is just finding out in chapter eight where it was written. Master detective indeed.

Clutching Hand is officially over half over with this chapter. It’s going to be a very long second half.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 7: The Invisible Enemy

The Invisible Enemy does indeed feature an invisible enemy. Sort of. It’s the shadow of the Clutching Hand, who despite being the villain for the entire serial, is mentioned with surprise when Jack Mulhall reads another of the Hand’s threatening notes. On one hand (no pun intended), it’s a reminder to the audience. On the other, the serial’s called The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand so if the filmmakers think they need to remind the audience the Clutching Hand is part of the serial… well, that level of condescension is concerning.
 
The previous chapter ended on a not terrible cliffhanger (for Clutching Hand), but the resolution here messes it up immediately. It’s a fast, trick solution, with some bad editing from Earl Turner, bad director from Herman, and terrible sound design. The opening action set piece is just as incompetent as the fight scenes, which is saying something because the fight scenes in Clutching Hand are a special kind of bad.

The story in Enemy has to do with the board members meeting at presumed widow Mae Busch’s estate so they can go over some reports. The Clutching Hand wants to steal their paperwork. Then at some point the Hand attacks Mulhall, which I think has happened before, and even though they’re arch enemies, the Hand leaves Mulhall alive. Unfortunately.

There’s a bad chase scene–on foot–and some more danger for sidekick Rex Lease. Not much to do for the rest of the cast. I mean, Mulhall gets to muck up some scenes, but Busch, for instance, just gets to hint at her own subplot before coming back in for the main stuff. Only the main stuff is those mysterious Clutching Hand attacks and Busch is background at best for them. Clutching Hand isn’t big on characters or character development. Or being mysterious. It’s a not mysterious mystery.

The serial’s still about the missing pages of the missing gold formula–though there’s one minor development regarding its ownership–and everyone just changes locations when trying to find them. Enemy is almost halfway through and master detective Mulhall has still made zero progress in solving the case. It’s going to get beyond tedious, no doubt.

Especially since Enemy‘s cliffhanger is a repeat of a previous chapter’s cliffhanger. Yawn.

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Herman; screenplay by Leon D’Usseau and Dallas M. Fitzgerald, based on an adaptation by George M. Merrick and Eddie Granemann and the novel by Arthur B. Reeve; director of photography, James Diamond; edited by Earl Turner; produced by Louis Weiss; released by Stage & Screen Productions.

Starring Jack Mulhall (Craig Kennedy), Rex Lease (Walter Jameson), Mae Busch (Mrs. Gironda), Ruth Mix (Shirley McMillan), William Farnum (Gordon Gaunt), Marion Shilling (Verna Gironda), Bryant Washburn (Denton), Robert Frazer (Dr. Gironda), Gaston Glass (Louis Bouchard), Mahlon Hamilton (Montgomery), Robert Walker (Joe Mitchell), Yakima Canutt (Number Eight), Joseph W. Girard (Lawyer Cromwell), Frank Leigh (Maj. Courtney Wickham), Jon Hall (Frank Hobart), Franklyn Farnum (Nicky), and Knute Erickson (Capt. Hansen).


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