blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 3: House of Mystery

It’s another action-packed episode. The action is atrociously executed, but there is definitely a lot of it. After a perfunctory cliffhanger resolution, the Clutching Hand sends more thugs after detective Jack Mulhall and his sidekick, reporter Rex Lease (Lease’s professional makes no difference to the plot–he’s just a sidekick at this point). They come after them on motorcycles, so The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand has a motorcycle chase. For a little bit, then it turns into a terrible fist fight with bad everything. Bad direction, bad editing, terrible sound. Just awful sound.

After the fight, Mulhall and Lease finally get to the *House of Mystery*, which isn’t very mysterious. It’s a boarding house. Where there’s a man pretending to be in a wheelchair. He’s also presumably pretending not to be in a terrible wig. He’s probably supposed to be in a wig, but I’m guessing it’s not supposed to be a terrible wig.

Or the House of Mystery is where Mae Busch meets with the psychics. At least they seem like psychics. There’s a lot of characters to following in Clutching Hand and none of them are likable and none of the actors are any good. Mulhall’s got some terrible moments in Mystery, for example. And he’s the lead. He’s supposed to be the hero. You’d want the Clutching Hand to win if he weren’t so terrible too.

There’s a fight with the psychics–but with Robert Walker (I think–there really are way too many characters and all the white guys have brown hair and look the same)–same bad sound effects and editing and so on. Maybe the novel is better? Clutching Hand works hard at being mysterious but it’s a who cares level of mysterious. The filmmakers treat their audience as captives, like they’re being forced to sit through the chapter to get to something they actually want to see.

After the second fist fight, there’s this sequence where Mulhall gets into disguise to go back to the House of Mystery. There was something suspicious about the guy in the bad wig in the wheelchair after all.

There’s a secret passage and a gang hideout and all sorts of stuff under the boarding house.

Sadly Mulhall doesn’t wear the eye patch in his disguise. The eye patch would’ve made it at least silly. Instead, it’s just… not good. At anything.


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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