blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 5: The Double Trap

Clutching Hand is definitely wearing me down. I got through the bad fist fights without thinking too much about their poor execution. And lead Jack Mulhall’s annoying “acting” quirks didn’t annoy as much as usual. It’s just Clutching Hand, why would it get any better five chapters in.

The Double Trap of the title refers–I think–to Mulhall falling into a double-layered trap. He’s a master detective and a master of disguise (no eye-patch, unfortunately, but fake beard) but he can’t seem to avoid falling into the Clutching Hand’s traps. Because Mulhall just has to find man of mystery Roy Cardona, who–despite not being billed and having no scenes with the mystery villain (he’s not the mystery villain)–is always around doing stuff. He’s a go-to red herring for the serial.

This chapter has Ruth Mix getting rescued, getting freed, getting kidnapped, getting kidnapped again, disappearing, reappearing, whatever. The cliffhanger resolution at the beginning doesn’t just do a bad job establishing what’s happening with Mix it also resolves the cliffhanger way earlier than the previous chapter used the footage. So, let’s say there’s an explosion involving the heroes last chapter. This chapter gets them far away from the explosion before said explosion occurs. As if spoilers matter.

There’s not much story. Subplot-wise, there’s a little Mae Busch and mentalist fraudsters. Otherwise Trap’s all moving Mix through the chapter from one distress to another so Mulhall’s always just about to save her only to be too late or just fooled.

The finale could be good. All these different bad guys are watching Mulhall fall into the Clutching Hand’s trap. Only Herman is–at best–going for a functional sequence, not mood, and Earl Turner is a boring editor. There’s no rising tension between the cuts from villain to villain. Clutching Hand doesn’t do tension. It’s also a bad cliffhanger setup and Herman and Turner pad it out tediously. But it’s the first time Clutching Hand has had what should be a good sequence and isn’t. Usually the sequences are just bad.


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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