Steps of Doom almost opens with a good cliffhanger resolve. It definitely has a couple surprises to it, which the chapter does nothing with after revealing them–even though both beg further explanation–and gets into another bar fight at the waterfront. It raises a third question, just before the fight, which seems important but gets skipped for the fisticuffs. The terribly choreographed fisticuffs. The terribly edited fisticuffs.
After the fisticuffs there’s a red herring car chase, then the good guys split up for a bit. Rex Lease gets a scene to himself–or at least away from Jack Mulhall–where he goes and checks up on lady love Marion Shilling. They have a shocking lack of chemistry together; it’s good they don’t get many scenes together. She asks if they’ve found Ruth Mix, but she’s gotten kidnapped again. Neither Shilling or Lease seem too worried about her.
But wait, she calls just after they talk about her and Mix gives Shilling a mission to save her life. Luckily, Mulhall has Shilling’s house bugged–with cameras–so he knows about her phone call before Lease can tell him about it. The camera bugging serves no apparent purpose other than making Mulhall seem techy. And like a creep.
After Mulhall gets to the house, there’s some more goings on–then a murder–then the cliffhanger. The murder isn’t yet connected to the cliffhanger (or anything else), which is too bad. An actual murder might make Clutching Hand a little more engaging. You can only watch Mulhall get one-upped by the mystery villain so many times.
Some really trying acting from Mulhall this chapter too. Though he’s really making the amateurish performances of the rest of the cast seem stronger.
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).