blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

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.


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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