blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

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.


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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