Category Archives: Serial Chapter

The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 15: The Lone Hand

I was expecting Clutching Hand to have a bad ending. It was inevitable. But I didn’t expect them to entirely ignore one of the major plot threads. If Clutching Hand has two plot threads, which it spends fourteen chapters suggesting are intricately connecting, The Lone Hand entirely ignores one of them. It’s astounding. Especially since the chapter uses visual motifs from the plot thread only to forget about their existence moments later.

It’s incredible.

And bad. It’s incredibly bad.

Sadly, it seemed like it wouldn’t be so bad. I mean, the final twist is really dumb and it’d be hard to not make it terrible, but I thought they’d spend the chapter with fisticuffs. They start with a lot of fisticuffs. It seems like they’re going to focus on them and not rush to “wrap” everything up in the last nine minutes.

But rush they do. There’s some weird romance implication at the end, just because they need to keep the cast around perhaps, and there are two or three subplots entirely resolved in ninety seconds of exposition. Now, at least one of those subplots wasn’t clearly a subplot until the the last scene in Clutching Hand. Fifteen chapters, five hours, not a subplot until the last two minutes. The writing is excruitatingly, unimaginably bad.

Real bad acting from Rex Lease here. It’s amazing how bad the actors have gotten as the serial’s gone on. Clutching Hand could be a case study for a film overstaying its welcome. Immediately overstaying its welcome.

The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand has been an awful serial. But The Lone Hand is a particularly awful end to that awful serial. Nothing between the first chapter and the last one matters. They couldn’t even pretend the subplots had heft.

I’m so glad it’s over.

CREDITS

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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The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 14: The Silent Spectre

The Silent Spectre surprised me. I didn’t think Clutching Hand would be able to surprise me after they did the boat stuff–and there’s a lot more ship-based fisticuffs this chapter–but then it goes ahead and surprises me the very next chapter.

I had no idea lead Jack Mulhall could be so exceptionally bad. He’s had some dreadful moments throughout the serial, but this chapter features his easily worst moment. He’s got to pretend he thinks Rex Lease has reunited Marion Shilling with her long lost (since the first chapter) father, played by Robert Frazer. Only we know Lease hasn’t reunited Shilling with him because Lease got hijacked and beat up for the invalid Frazer.

Mulhall’s “performance” in the scene is stunning. It’s so bad it’s laugh out loud funny, which is sort of perfect for the penultimate Clutching Hand. It’s so bad it’s mocking you for watching it.

Though a lot does happen in the chapter, maybe more than in any chapter other than the first. There’s the big fight on the boat, then there’s the Frazer-napping–evil businessman Bryant Washburn and vague gangster Jon Hall team up for that one–then there’s Mulhall confronting Washburn and Hall. Oh, and there’s Lease coming back for a minute to give Mulhall the news. There’s a second car chase (the first car chase ends with Frazer getting kidnapped and Lease getting pummeled), there’s Mulhall laying a trap, there’s a shootout, there’s a Clutching Hand note mocking Mulhall–which Mulhall hides from everyone else because he’s apparently aware he’s a joke of a detective–there’s a lot. Especially considering how long the boat fight lasts.

Who knew Clutching Hand could be so action-packed? I knew it could be idiotic, but not action-packed idiotic.

CREDITS

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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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.

CREDITS

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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The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (1936, Albert Herman), Chapter 12: Hidden Danger

Not only is twelfth time the charm for Clutching Hand as far as chapter title matching content–there is a real Hidden Danger–this chapter also has master detective, constant cosplayer, and general goof lead Jack Mulhall actually solve a crime. And the solution is really, really clever. The reveal sequence isn’t particularly great–it’s not like director Herman all of a sudden got infused with competence–but it’s actually clever. It’s a shock.

Then there’s a terrible, tedious car chase so Clutching Hand immediately gets away from the competence and embraces its badness.

The chapter opens with Mulhall and Robert Walker escaping a boat. They’ve both been shanghaiied. Later on, after the escape and a showr, Mulhall talks about palling with the captain. He couldn’t possibly have known about the shanghaiing. It’s a little thing, but it’s dumb and draws attention to itself. The serial really wants to remind people about the young guy pretending to be an old man in a wheelchair who’s supposedly the guy kidnapped in the first chapter but not. Only Mulhall never investigates the guy in the wheelchair. Because he’s a bad detective and Clutching Hand has a bad script.

Also, it’s got a confusing amount of bland white guys walking around in suits and hats. Despite being in the serial from the first scene, I confused Walker with some other guy last chapter and didn’t realize he’d been the one shanghaiied. Luckily it matters not when considering the lousy narrative. Nothing matters when considering Clutching Hand, except wondering why one is bothering consider it.

Other than the murder solution this chapter. It’s so clever it must have come from the source novel. I can’t believe Hand’s screenwriters came up with it. Especially not considering the godawful cliffhanger they use at the end here.

CREDITS

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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