Today's Overlooked film is a low-budget fifteen-parter foisted on the world in 1936 by indy Weiss Productions. Reviews posted on IMDB are evenly split between an entertaining camp classic and a cringeworthy, confusing exercise. As if releasing the film to the public as a serial wasn't enough, the studio also edited the film for a regular movie release under the expanded title The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (which had been the working title of the serial all along).
The story features Craig Kennedy, the "scientific detective" who was very popular for several decades following his first appearance in 1910. Kennedy was a creation of Arthur B. Reeve who wrote 82 stories of the character in eight years for Cosmopolitan. Reeve then moved on to other magazines, slowly changing his professorial, scientific detective into just another detective. Several of the stories that appeared in the Thirties pulps were thought to have been written by other hands. Eventually over two dozen books were published. (Reeve also wrote a number of screenplays about Craig Kennedy, but not, I hasten to add, this one.) Despite some of the stories bordering on the fantastic, Kennedy's scientific approach was so popular that Arthur B. Reeve ended up advising the FBI.
The Clutching Hand was directed by Albert Herman, a veteran of low budget westerns as well as the director of over 40 Mickey Rooney shorts from 1927 to 1931. Hand was based on an unspecified Craig Kennedy story, and was adapted for the screen by George M. Merrick and Eddy (Eddie) Graneman; the actual screenplay was written by Leon D'Usseau and Dallas FitzGerald. All four writers had undistinquished careers in low-budget films.
Most of the actors had long-runner and undistinquished careers also, often uncredited. Craig Kennedy was played by Jack Mulhall, who later appeared in supporting roles in seven episodes of the early television show Craig Kennedy, Criminologist, with Donald Woods taking the title role. Co-star Rex Lease was best known for his westerns in the silent movie era. Mae Busch's many roles had he working with some of the biggest names in show business, beginning with her friend Mabel Norton; Busch is probably best known as Ollie's wife in five Laurel and Hardy movies. Many of the faces in this serial will feel familiar; Snub Pollard, for example, is credited in 542 titles in his IMBD entry. One familar face -- Charles Lochner -- was better known in his later career as "Jon Hall."
Oh. The plot? Yes, there was a plot. It involves the discovery of synthetic gold. Before the scientist who made the discovery can reveal it to the world, he is kidnapped. (Actually, he is kidnapped at least twice over the serial's run.) It's up to Craig Kennedy to save the day and the scientist. It takes him fifteen chapters to do so. That's 300 minutes. Five hours. Will it be five lost hours you will never get back? Or will it be five hours of camp entertainment? You decide.
Todd Mason will have the links to more of today's overlooked stuff at Sweet Freedom.