Everything except the kitchen sink!
G. Morley | Salem OR USA | 03/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have owned this serial for a couple of years now, and I have probably watched it no less than 30 times. Yes, I have a life, but for some reason, I can't get enough of this cliffhanger. The plot is rather complex, the subplots numerous, and the red herrings too many to count! Good direction. Jack Mulhall is well cast in the lead role. Handsome cowboy Rex Lease is excellent as a newspaper reporter who apparently never has to report to work, thereby allowing him to hang around as Jack's sidekick on an almost continual basis, and eventually decking nearly every cast member before this thing is over. Some of the acting is terrible, which goes to show that no matter how good the direction, some people simply weren't meant to act. The music score is unlike any I've ever heard before, but personally, I think it's a perfect fit. Sounds like The Salvation Army Band. The fight sequences are nearly non-stop, and most are phony as all get out since they hadn't yet learned the fine art of dubbing in the sounds of someone slapping and punching a hunk of raw meat in sync with thrown punches. The best fight scenes, needless to say, are those involving Yakima Canutt. He obviously staged his own fights and they are by far the most realistic. He has a reasonably good-sized role in this serial ("Number 8"), and he proves that he's not only one of the finest, if not the finest, stuntman of all time, but he can even act halfway decent. One of the cornier subplots has to do with something called "The Ceremony of the Jewels". It involves nothing more than repeated bowing from the waste with arms outstretched, and the inhaling (by the victim whose jewels the con men are after) of some very "special" incense placed two feet under her nose that gets her so quickly stoned that she wouldn't care if they were about to amputate her arms. For those who enjoy watching for continuity mess-ups, they'll have a field day with this serial. Seems the person in charge of continuity was out on sick leave a lot. During the last three or four episodes, a different director, or second unit director, takes over, and he has this very annoying and unprofessional habit of cueing his actors by loudly snapping his fingers. Must have driven the sound technician nuts. It's clearly audible to anyone who is paying attention. This serial is very low-budget, but considering what they had to work with, I think they did a wonderful job. Very clever use of gadgets, sets, and some of their ideas and use of electronics were years, if not decades, ahead of their time (i.e., tele-conferencing). Picture and sound quality are not too good at times due to degradation of the source material. I very much hope that The Clutching Hand will one day be treated to a total & highgrade digital remastering. Yes, this serial can be very corny at times, the acting sub-par and the low budget obvious, but frankly, I think these things add to its charm and appeal. I own and have watched many, many cliffhangers in recent years. This one ranks as my favorite. Many readers will probably think I'm nuts, and maybe I am, but there is something about this particular serial that draws me in, and I'm not even certain I know why. All I have to know is that I am entertained every time I watch it, and I usually see something new with each viewing. I firmly believe that this cliffhanger improves with each watching. I hope many others will feel compelled to write reviews of their own of The Amazing Exploits Of The Clutching Hand (its official title)."
Highly manicured but not without paper cuts
Phil S. | USA | 09/25/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Jack, Rex, and Mae have a field day, fightin', fussin', faintin'....15 approx. 30 minute episodes right here on DVD! I surmise the serial was apportioned maybe one or two per week, so to watch, say, 5 straight episodes, is a bit of a risk.
The "camp" is all here - especially in the fighting scenes - no jabs, no uppercuts - all roundhouse swings! And all you here is *feet*. These brawlers always arrive on the scene in a three-piece suit and fashionable fedora...no one leaves the fight with even a torn cuff. Great reaction shots by less than great actors.
Jack Mulhall is an understated pip - "Well, you probably didn't know I'll be at the warehouse to catch you by surprise" attitude is irrestible.
Mae Busch just a tad subdued compared to her usual "spitfire" duties as Oliver Hardy's wife, for another studio. She actually melts during one scene with a handsome bad guy - some uncharacteristic feminine vulnerability which comes through in an obviously spontaneous take. (Or maybe, considering the low budget, it was expedient to print this salty little slice o' life. Episode #10).
For Classic Car Collectors, this is a must-own! I'm thinking of saving up for a 1935 Lincoln!"
Richard B. Schwartz | Columbia, Missouri USA | 07/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It could just as easily have been 1 star. This is a kitsch classic. I saw it on a tiny tv when I was six or seven years old and found it riveting and scary as all get out. Now it's pure cheese and corn, with interminable phony fight scenes, unending car chases along the same roads and predictably-solved cliffhanger endings. And yet, it's so bad that it's good. It's campy, quaint fun, and for less than ten bucks a lot of entertainment (since it runs for over 5 hours). The renowned detective, Craig Kennedy, is, by turns, thick as a brick and smarter than Sherlock Holmes (particularly in his final explanation of the case). He is a specialist in disguises and, given his doofus antagonists, the same disguises continue to work, even after he's been exposed using them. The Clutching Hand himself (described as Craig Kennedy's arch-enemy) has the most fiendish of cackles, which he lets loose at inopportune moments. The serial has the kind of cast that Johnny Carson (as teatime movie host, Art Fern) used to describe and the clips that Johnny/Art showed could have come straight out of the fight scenes here. The plot is endless. I've seen reference to a 70 minute feature version. The editor would have had little trouble in reducing the 15 20-minute episodes down to a short feature. Having said all that, it's still great fun. I could imagine a well-oiled fraternity party in the wee hours, with the members stamping their feet and saying, "One more episode, one more episode . . . " The scenes of mid-30's L.A. are worth the price of admission, as is the use of television as the villain and crimestopper's cutting-edge technology. Many of the actors are from the silent screen days. As such, they specialize in long reaction shots and big-eyed leers. This one's delicious."
Not the greatest by a longshot, but still a fun serial.
John Feaster | 03/27/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If this had been one of the more expensive DVD's, it wouldn't have been worth it. This would have been a 3 or even a 2 star review, and that would be that. But for eight bucks, this is an EXCELLENT serial. The serial clipps along at a decent pace for the most part, with creepy footage of cobweb-choked passages and hands slowly reaching from behind the door. The main character "Craig Kennedy" is as bland as vanilla, and most of the other characters are just as bad, but the Clutching Hand himself has a great laugh, and in the end...I can honestly say that the villains real identity both suprised me AND made sense. The only problem was that Kennedy hints at previous encounters with the Clutching Hand, which is odd...unless someone else used the name before, as the villain obviously just adopted the identity for this caper.
All in all, it's no "Captain Marvel" or even "Mystery Mountain", but it's also not the "Black Coin". For the price, it's well worth the money and at least a few viewings over the years."