With this power called ‘Dynolife’

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Chapter 14 of our serial photoplay, TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS — the penultimate chapter — and the titles writer is frankly exhausted, his spelling and grammar disintegrating like a Damon Lindelof screenplay under critical scrutiny. Still, The House of Shadows is a good title for this blog to play host to.

We were left with an unusual cliffhanger last week. While Ruth Stanhope is in mortal peril as usual, the threat involving Carter Homes, master criminologist, is not one hanging over him personally, but one he has set up to electrocute the fiendish Dr Wang Foo. Can we bring ourselves to feel much anxiety over his fate? Perhaps not, but after thirteen episodes I’ve given up hope of anything really appalling happening to Carter, so at least this provides variety.

Anyhow, the plan works and soon Wang Foo is smouldering at gunpoint in an armchair, nerve-endings frazzled by several thousand volts. Things have been getting complicated in the storyline, so that the filmmakers are obliged to spend the first quarter of the episode recapping the various threads interwoven last week.

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Before our terrified eyes, Ruth is threatened with the deadly oriental black fever, but another pair of eyes, those disembodied ones that keep cropping up, come glowing through the wallpaper and cure vamp Zora Rularde of Wang Foo’s devilish mind control — this results in her expiring of the oriental fever herself but without infecting Ruth.

Another directorial flourish — as Wang Foo, not quite vanquished, tries to hypnotize Carter Holmes, director Duke Worne cuts back and forth incessantly, creeping in to closer and closer views of his staring antagonists. It’s Hitchcock meets Leone! And then Carter, who has failed miserably throughout the series, basically pisses his pants and drops the revolver, bamboozled by the psychic assault. Recovering slightly, he pulls a trick with the lights, distracts Foo, and grabs the gun again, but the Chinese mastermind fades from view — merely an astral projection from a recumbent Wang Foo back at his headquarters. Curses!

Comedy chubster Sandy McNab turns up with news of where Prof Stanhope has been abducted to (Stanhope shares his daughter’s predilection for being kidnapped — perhaps it’s genetic). Leaving the electrical dagger trap in place, Carter rushes off.

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Raoul Bornay prepares a horrible yet absurd torture for Prof Stanhope.

Big raid on Wang Foo’s joss house! But he’s not there. Carter just can’t catch a break.

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But — Abdoul the cultist rug merchant gets electrocuted — in a rather Lynchian visual — while reaching for the booby trapped dagger. Hilarious scene of Carter interrogating the rigid Satanist. And finally, the master plot is “explained” ~

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Abdoul plays the race card ~

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Abdoul is so stiffened from his electrocution they have to pose him like an action figure to get the handcuffs on. That’s what happens when you mess with an ace criminologist.

Now Carter learns that there’s only one sacrificial dagger still at liberty. Forgetting that he could simply blow up the cave where the safe is hidden which the daggers open, perhaps using a charge of trinitrotruol, he resolves to make safe the final blade. Given his track record, I’m ready to start digging a grave for San Francisco’s last professor. It’s no accident, it seems to me, that Carter’s sidekick Sandy McNab (William Dyer) is best known for playing a grave-digger in FRANKENSTEIN — it’s the main labour involved in assisting Carter.

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For no reason, even though he believes Ruth has been infected with a deadly virus, Wang Foo instructs his simian henchman to stab her with a tiny dagger. Which leads to an appropriately menacing cliffhanger ~

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To Be Concluded!

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