THE MASTER MYSTERY, part the second.
Extremely fortunately, part two of Houdini’s movie serial opens with a recap which makes clear some of the confusing business in part 1. It also renders some of the more lucid stuff hopelessly obscure, but in this case I just hang onto my memory of understanding it at the time and dismiss the fog of befuddlement descending upon me.
One thing I belatedly realize is that the robot down in the rock-hewn cavern beneath the house where most of the action takes place is actually one and the same as “Q” the mysterious master criminal. (But subsequently I realized that “Q” is a different character after all.)
Also, Harry H dismisses the idea that the robot has a human brain (like Robotman Cliff Steele in The Doom Patrol), claiming that there is a human being inside that costume. If Harry is right, then “Q” is not, after all, the screen’s first true robot, but merely some dude in an exoskeleton, like IRON MAN.
This episode gets off to a flying start with HH writhing free of a straitjacket and engaging in vigorous fisticuffs with some fake asylum attendants, men in white coats who have come to abduct Mr Brent, head of the Patents Company, who has been stricken by the Madagascar (or laughing) Madness — a result of being doped by
scented poisoned candles furtively planted by the robot (who can apparently tiptoe).
Outnumbered three to one, Harry manages to pummel the bad guys into submission and rushes to the leading lady’s boudoir, where he plugs Q the robot with his revolver (wait, he had a revolver this whole time?). Bullets have no effect! Still, the lady is rescued, with the help of the butler, the gardener and the real asylum attendants.
Harry contacts an
eccentric bit-player brilliant chemist to concoct a cure for the Madagascar (or laughing) Madness, and watches as the man feeds the mania-inducing candlewax to a guinea pig. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if a small rodent is or is not demented, and the scene kind of fizzles out.
Flint, the robot’s supposed inventor (or at least somebody who talks about the robot a lot), recently back from Madagascar, is another victim of the Madness, but the bad guys kidnap him, drag him to robot cave, and then cure him of the Madagascar (or laughing) Madness, in order that he may do their bidding. Also, that maniacal laughter was probably getting tiresome. It’s times like this we can be thankful the movie is silent.
The chemist comes up with a cure in about five minutes, so Harry hurries back to collect it, but the henchmen strike. The wacky chemist is walloped and dragged offscreen, and Harry ends the episode tied to the coat rack by his wrists. Surely escape is impossible? Oh, wait…