The Sunday Intertitle: The Fatal Couch
In Episode Ten of THE MASTER MYSTERY, intrepid lab worker Quentin Locke (Harry Houdini) faces almost certain garroting by “the great torture” — a Jewish man strangled by an Indian in a Chinese temple: it’s nothing if not multicultural.
Though HH manages to punch his wrists and ankles free from their manacles, this time he is more or less rescued by the girl, Marguerite Marsh, who plugs the brownface thuggee — Houdini briefly finds himself spun around by the throat as the mechanical garotting mechanism unwinds (not sure of the physics here) and With One Bound, Our Hero Is Free!
But not for long. Harry and Marguerite’s decision to get married turns the jealous Zita against them, and soon a massive plot is underway involving practically the whole supporting cast — crooked businessman Paul Balcom, his son Herbert, vamp Deluxe Dora, swithering secretary Zita, the clanking Automaton and the weird beard guy ~
Did someone mention my name? And if so, what IS my name?
Strangling the guard dog (aw!), the Automaton and his thugs (not thuggees) abduct Harry and Marguerite from their wedding celebration, turning it into a kind of shotgun elopement, while Herbert awaits with a bogus priest at a secret location ~
The plan seems to be to force Marguerite to marry Herbert at gunpoint, but it’s all a phony ceremony (why?). In missing footage, Harry is sealed inside a couch (a professional hazard for chemists even today), which a lethal blade is subsequently plunged into.
Episode 11 is missing! But we do know that Harry survives his apparent impalement, escapes from the couch, but gets snared in a fishing net, as the Automaton advances upon Marguerite with possible amorous intent, we must frustratingly break off our narrative until next week ~
Tidbit: Floyd Buckley, who clanks about inside the Automaton, also played Popeye the Sailor Man on the radio. Imagine THAT voice echoing from within the steel behemoth’s shambling chassis. Nyuk nyuk!