If you thought The Purple Dagger was a mildly suggestive title for a movie serial episode, then you ain’t seen The Hand of Wang.

This is episode 4 of THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS, and things are hopelessly tangled. The gun aiming at our heroine in last week’s installment proves to be clasped by femme fatale and former exotic dancer turned high priestess of a sinister death cult, Zora Rularde. Before she can shoot, she gets hypnotized into dropping the gat by the eerie disembodied eyes which have been drifting through this whole show, and Scottish sidekick Sandy McNab nabs her, nicely.


Meanwhile, ace criminologist turned oafish bumbler has a Mexican standoff with the shadowy, masked Monsieur X. By now we’ve met the Tunisian gentlemen who is OBVIOUSLY Monsieur X in his other guise — Scooby Doo logic, he’s the only other character in the serial. We’ll see if I’m right. Anyhow, he turns out the lights and there are shots in the dark. Carter re-illumines the room, and X has vanished. Eerie. I’m reminded of the old western saying — “Q: How many Indians are hiding in this room? A: As many as want to.”

In fact, X has scarpered, murdering another scientist and stealing another ceremonial dagger (Collect ’em all!). But then Sandy finds a surprising note ~


Meanwhile, that Tunisian gent turns up to help Sandy guard the vamp, but it’s obvious from sly reaction shots that he and she are in cahoots. McNab, who’s no smarter than his boss, suspects nothing. Within minutes, the vamp is free and our heroine, Ruth Stanhope, has been abducted yet again.

Incidentally, I didn’t realize I’d seen Sandy before — he’s played by William Dyer, one of the gravediggers in FRANKENSTEIN. The rest of the cast seems to have plunged into B westerns for life, but the paunchy sidekick achieved a few seconds of immortality.

Fortunately, the vamp handily left her address, so Holmes is able to pay her a social call. But she tells him nothing, and while he’s away, one of the ceremonial daggers is stolen. It’s beginning to look like going anywhere is a mistake, and Holmes could win the whole adventure just by sitting on his ass. It’s moving about that causes all the trouble.


During all this we also hear about mysterious oriental Wang Foo, apparently the only guy who owns a ceremonial dagger and knows what it’s for. A man to respect! Looking forward to a bit of proper yellow peril soon. We also learn that the sinister floating eyes have the ability to make telephone calls (but only to local numbers).

The villains drag Ruth onto a train — I like how they just openly bundle her onto the observation car — we don’t see how they got onto the station platform in the first place. I guess damsel abduction was such a popular past-time in those days, the authorities would rather smile upon it. As long as they had their tickets, the guard would look the other way. A policy continued by the Ohio police to this day, possibly.

Now for an exciting chase! Some clever detective work involving fingerprints and railway timetables, of which Agatha Christie would be proud, leads Holmes and McNab to pursue the train in their jalopy, and Holmes daringly leaps into the last carriage. He liberates Ruth, chucks Monsieur X overboard, but now the evil rug merchant pulls some funny business with the train and sends that last carriage trundling towards the end of the line — which in this case is an icy plunge into a river, since the bridge has been raised…


I no longer have any idea what is going on in this serial.

3 Responses to “Wang”

  1. Well, I’m about six episodes ahead of you, and I have no idea what’s going on, so things do not get any clearer. I’ve been tempted to go back over the the earlier episodes to see if I missed anything, but deep down I know that at some point the story just wandered into nonsenseville and is now quite happily settled there. Or maybe the moment that would make it all clear is in one of the missing episodes. I just don’t know.

    I can’t wait until you get the section where there’s about three Monsieurs X running around. That’s really where I decided I’d be better off not trying to force Trail of the Octopus to make any sense.

  2. Ooh boy. I have so much to look forward to! At this point it seems like a sort of compendium of thriller cliches of the era, strung together abstractedly. As such, it’s very endearing.

  3. I agree completely, and watching it makes me sad that so few silent American serials are available. Greenbriar Picture Shows had a great piece about them a while back that really whetted my appetite for things that I will never get to watch.

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

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