All is Lost in a Harem


Episode Seven of THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS —The Dance Of Death continues the Bergmanesque theme established by the episode entitled Face to Face.

Ruth Stanhope is rescued again, then kidnapped again.

Last we saw, Carter Holmes was dangling from a rope off the side of a ship bound for the mystic east, and the rope was being cut. Would he fall in the drink? He would.

But he’s rescued by his own boat, returns to port, and sends a telegram to the captain of the ship. Ruth’s kidnappers turn her free to avoid getting in dutch with the captain, but on arrival in the mystic e., they immediately seize her, bundle her back into her wicker basket, and throw her over the side. The intervals of screen time between Ruth’s kidnaps are getting shorter. By episode fifteen I imagine her moments of freedom will be reduced to single frames.


Director Duke Worne daringly shoots a closeup of Ruth inside the submerged basket. A haunting, worrying image.

The basket is retrieved by the run merchant’s allies, and then things get weird. She’s handed over to a Turkish big shot and stored in his harem. Why did the movie travel all the way to China, only to introduce a Turk? Carter Holmes arrives by the next boat and is tricked into attending an assignation in the same place. He seems to have rather forgotten his rescue mission and is just looking to have some fun in a harem.


Ruth learns of the horny criminologist’s presence, and that he is about to be presented with the titular death-dance, so she takes the masked belly dancer’s place, but is swiftly unmasked. A couple of henchmen bind Carter and place him in the exploding chamber. Basically a room with a bomb in it. And a bed, so he’s comfy. What will happen?


Not as much detection and peril in this episode, but a great work-out for the art department, conjuring and exotic atmosphere in some rather ordinary rooms.


4 Responses to “All is Lost in a Harem”

  1. Why’d the serial travel to China only to have her handed over to a Turk to be in a harem? A question only Sax Rohmer would have an answer to.

  2. It’s quite peculiar, yes. No doubt some more Chinese-related stuff will come up later. They just wanted to be handily situated for that.

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