The Ninth Arm of the Octopus


Chapter 13 of our serial photoplay THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS is entitled The Phantom Manderin, which I love. Typos in titles are so rare. Although I refer you to Guy Ritchie’s SHERLOCK HOLMES.

Parisian Apaches try to blow up our heroes, but succeed only in disturbing the surgeon about to saw off Professor Stanhope’s arm in order to make off with his valuable tattoo.


The sinister hospital has a pleasant awning.

Carter pops through a window in time to prevent amputation and the gendarmerie seizes the evil, masked Night Doctors. As Wang Foo’s ape-man watches from a shrub, Prof Stanhope is tenderly carried back to his hotel, arm still attached. Scenarist J. Grubb Alexander, concussed by his own soaring imagination, abandons grammar altogether, just hoping to make it to Episode 15 so he can sleeeeep…


And I swear eight episodes or so ago the evil Satanist rug merchant was called “Aboul”…

Wang Foo, presumed dead, emerges from behind a curtain, armed, to startle the rug merchant and his anonymous accomplice Monsieur X. Wang unmasks X, who proves to be Raoul Bornay (I was hoping he’d startle us by proving to be the Tunisian guy who died last week). Now everybody’s behaviour becomes incomprehensible, offering me a glimpse of life through the eyes of the severely autistic. Wang Foo asks Ab(d)oul to keep a secret from Monsieur X. But isn’t that Monsieur X right in front of him? Unless it’s not the real Monsieur X. I dimly recall several episodes ago there were several Messieurs X running around. But even if this is so, how does Wang Foo KNOW Bornay isn’t the real X? Am I crazy to care?

Okay, now a second Monsieur X shows up outside the house. The real one? Or just a Brand X Monsieur X? He’s in league with Aboul/Abdoul, except he’s now keeping a secret from him on Wang Foo’s instructions. My head hurts, but maybe we’re going to be okay, folks. The only problem is there are no more living characters left to be unmasked as the real X.


Carter Holmes, brilliant criminologist, wonders how Wang Foo can be both dead and alive at the same time, like Schrodinger’s cat. Carter, being less schooled in theoretical physics, compares him to Jekyll and Hyde for his uncanny ability to be in two places at once, rather missing the fact that J&H were uncanny because of their ability to be in one place at once. Still, he’s a criminologist, not a literary critic.

Reintroducing faithful sidekick Sandy McNab! We’re back in San Francisco, where the remaining two scientists with the remaining two ceremonial daggers are to be found (the Bay Area has always been rich in dagger-wielding scientists).

Fiona pauses to look over my shoulder and say “I’m really glad I’m not watching this.”

Carter reasons that, with Wang Foo’s uncanny powers of astral projection, he must be caught TWICE. To do this, he contrives a ridiculously complicated and dangerous plan.

Time for the statutory Ruth Stanhope abduction. Ruth is alone in her hotel room, trying to get a little reading in between kidnappings, when the pygmy ape man locates her. He reports her whereabouts to Wang Foo, who’s thinking one abduction ahead — he’s going to grab Prof Stanhope, then send Zora the vamp to lure Ruth along on a false rescue attempt. He’s also poisoned Zora’s hands so she has to wear gloves otherwise one touch will cause her to die of Oriental Fever (not — Oriental Fever!?!).

Aboul, or Abdoul, the rug merchant and Satanist, is slotting the ceremonial daggers into the stone vault. He only needs three more and he can get the terrible treasure within, whose significance I have entirely forgotten. Much more of this and I will have forgotten how to walk.

Carter proposes to hide in a mummy case with a fake dagger left out as bait, wired electrically to paralyse whomsoever comes to swipe it. I’ve heard worse plans. However, I still suspect the American professor population is going to be reduced again. Presumably Carter has the folks who killed the elephant for Edison lined up to do his wiring.


I’m wondering if I should just take a few snaps of scenes from the next episode, make up some crazy shit, and not bother to watch. I mean, who’d know?

Ruth is abducted, having been tricked into believing her father was abducted. Now, to save her life, she is ordered to help abduct him. This, on the face of it, makes little sense, but if you examine it more deeply you will realize it makes NO sense.

Zora advances threateningly, each digit imbued with the Oriental Black Fever!

Monsieur X disposes of yet another professor, acquires yet another dagger.

The astral projection / lookalike Wang Foo falls into Carter’s trap — ZAP! —


5 Responses to “The Ninth Arm of the Octopus”

  1. David I’m not sure how good your French is, but have you ever considered taking on Les Adventures de Harry Dickson ? This was Alain Resnais long-a-borning but never filmed “passion project” that was to have starred Dirk Bogarde and Delphine Seyrig and shot in 70mm. Several years back Capricci published the script by Frederic de Towarnicki — an associate of (wait for it!) Martin Heidegger. Adapted from the writings of Jean Ray Harry Dickson is a beguiling mixture of detective fiction and supernatural adventure.

  2. I’m fascinated by unmade films, and would love to read Harry Dickson — but my French is sub-remedial, as the experience of making NATAN bore out! If it ever surfaces online and can be auto-translated, I’d be all over it.

    That one should be a double feature in some imaginary cinema with Fellini’s Mandrake the Magician.

  3. Fellini took a stab at Mandrake in the Mastroianni sequence of Intervista

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