THE IRON CLAW (1941). 15 chapter Columbia serial. Director: James W. Horne.
Set mostly in a creepy house and an abandoned mine, this has to do with a mysterious figure with an iron claw who stalks the members of the Benson family. There is no love lost between Anton Benson (Forrest Taylor) and his other brothers, and Anton's daughter Millie (Edythe Elliott) can do without most of the rest of her relatives as well. Anton's niece Pat (Joyce Bryant) can't believe that either he nor chief suspect -- and petty crook -- Roy Benson (Norman Willis) can be up to any mischief, but there's also Gyves the butler (John Beck), and hood Silk Langdon (Charles King) to contend with. Bob Lane (Charles Quigley) is a reporter on the case and Jack Strong (Walter Sande) is his photographer; there's also casey the Cop (James C. Morton) on the side of the angels.
This is an extremely entertaining, very fast-paced, skillfully done serial with a lot of exciting sequences. The flavorful, constantly bickering characters and the old house with all its secret panels add to the fun. Joyce Bryant is a great screamer, which is probably why they had her haul off and screech so often during the movie, as frankly Pat seems too feisty a gal to be screaming all the time. Pat gets into a tussle with tough customer Annie, who works for Silk and tries to hold her captive, at one point. One of the best cliffhangers has the good guys trapped in a tunnel in the mine by explosions and fire. The acting is more than adequate, but Forrest Taylor is really quite good as Anton, who knows a lot more than he's saying. Lee Zahler's score, with its ominous theme for the Claw, creates atmosphere and suspense.
Verdict: Whirlwind serial is a delight! ***.