Pearl White is rightly remembered as the queen of the serials, but she
also deserves credit for the concept of the McGuffin. Scholars of
Alfred Hitchcock's films know that 'McGuffin' was Hitchcock's term for
an object or piece of information which is of no importance whatever to
the movie audience, but which serves to motivate the characters in the
film to chase each other. Pearl White had formalised this concept long
before Hitchcock... but she used the term 'weenie' to describe the
object or information which motivates the characters.
White's 1914 serial 'The Exploits of Elaine' (superior to the
better-known 'Perils of Pauline') was so popular that two sequels were
made. 'The New Exploits of Elaine' (10 chapters) is the first sequel,
and this one picks up basically where the previous serial ended. The
villainous Clutching Hand has paid the ultimate price for his villainy.
Now the spotlight shifts to sinister Oriental crimelord Wu Fang (played
by Edwin Arden with Sellotaped eyelids and Fu Manchu's hand-me-downs).
Mister Wu is seeking the hoard of ill-gotten loot and stolen treasure
which the Clutching Hand accumulated during his criminal career. Only
the intrepid Elaine Dodge and her plucky friends can stop him.
Creighton Hale is aboard, continuing his role from the previous film as
bumbling sidekick Jameson.
'The New Exploits of Elaine' (which I've seen only in partial form) is
more laughable than its predecessor, partly because the Oriental
villain is a yellow-peril stereotype, but made even more ludicrous
because the actor playing this role is clearly a white man in Chinese
drag. Every time that Edwin Arden came on screen, I had to resist the
urge to call out the old panto catchphrase: "Mister Wu! How DO you DO?"
SPOILERS: The last chapter ends with an exciting climax, in which
'scientific detective' Craig Kennedy has a Reichenbach-like
confrontation with Wu Fang at the quayside. Both men fall into the sea,
where Wu Fang is eaten by sharks and Craig Kennedy disappears beneath
the surface, presumed dead ... until the next serial.
I'll rate 'The New Exploits of Elaine' 5 points out of 10.
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