Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


CHARLIE CHAN AT THE MOVIES: History, Filmography and Criticism. Ken Hanke. McFarland; 1989.

This exhaustive, well-detailed book looks at the 44 films (1931 - 1949) that make up the Charlie Chan series, films that came from two studios (Fox and Monogram) and employed three actors -- Warner Oland, Sidney Toler, and Roland Winters -- in the lead role. Hanke subjects the movies to scrupulous analyses that include plot summaries, critical assessment, background details, and other points of interest. There are also sections on each of the three Chans and the differences between their interpretations. Hanke also notes which of the screenwriters and directors showed the most familiarity with the character and came out with the most memorable entries. Hank agrees with many that Charlie Chan at Treasure Island was one of the best, if not the best, of the Chan pictures, and that City in Darkness was the absolute worst. I like Treasure Island but I think it gets serious competition from Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise, Charlie Chan at the Opera, The Scarlet Clue, and others. Unlike Hanke, I've never cared for The Black Camel, but to each his own.

Verdict: Solid study of a film series that lasted nearly twenty years. ***.

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