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

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

THE JADE MASK


THE JADE MASK (1945). Director: Phil Rosen.

In an old mansion surrounded by the unloving members of his family and others, a scientist named Harper (Frank Reicher) is murdered. Since Harper was working on a government project, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is called in on the case. You would think the first question Chan would ask everyone is why everyone hated the dead man so much -- was he a control freak, perhaps? -- but this is never satisfactorily answered, giving everything a more unintentionally comical cast than usual. Before long there are more corpses found in the house, and Chan's helpmate (or whatever he is) Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland) is having conniption fits. The movie holds the attention, and while it's confusing at times, it's effective enough as a decidedly minor mystery. Toler is fine as Chan, and Moreland is as lovable as ever (figuring in the funny finale). Cyril Delevanti is the butler, Roth, and Harper's sister, Louise, is played by Edith Evanson, who was the innkeeper in Journey to the Center of the Earth. Edwin Luke is Chan's number four son, Eddie.

Verdict: A not bad Chan adventure from lowly Monogram. ***.

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