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

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Charlie Chan (Toler) meets Ming the Merciless (Middleton)
CHARLIE CHAN'S MURDER CRUISE (1940). Director: Eugene Forde.

When Inspector Duff (Montague Shaw) comes to tell Chan  that he needs his help in finding a strangler who has already claimed several innocent lives, Chan (Sidney Toler) only seems to turn his back for a minute and Duff himself becomes the next victim! Since Duff had narrowed the identity of the mysterious strangler to one of several passengers on a cruise ship, Chan joins the cruise and tries to ferret out who the killer might be. The suspects include: Dr. Suderman (Lionel Atwill), who doesn't seem to hold Chan's abilities in high regard; Susie Watson (Cora Witherspoon of The Bank Dick), a spirited high-society dowager; her playful friend James Ross (Don Beddoe); Professor Gordon (Leo. G. Carroll); wealthy Gerald Pendleton (Leonard Mudie); dreamy Dick Kenyon (Robert Lowery) and his pretty gal, Paula (Marjorie Weaver); the gloomy religious fanatics Mrs. Walters (Claire Du Brey) and her husband (Charles Middleton); and others. Jimmy Chan (Victor Yen Sung) is along for the ride as well. The cast consists of old pros who know just how to play this amusing, suspenseful material. Toler is in top form, Sen Yung as charming as ever, and Atwill, Middleton, Mudie and Witherspoon are all in fine fettle. It's worth the price of admission just for the scene when Toler confronts Middleton and you realize that Chan is having a chat with Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon! This has a good mystery plot with a few surprises as well.

Verdict: Utterly delightful! ***.

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