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

Thursday, January 15, 2015


"Warner Oland vs. Boris Karloff"
CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA (1936). Director: H. Bruce Humberstone.

"The opera is going on tonight even if Frankenstein walks in!"

The San Marco Opera company is beset with major problems when prima donna Lilli Rochelle (Margaret Irving) receives death threats from an unknown person. The chief suspect is baritone Gravelle (Boris Karloff), who has just escaped from an asylum, but it is also true that Lilli is carrying on with baritone Enrico Barelli (Gregory Gaye) and this hardly sits well with Lilli's husband, nor Barelli's wife, Anita (Nedda Harrigan). Then there's young Kitty (Charlotte Henry) and her boyfriend, Phil (Thomas Beck) who desperately need to see Lilli but won't say why. Then the murders occur and a fiend stalks the opera house ... The words above the title read "Warner Oland vs. Boris Karloff" which is not quite what happens, but close, and both give excellent performances. Keye Luke is on hand and sharp as ever as Number One Son, and William Demarest plays the rather racist and insulting cop, Kelly. The opera "Carnival" was not a real opera but a pastiche put together by Oscar Levant [The Cobweb]; it resembles Italian verismo. There is a moving wind-up, and Karloff's dubbed [uncredited] singing voice is wonderful. One of the best and most entertaining Chan films, even if some things have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Verdict: Not surprising that that genius Chan is an opera fan. ***.

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