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

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Sidney Toler and Benson Fong
CHARLIE CHAN IN THE CHINESE CAT (aka The Chinese Cat/1944). Director: Phil Rosen.

"One Chan at a time is enough! No more murders for me!' -- Birmingham Brown.

Six months after the police are stumped by a "locked room" murder in which Thomas Manning is found shot, a work of fiction, "Murder by Madame," comes out which puts the blame on the widow, Mrs. Manning (Betty Blythe of A Fig Leaf for Eve). It appears that the woman's first husband died mysteriously as well, but this sub-plot is dropped early on. Mrs. Manning's daughter, Leah Manning (Joan Woodbury), who apparently took her stepfather's name, importunes Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) to finally solve the case and remove the cloud of suspicion over her mother. Charlie also makes a bet with the novelist, Recknik (Ian Keith of Cleopatra) as to whether or not the detective will come up with a new solution. There's a hidden staircase (which makes you wonder why anyone considered it a "locked room" puzzle); gems secreted inside cat statues with hidden compartments; and a climax inside a fun house on a pier. Alas, the one thing this movie doesn't have is any real suspense. While different and not as lovable as Victor Sen Yung, Benson Fong is quite good as Tommy Chan. Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland), now a Yellow cab man in New York, gets in on the action whether he wants to or not. Detective Harvey Dennis (Walden Heyburn) happens to be Leah Manning's boyfriend, and the ever-mediocre Cy Kendall is the late Manning's business partner, Webster Deacon. John Davidson [The Perils of Pauline] plays creepy-looking twins.

Verdict: Fairly standard Chan picture is not one of the better ones. **.

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