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

CHARLIE CHAN IN THE SECRET SERVICE

Benson Fong, Mantan Moreland and Marianne Quon
CHARLIE CHAN IN THE SECRET SERVICE (1944). Director: Phil Rosen.

In Washington D.C. the inventor of a new weapon holds a cocktail party but stupidly refuses body guards. Naturally, said scientist winds up dead, the torpedo plans stolen. Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) arrives to find those plans and arrest the guilty party. But is it gruff Luis Vega (Gene Roth of Earth vs. the Spider); wheelchair-bound Paul Arranto (George J. Lewis of Ghost of Zorro); David Blake (Barry Bernard), of the Department of Political Economy; the housekeeper Mrs. Hargue (Sarah Edwards); or the dithery Mrs. Winters (Lelah Tyler); among others. Surely it can't be Inspector Jones (Arthur Loft) or Sergeant Billings (Davison Clark)? This is the first Charlie Chan picture for Monogram studios, and it's a typically cheap production, but it has its moments. Nobody ever seems to give a damn about the dead man, even though he was an important scientist and everyone's host! Jimmy Chan (Victor Sen Yung) is gone, replaced by his less interesting brother, Tommy (Benson Fong), as well as his sister, number two daughter, Iris (Marianne Quon), who is cute if little else. This movie introduces the popular character of Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland, whose name leads the list of supporting players in bigger letters), who appeared in the later Chan films. Phil Rosen directed many Charlie Chan pictures as well as such stuff as Spooks Run Wild.

Verdict: Serviceable Chan film with some clever moments. **1/2.


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