Tuesday, June 2, 2015
This is the third of the Charlie Chan films starring Mississippian Sidney Toler. He made 11 Chan films in just four years for 20th Century Fox, and then another 11 Chan films for Monogram Pictures between 1942 and 1946. He died of cancer in 1946 at the age of 72, having made his last three Chan films sitting down (too ill to stand).
Like most Charlie Chan films, it's just 70 minutes long. It's tightly written, with the action moving along briskly. Cesar Romero is terrific as magician Fred Rhadini, and Pauline Moore gives a great performance as the telepathic Eve Cairo. She'd previously appeared in 1937's Charlie Chan at the Olympics as Betty Adams, and earlier that year as Mary Whitman in Charlie Chan in Reno. Sally Blane, sister of Loretta Young and wife of director Norman Foster (who directed this film), has a bit role. Douglas Fowley, whose biggest film role to date was big-game hunter Jones in Mighty Joe Young, gets to play a rare love interest as reporter Peter Lewis.
I think the biggest problem with the film is its reliance on telepathy as an actual, real thing. Otherwise, the film is a gung-ho, fun detective thriller with a relatively subdued and delightful performance by the handsome Victor Sen Yung as Jimmy Chan. (He appeared in a whopping 18 Charlie Chan movies between 1938's Charlie Chan in Honolulu and 1948's The Feathered Serpent.)