Wednesday, July 28, 2010


This is the earliest surviving film which features Warner Oland as Charlie Chan. Oland is a little friskier here than in the later films in the series, and the mystery elements, which could get a little convoluted in Cham movies, are easier to follow here. The set-up: an actress (Dorothy Revier) filming a movie in Hawaii in involved in a whirlwind romance with a playboy (William Post Jr.). She wants to marry him but has a dark secret in her past involving the unsolved murder of an actor, and she goes to a trusted mystic (Bela Lugosi) for advice. Just before a dinner party, Revier is found dead in her bedroom and Inspector Chan (Oland) is called in to investigate. Among the suspects: Revier's assistant (Saly Eilers) and her boyfriend (a very young Robert Young), Revier's former husband (Victor Varconi), a beachcombing artist (Murray Kinnel), and a maid and butler (Violet Dunn and Dwight Frye).

This is the only Chan film I've seen so far which is actually set in Hawaii, his home state, and one of the few that shows his many children (in a cute at-home scene). The comic relief here is not a son of Chan's but a bumbling Japanese policeman (Otto Yamaoka) who comes racing into his scenes in hot pursuit of non-existent clues. Oland himself is lighter, in both tone and size, than he would be later (and even loses his temper a time or two), and the movie itself feels lighter on its feet than the later, more formulaic, films. Lugosi, in the same year he did DRACULA, looks quite young and has a fairly substantial part, getting to act as Chan's assistant for a time. Also with C. Henry Gordon and J.M. Kerrigan. Not as slickly made as the later films in the series, but a little less predictable and good fun. [DVD, in the Fox Charlie Chan collection, Vol. 3]

No comments: