This is the Spanish-language version, with a different cast and crew, of the Charlie Chan film Charlie Chan Carries On (1931), in which Charlie sets out to discover the killer of an American found dead in a London hotel room.
Ana María Custodio,
Sir George hires Hillary Gatt to find out more about Eric who wants to marry Lois. Gatt is murdered and the couple, married, run off to India. Old friend John Beetham sympathizes with the bride who sees that her hubby is a liar and drunk. John and Lois fly to San Francisco. Eric shows up and tries to kill John, but Scotland Yard's Lt. Charlie Chan intervenes. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Pretty dreadful, even for 1929 and ONLY of interest to die-hard Charlie Chan fans
This is a globe-hopping film that begins in England, then moves to India, Iran and finally San Francisco. The story involves a sociopathic murderer who kills someone and then marries a nice girl. Once married, he treats her like dirt and cheats on her. She puts up with it until she discovers that he was a murderer. Then most of the film consists of her trying desperately to avoid him as well as scandal if the secret were be revealed.
This is the earliest Charlie Chan film known to be in existence and it is absolutely nothing like the later films--nothing. Apart from the name "Charlie Chan", there is no similarities to the later exceptional series.
Back in 1929, films were often a bit stilted and overly melodramatic. Because the studios weren't used to using sound, the actors tended to remain very stationary (due to poor sound equipment) and the dialog sounded more like plays than movies. I accept this and tend to rate these early talkies with this in mind. However, even keeping this in mind, BEHIND THAT CURTAIN is still a dreadful film--even for 1929. The main problem is not how constricted the actors were due to the sound equipment but how gosh-darn awful the dialog was. In fact, I would have to say that the love scene in the desert might just be the absolute worst love scene I have ever seen and heard--it was THAT overly melodramatic and stagy as well as laughable. I truly believe that most high school actors could do a better job today.
In addition to horrible dialog, the movie suffered from being way too slow--and the first half in particular crawled at a snail's pace. Later, despite the horrid dialog and acting the film did pick up a bit--but certainly not enough to make it even passable entertainment! I think the biggest problem is that the film clearly shows those involved with the movie weren't used to talking pictures. However, my complaints weren't just about the wretched dialog and pacing, but also the acting and direction. For example, the film starred Warner Baxter who was an exceptional actor. He was famous not just during the silent era but in sound pictures like the Crime Doctor series and such excellent films as PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND and KIDNAPPED. I loved how he played such realistic and likable "everyman" characters, but here in BEHIND THAT CURTAIN he was a simpering idiot who overdid the love scenes--making him one of the biggest liabilities in the film. The female lead, Lois Moran was perhaps even worse. The only actor who came off well (very well, actually), was Gilbert Emery as the Scotland Yard inspector.
One reviewer pointed out that the only good element was the cinematography, though I would differ. While it was exceptional seeing the sound outdoor shots of the caravan (for 1929 getting this right was VERY tough), all too often the camera was static. At one point it was even laughable, as the scene began with just the tops of the characters' heads showing--like the camera should have been several feet lower. This was because the couple were about to stand and instead of moving the camera or using a cut, they just left the camera on and created a very awkward and sloppy scene.
Now as for Charlie Chan, he was only a bit player who appeared in a very limited capacity in the last 12 minutes of the movie. Surprisingly, he was actually played by an Asian--something you'd never see in the 30s-50s. However, this isn't all positive as E.L. Park had the charisma and charm of a bag of lint. They simply gave this actor nothing to do--making him just a glorified errand boy for Emery. Also, Chan oddly was NOT a Hawaiian-based detective--instead serving in Chinatown in San Francisco. Also, Mr. Park didn't look as Chinese as Warner Oland (who was a Swede)--looking more like a native Hawaiian (though with a Korean name). Chan was supposed to be a Hawaiian but of Chinese descent. Because of these inconsistencies and a thankless part, the "Chanophiles" out there will no doubt find all this very disappointing.
In conclusion, the plot wasn't bad but due to horrid acting, dialog and direction this is one supposedly lost film that might just as well as have remained lost!
Also, in a small role is Boris Karloff. While it's not a huge role, this excellent actor acquitted himself well in the role of a devoted servant. It was nice to see him in a pre-Frankenstein role.
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