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 <email@example.com>
Author Earl Derr Biggers (1884-1933) was among America's most popular writers of the 1910s and 1920s and many of his works, such as 'Seven Keys to Baldpate', were translated to stage and screen with great success. About 1919 Biggers encountered stories about Hawaii's celebrated Chang Apana (1887-1933), a police officer of Chinese heritage who was noted for his fearlessness in dealing with criminals engaged in the opium trade. Apana, who carried a whip as his weapon of choice, was more noted for courage than detective skills--but he proved the inspiration for Charlie Chan.
Between 1925 and 1932 Biggers wrote six Chan novels. HOUSE WITHOUT A KEY and THE Chinese PARROT were filmed as silents in 1926; the first sound film to feature Chan was BEHIND THAT CURTAIN. But although it is generally based on the Biggers novel, the film takes a very strange direction: instead of presenting the mystery novel that Biggers wrote, it dispenses with mystery and presents the story of a runaway wife as a melodrama pure and simple, and Chan (played here by E.L. Park) is only a cameo role tacked on at the film's finish.
The cast sports several notable actors of the era, most particularly Warner Baxter, who had a distinguished career, and it offers an early and very brief role to Boris Karloff in his pre-FRANKENSTEIN era. But the cast struggles a great deal with the new technology of sound and they read as stiff and mannered. The direction and cinematography are only serviceable, and even for an early sound film BEHIND THAT CURTAIN feels extremely slow and heavy-handed.
BEHIND THAT CURTAIN is not presently available to the home market in the form of a studio release, nor is it likely to be so at any time in the near future. Although it is generally credited as "The First Sound-Era Charlie Chan Film," it is not really a part of the series that would become so popular between 1931 and 1942. Hardcore Chan fans will want to see the film at least once, but once will be more than enough.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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