After receiving congratulations from the Home Secretary for solving his most recent case, Charlie is sought out by Pamela Gray, a beautiful but desperate young socialite whose brother Paul awaits execution for the murder of a weapons inventor. She is so convinced of his innocence that she becomes distraught when she overhears Neil Howard, her brother's lawyer and her fiancee, confide to the detective his belief in his client's guilt. Angered at this disclosure, she returns his ring and breaks off the engagement. Although the execution will take place in 65 hours, Charlie pledges to expose the murderer. All potential suspects are reassembled in the country mansion of family friend Geoffrey Richmond, where the murder took place, as Charlie tries to expose the real murderer before time runs out. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
Of the first four Chan films in the Fox series, Charlie Chan Carries On (1931), Charlie Chan's Chance (1932), and Charlie Chan's Greatest Case (1933) have been lost; only the 1931 THE BLACK CAMEL remains to show the series in its early developmental stage. By the time of CHARLIE CHAN IN London the series has reached the standards that made it so widely beloved, a neat mixture of comedy and mystery, good production values, and solid acting.
As is typical of the Chan series, the cast is first rate, offering an early glimpse of future Oscar-winner Ray Milland as well as a memorable performance by character actor E.E. Clive, who graced such films of the era as THE INVISIBLE MAN and DRACULA'S DAUGHTER. In this episode, Chan has traveled to England to bring a criminal captured in Hawaii to British justice--and is on the point of departure when he asked to intervene in a notorious murder case. With a man already convicted, Chan has but sixty-some hours to unmask the real killer before the wrongly convicted Paul Gray (Douglas Walton) is sent to his death.
In some respects the film shows its era: it is very distinctly of the early sound period, and the camera is static and the performances often broad. But it captures all the essential elements of the Chan series as it starred Warner Oland, and (like THE BLACK CAMEL before it) it very specifically sets up Chan to use the racist attitudes of others to crime-solving effect. Warner Oland's Chan, and to a lesser extent Sidney Toler's Chan, would often encourage others to dismiss him as a "stupid Chinaman" all the better to trick the killer into carelessness--and the plot device is particularly apparent in the earliest Chan films.
While CHARLIE CHAN IN London will never make a critic's short list of great films, it is quite a bit of fun, and Chan fans will enjoy it. Unfortunately, the film is not available on either VHS or DVD in the United States, and since it is considered "politically incorrect" it is rarely broadcast; Chan fans will have a hard time tracking it down.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
16 of 18 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?