Charlie receives fourteen free passes to the circus for him and his entire family but soon realizes that there are strings attached as the big top's co-owner asks his guest to investigate threatening letters that he's received. Before the famous detective can, the man is murdered. Charlie soon finds out that the co-owner was not a particularly pleasant or well-liked individual, and among the many suspects are his partner, a snake charmer and the menagerie's gorilla. Son Lee, usually an enthusiastic assistant for his father, is distracted by the show's beautiful contortionist. Written by
I am a big fan of Charlie Chan, owning all the Warner Oland/Sidney Toler episodes I can find and enjoying them, but that doesn't mean they automatically are all wonderful. This one is okay, but disappointing considering how much better it could have been.
It did have its customary comic moments with Keye Luke as Number One Son and Charlie had a ton of proverbs, but they weren't particularly profound or humorous, just so-so. One thing different was the co-starring of real-life "small people" circus performers, George and Olive Branso, who were okay as actors.
With a setting like the circus, and with Chan's huge family all there (a dozen kids) they could have all kinds of interesting scenarios, but outside of a quick cobra scene and an ape making noise a few times, not much happened. This story was just plain flat overall until the final 10 minutes. The ending was pretty clever but it was a case of too-little, too-late.
Overall, it's not a bad film but there is an "edge" to this murder-mystery that is missing.
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