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
Charlie and all 13 members of the immediate family are given passes to the Kinney and Gaines traveling circus, compliments of Joe Kinney, who wants Charlie to investigate some threatening letters he's been receiving. Anyone at the circus could have sent them, since Kinney is as popular as cancer, driving partner Gaines to bankruptcy and using violence on other performers at the circus. Naturally he is found murdered in the business wagon, which Charlie and Lee believe was done by the wild ape Ceasar. Tiny, one half of a man and wife midget sideshow, asks Charlie to work further on the case, which Mrs. Chan, Lee, and the other 11 children plead with him to do. Charlie and Lee travel with the circus and find out that one performer, Nellie Farrell, married Kinney in Mexico, which drives the rift with Marie Normand, trapeze artist and Kinney's fiancé. Marie doesn't believe that Kinney was with Nellie on the marriage date, but.... well that's her own secret and that may cost her life from the mysterious killer. Above average entry in the Chan series, and probably the most humorous entry (especially from the Fox series). The mystery angle is prevalent throughout the movie but is played down because of the humor which by the 50 minute mark does seem to get old and have the audience wanting the mystery we expect from the series. The circus setting really does look authentic giving the audience of being at the big top. Lachman uses plenty of low and high angle shots to create suspense and character interpretations, but in the context of the film itself it wasn't necessary. It was nice to see all 14 members of the family in an appearance rather than the photograph used in previous entries. Rating, 7.
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