Gravelle, a former baritone believed dead after an opera house fire, has been languishing in a mental institution for the past seven years, an anonymous amnesiac. When he fortuitously sees a news story about his former wife's current appearance at the local opera, his memory returns. He escapes, and, disguised in costume, seeks revenge for a failed attempt on his life years earlier. When the guilty parties are found stabbed to death, Charlie Chan and son Lee try to find out if the dangerous fugitive is the one responsible. Written by
Stage manager Maurice Cass vows that the opera will go on "even if Frankenstein walks in!" Audiences were well aware that this in-joke referred to star Boris Karloff, who was in the theater at the time. See more »
When they characters are all gathered in the dressing room after the murders and they are questioning Childers, he says he knew Madame Barelli well. What he actually meant to say Madame Rochelle (or Madame Lilli as she was being referred to). See more »
Sanitarium Guard 1:
What's the mater Joe? Nervous?
Sanitarium Guard 2:
Aw this job gives me gooseflesh. You're new here, but in a couple of months you'll get as jumpy as me.
Sanitarium Guard 1:
Hey I've worked around sanitariums before, it's not so bad. I like the cuckoos myself. They're the same as anyone else only they're smart enough to admit they're nuts.
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Opening credit: Warner Oland vs. Boris Karloff See more »
"When fear attack brain, tongue wave distress signal."
Given that Boris Karloff is one of my favorite actors, it's no surprise this is my favorite Charlie Chan movie. Now, of course since Karloff is here, we have to start the movie with an atmosphere akin to that of a horror film. Karloff plays an amnesiac opera singer named Gravelle. He regains his memory and escapes from a sanitarium on a stormy night to go find his daughter, whom he hasn't seen since she was a child. The police are desperate to catch Gravelle, so they call in Charlie Chan (Warner Oland).
Oland is pitch-perfect as always. Keye Luke as "Number One Son" Lee gets to have lots of fun running around in costume backstage at the opera, trying to help his father on the case. William Demarest plays a police sergeant jealous of Charlie who makes several bigoted remarks throughout the movie but comes to respect the superior detective by the end. Boris Karloff gives a terrific performance, which should come as a surprise to no one familiar with his work. He's the only actor in the entire series to be able to match Warner Oland's screen presence.
Fast pace, interesting setting, great performances, and a particularly nice atmosphere make this an exceptional entry in the always delightful Charlie Chan series. I'm not big on opera but the music written by Oscar Levant for this film is pretty good and adds to an overall excellent production. As I said before, this is my favorite Charlie Chan film and I see by many reviews here I'm not alone. It's definitely a highlight of the series, with a top-notch guest star (Karloff) and an exciting story, helped greatly by the opera backdrop and music.
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