Two murders are committed and a $50,000 Chinese Mandarin stamp is stolen, tossed around and eventually recovered as an aggregation of costly-stamp counterfeiters are uncovered through the mastermind investigation by Ellery Queen.
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A very rare and priceless Chinese postage stamp is stole as its thief claims two victims in a hotel,, both of whom are murdered in inexplicably locked rooms. Young Ellery romances the stamps beautiful owner, Josephie Temple, while working with his father, Inspector Queen to solve the baffling case and expose the killer. Written by
Eddie Quillan is charming as Ellery Queen, but the film does not resemble the source novel
The literary work on which this film was based--THE Chinese ORANGE MYSTERY--is a locked-room murder mystery that is light on characterization but heavy on the puzzle aspect of the murder, where no one knows who the victim is, the victim's clothes have all been turned inside out, and everything in the murder room has been turned backward. To do a faithful film adaptation of the book would probably be difficult, especially for a 55-minute b-movie which needs to be fast-moving and witty. In the Ellery Queen film made the year before, THE Spanish CAPE MYSTERY, which was an OK film, the filmmakers basically streamlined the plot, but were unable to give much depth or interest to any of the characters (other than Ellery and Inspector Queen). THE MANDARIN MYSTERY takes elements of the book THE Chinese ORANGE MYSTERY--a rare stamp, a murder in a locked room, some of the character names--and basically creates a new story around them. I had just re-read the novel before seeing this film, but they have little in common. If you can forget the book and just treat the film as an entity of its own, it's not that bad. Eddie Quillan is a charming screen presence, and he tries to restrain his comic mugging somewhat, but the script does not allow him to show much analytical prowess, and he spends far more effort romantically chasing the girl who is the main suspect than he does working on the crime. Wade Boteler plays Inspector Queen well--professional, but with a warm heart--and he and Ellery do show glimpses of the rapport they have in the books (and in the Jim Hutton/David Wayne TV series). On the whole, though, this film is an average 30s murder mystery, played with a light touch by a charming comic actor, but it has little to do with either the novel on which it was supposedly based or with the Ellery Queen series in general.
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