Chan goes to Paris for a reunion with friends from World War I. There he investigates the murder of a munitions manufacturer who was supplying arms to the enemy. At the end Charlie preaches to us about the dangers of peace conferences. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Decent mystery with timely setting but underdone plot and script
The "City in Darkness" is Paris, where Charlie Chan and a group of colleagues from the last Great War are gathered for a reunion on the eve of the next one. As the picture opens, a newsreel-style sequence presents a fascinating and frightening summary of European events of 1938as they appeared from the vantage point of early 1939.
In this setting, with war imminent and preparations mounting, the nighttime blackout in effect occasionally helps the story alongsuch as the scene in which Mr. Chan, captured and tied up in a shop's back room, manages to surreptitiously switch on an outside light, knowing the police will come and pound on the shop door and thus rescue him.
The plot itself concerns the murder of a shady character named Petroffand the usual number of suspects who may have had reasons (personal or political) for doing away with him. There's a shop owner (Leo G. Carroll) who makes and sells fake passports on the side; a young couple (Richard Clarke and Lynn Bari) trying to catch the last boat for America for six days; a "business associate" (Noel Madison) of Petroff's who slides in and out of the picture; and butler and patriot Antoine (Pedro de Cordoba).
C. Henry Gordon is a natural as the prefect of police, the old friend Chan has come to visit. Sidney Toler is solid if rather subdued as Mr. Chan. Instead of assistance from number two son, however, this time around Chan has to deal with
Harold Huber as a bumbling inspector who hopes to solve this case to impress the prefect. His accent is thick, his gestures are exaggerated, and whenever he is on screen he interrupts loudly, whoever else may be speaking. It's a comic rolebut, for my taste at least, it's a bit too much. I'm all for broad humor but in this case it only partially works and it distracts from an otherwise rather serious movie.
It's certainly an interesting setting but overall I'm not sure they didn't concentrate too much on the picture's timeliness and neglect to polish the dialog and plot.
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