Because Charlie Chan plans to return to Honolulu, he no longer needs the services of Birmingham, who gets a job as butler for William and Justine Bonner, two apparently phony psychics who regularly host occult activities in their home. When Charlie's pretty daughter Frances attends a séance out of curiosity, Mr. Bonner is shot, and she becomes an immediate suspect. Charlie postpones his trip home to help with the investigation, which is made problematic when no bullet can be found in the wound and a hypnotized Mrs. Bonner is compelled to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of a downtown building. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
"Commissioner, that was a strictly private murder, to which I was not invited."
On vacation from his government job and returning to Honolulu, Charlie Chan is compelled to investigate a murder case when Sergeant Matthews threatens to detain daughter Frances (Frances Chan) unless he helps. William Bonner is the victim, a psychic medium who is shot during a seance, but mysteriously, a gun or bullet is never found.
"Black Magic" offers the usual cast of characters/suspects, in this case most of the seance members have an ax to grind with the victim, from cheated business associates to jilted lovers (which is a mystery in itself, as Bonner did not have the personality or looks when it comes to the romance department).
Mantan Moreland gains progressively more screen time in this third Monogram installment to the Chan series, and this is his best appearance so far, although the racial comments continue as in past Chan films - "If spooks bother you, Sergeant will arrest them".
Another welcome break from the standard Chan formula is the replacement of Number #1, 2 or 3 son with daughter Frances - "Beauty of Chan family also have brains". Sadly though, her portrayal is wooden and uncomfortable at times, with repeatedly wasted lines.
We've seen it before - the seance, the lights out, the gunshot and the resolution exposed by Charlie. The frozen blood bullet is an interesting twist, but don't even try to understand the ballistics involved. A lot of liberty is taken to make all the pieces fit, nevertheless, prepare to be entertained by "Black Magic/Meeting at Midnight".
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