Thomas P. Manning, businessman and chess expert mysteriously shot in a locked room, dies clutching some chess pieces. Police are baffled, and finally abandon the case. Six months later, victim's daughter Leah Manning, stung by a scurrilous book about the case, enlists the aid of Charlie Chan and Number 3 Son. Additional murders follow, leading to a climactic confrontation in a seemingly deserted "Fun House." Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Son Tommy replaces his brother Jimmy, and for the better. Jimmy's bug-eyed, constantly interrupting persona was somewhat over the top, and Benson Fong's Tommy plays the role of sidekick just straight enough to take the cringe out of the character. Much of the comic relief is transferred to Mantan Moreland's Birmingham Brown, and Moreland was the man to carry it off. Unlike most of the Chan comic relief characters, Birmingham's antics are generally set apart from Charlie's detective work, and don't interfere so much with the unfolding of the mystery. And Moreland himself was just a better actor than the Chan sons or the various other characters who played the role.
The fun house is a classic crime setting, and its use here - though done on the cheap - fits right in to the series. The plot doesn't play out like many Chan movies - a good guy isn't revealed to be a bad guy, As a result, the end is less a reveal than a long action/danger scene. Nice change-up from the usual Chan. And while many prefer Warner Oland, Sidney Toler is Chan to me in this episode - one step ahead, as always.
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