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|Index||28 reviews in total|
These Sidney Toler "Monogram" Chan films, the last in the series, don't
measure up to Warner Oland's earlier efforts but they are still very
entertaining to me. Even with Mantan Moreland, who probably offends the
sensibilities of a lot of people with his scared black-man routine. I
can see where that's offensive, but if you just take him as a comedian
and let it go, you can enjoy and even laugh with him.
The only thing I did NOT find funny in here, but I normally do, is Charlie's insults to his kid. In this film, Tolder insults "Number Three Son" (Benson Fong) so many times that it borders on downright mean-spiritedness.
Anyway, it was still a "decent" combination of mystery and comedy and the ending was cool, with Chan and his assistants chasing the bad guys around a "fun house." All the Charlie Chan movies are entertaining.
Charlie Chan in the Chinese Cat is better then the first Monogram Chan,
Charlie Chan in the Secret Service, and is an acceptable entry in the
series. The mystery is very simple and not very surprising but more
believable. The plot is fairly interesting and the performances standard.
There is one interesting scene where Tommy Chan gets the snot beaten out of
him by a group of gangsters while trying to get information out of Charlie.
Strangely and originally, Charlie doesn't budge while his kid gets beaten up
before this eyes. A rather goofy chase through a fun house highlights the
action. Birmingham Brown and Tommy again provide the comic relief. A
Sidney Toler again reprises most honorable interpretation of Charlie Chan. This time Chan is helping a former police detective(now just a cop) and a beautiful woman out to clear her mother's name in the murder case of her step-father many months ago. It seems he was murdered in his study grasping a bishop from a chess set in the shadow of an ebony Chinese cat statue. Well, this film has a neat and tidy mystery - not too terribly clever or hard to grasp - but highly enjoyable nonetheless. Toler does his best in bringing charm and grace to the role of Chan with always a generous dose of subtle humour. Toler perhaps has too many clichés to throw out, but most of them in this film are amusing and some even telling. Benson Fong is back as #3 son. He and Toler have good chemistry, but he is even better when paired with cab driver/later to be chauffeur Birmingham Brown(played by a great, sometimes forgotten Mantan Moreland). Moreland is just wonderful in his portrayal of a witty, sometimes very blunt/direct working man playing against the characters of Chan and #3 son. Add to this that Moreland is just plain funny. He had me in stitches more than once in this film and every one of his scenes is a real hoot. All the acting is solid if not dazzling in any way. Ian Keith does a particularly solid job as a naysayer to Chan's gift of detection and John Davidson has a good time playing some weird twins Carl and Kurt. While not one of the best Chan films, Charlie Chan in The Chinese Cat is a very entertaining entry.
Monogram's Charlie Chan films tended to suffer towards the end by lack of
caring. The plots ended up confused and messy aimed more at Birmingham Brown
and the Chan son of the film being silly while Charlie said wise things.
Here, thankfully, the film is blessed with a decent mystery, different sets
than most of the others, and several good supporting performances, in
particular by the always wonderful, and sadly not well known John
Here we have the death of a chess expert and assorted other goings on that make this one of the better later Chan films. I don't want to say too much since the joy here is in the watching, and this film is certainly worth watching.
7 out of 10
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.
Loosely based on novels by Earl Derr Biggers, 20th Century Fox's
Charlie Chan series proved an audience favorite--but when Japan
attacked Pearl Harbor the studio feared audiences would turn against
its Asian hero. This was a miscalculation: actor Sidney Toler took the
role to "poverty row" Monogram Studios, where he continued to portray
the character in eleven more popular films made between 1944 and his
death in 1947.
20th Century Fox had regarded the Chan films as inexpensive "B" movies, but even so the studio took considerable care with them: the plots were often silly, but the pace was sharp, the dialogue witty, and the casts (which featured the likes of Bela Lugosi and Ray Milland) always expert. The result was a kindly charm which has stood the test of time. Monogram was a different matter: Chan films were "B" movies plain and simple. Little care was taken with scripts or cast and resulting films were flat, mediocre at best, virtually unwatchable at worst.
Released in 1944, THE Chinese CAT finds Chan beset by son Tommy, who has promised the step-daughter of a murdered man assistance; they are joined in the investigation by cab driver Birmigham, who is not overeager to be reunited with the Chans given that murder tends to follow in their wake. Indeed, there will be three murders, stolen jewels, and a carnival fun house before the killers are captured. Like all the Monogram Chan films, the plot is trivial and the script even more so; unlike the worst of the Monogram Chan films, however, it does have the occasional touch of atmosphere and moves at a respectable pace.
Sidney Toler gives a nice reprise of Charlie Chan in this film, but as usual in the Monogram Chan films Mantan Moreland (Birmingham) is the real scene stealer. Changing times have led us to look upon Moreland's brand of comedy as demeaning to African-Americans, but he was an expert actor and comic, and taken within the context of what was possible for a black actor in the 1940s his work has tremendous charm and innocence.
Fans of the 20th Century Fox series are likely to find Monogram's Chan a significant disappointment and newcomers who like the Monogram films will probably consider them third-rate after encountering the Fox films. Like other Monogram Chan films, MEETING AT MIDNIGHT is best left to determined collectors. Three stars, and that's being generous.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
A man playing chess is shot by an unknown hand. The dying man sweeps
the chess pieces off the boardbut leaves a bishop standing. A clue?
Charlie Chan is eventually recruited to investigate, but he only has 48 hours before leaving town on government business. In that short time, his investigation leads to artsy figurines hidden in bread loaves, and opens secret compartments concealing diamonds in those same figurines.
Sidney Toler is steady as always in this modest Chan mystery. Benson Fong is energetic as son Tommy Chan, and the father-son back-and- forth includes the usual amount of moderately amusing banter:
Tommy Chan: "Pop, I got a case that will knock your hat off." Pop Chan: "Can remove hat without assistance, thank you."
Joan Woodbury is sadly wasted as the murder victim's stepdaughter. You'd think Woodbury would add some zip to a picture like this, but unfortunately she's stuck as a helpless hand-wringer rather than the spunky fast-talker she so often played. However, Woodbury's blandness is nothing compared with that of her detective boyfriend (Weldon Heyburn), who simply has nothing interesting to say or do the whole picture. Poor guy!
Thank goodness for Mantan Moreland, who livens up his scenes as taxi driver Birmingham Brown. Fong is also fun as the number three son (although he sure smiles a lot, even when he's just discovered a dead body).
Overall, it's not much of a plot but the familiar lead characters are always watchable.
Tommy Chan, Number Three Son, promises a young woman that her stepfather's killer will be apprehended by his father. The police have listed it as an unsolved crime and there seems little hope. We, of course, know better. Once again, Mantan Moreland, who is a cab driver in this one, assists out of fear for his safety. There seems to be something going on with Chinese cat statues and diamonds. A police detective, sort of a Neanderthal, who really knows nothing, has been demoted. He fell in love with the young woman in question and was seen as a liability. Actually, it turns out that he is. He knows nothing and contributes nothing to the solution. Charlie also gets into it with a mystery writing who thinks he can outdo the great Asian detective. Maybe a little too much funny stuff and some really stupid criminals. Kind of par for the course.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Charlie Chan's, Sidney Toler, bumbling and skipping
classes from UCLA #3 son Tommy, Benson Fong, gets his dad involved in
the unsolved murder case of Thomas Manning in promising his step
daughter Leah, who mistook him for Charlie, that he'll get on it right
away. With tickets for a Cleveland Indian New York Yankee double-header
at stake, thats to take place over the weekend at Cleveland's Municipal
Stadium, Charlie has to solve the case in 48 hours something the LAPD
couldn't do in six months. Which as we on see turns out to be child's
play for the great Hawaiian master detective Charlie Chan. It soon
turns out that Manning's murder had to do with a stolen jewelry ring
that his partner Harvey Dennis, Weldon Hayburn, was involved in. The
fact that Charlie took on the case lead to Dennis himself being
murdered which lead to a number of major complications.
Charlie also gets himself roughed up by this gang of hoods lead by Bud Kaplan who wanted to get his hands on the diamond shipments that have been hidden, in mostly Chinese novelty shops, all over L.A proper. This lead to not only Dennis' murder but also the person who the police as well as Charlie felt was responsible for it the creepy looking Karl or was it Kurt Karzos, John Davidson. Helping Charlie in this case is the goo-goo eyed and overly hyped up taxi driver Birmingham Brown, Mantan Morland, who's only reason for being there was the $5.00 or better yet, without a tip, $4.80 that he forgot to take from Charlie in him stepping on the gas and taking off with his cab before he could pay him. Who from his previous experience, in Washington D.C, with Charlie wanted nothing to do with his any of his future murder investigations!
***SPOILERS***As complicated as the plot was Charlie in the end, despite a few bumps and bruises, prevails as usual by not only solving Manning's murder but the two other murders, of Dennis & Karzos, that it lead to. Working against the clock with the Yankee-Indian double-header on the line Charlie was at his best in solving this very confusing multi murder case with the local police as usual providing the muscle. With Charlie doing all the brain work and by Charlie's #3 son Tommy by keeping his mouth shut, despite being brutally worked over by Kaplan's hoods, about his dad's plan of action until the police came to their rescue!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This Charlie Chan B-feature from Monogram moves at a rather quick pace. The husband of a San Francisco socialite(Betty Blythe)is found dead in his study which is locked from the inside. Will a piece on his chess set be a clue? The local police give up on solving the case and several months later a scathing book is published with evidence the socialite killed her husband. Leah Manning(Joan Woodbury)still wants to know the truth about her stepfather's murder and summons the help of Oriental sleuth Charlie Chan(Sidney Toler)to solve the mystery. Due to a prior engagement the super detective only has 48 hours to bring the case to a proper close. He has some help, for what its worth, from #3 son Tommy(Benson Fong)and taxi driver Birmingham Brown(Mantan Moreland). Other players: Weldon Heyburn, Cy Kendall, John Davidson and T. Stanford Jolley.
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