Charlie Chan in The Chinese Cat (1944) Poster

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Hey, Charlie, Lighten Up On The Kid
ccthemovieman-131 March 2006
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.
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6/10
Old Monogram Chan Film Like Diamond in Rough
BaronBl00d26 March 2006
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.
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7/10
Nicely Plotted Mystery
dbborroughs17 July 2004
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 Davidson.

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
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7/10
Another well-done Chan
jonfrum200014 August 2010
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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10/10
One of the better Chan films from Monogram
NativeTexan10 October 2003
Chan fans and film buffs will enjoy this better-than-average Monogram film. True, with the exception of "Charlie Chan in the Secret Service" none of the Monogram series comes close to the 20th C FOX entries, but the story is serviceable and enjoyable. Mantan Moreland shows his best Vaudevillian stage takes, and of note is Joan Woodbury, the Woodbury soap heiress, in at least her third appearance in the Chan series. The other two I know of are "Charlie Chan at the Opera" where she has no lines and dances on a table top during the opera, and "Charlie Chan on Broadway" where she is Douglas Fowley's love interest and performs what I call "the sashay dance."
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5/10
Some 10s?! Is any Charlie Chan movie really deserving of a 10?
MartinHafer2 September 2006
While I have watched a lot of Charlie Chan movies and I have enjoyed them, they are no doubt very formulaic and the Monogram series is definitely inferior to the original 20th Century-Fox ones. So, how is it that some people gave these B-movies a score of 10?! Sure, they might be entertaining, but aesthetically they are far from high art. Think about it--some people scored this as high (or higher) as many might score GONE WITH THE WIND, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES or ORDINARY PEOPLE!!!! Come on,...this is just a B-movie,...and a very ordinary entry into the series at that. Plus, while I am not the most politically correct person out there, I can't believe a movie with Mantan Moreland's antics could ever merit a 10--or even an 8 or 9.

First, let's back up a bit. The original series was pretty entertaining, but like all the Chan films it featured a White guy playing a Chinese man--not unusual for its day, but certainly something that prevent the films from being better--especially with the silly use of the English language by Charlie. While Chinese in ethnic origin, he is supposedly from Hawaii and I assumed most Hawaiians of his day did not talk like morons. Plus, this makes little sense because he is so darn smart a detective. But, most fans are able to look past this and accept that this isn't "high art" but still is quite entertaining. Fine. This is where I see myself. After all, even though he talks silly and spouts a lot of so-called "Chinese Wisdom", he is a decent, brave and intelligent guy--not exactly a negative stereotype.

But, after the success of the initial films, Warner Oland (the first famous Chan) had the nerve to up and die and the series started to slip a bit when he was replaced by Sidney Toler. I don't really blame Toler, as he proved in other films he was a good actor. It's just that the original chemistry seemed "different" and Fox soon dropped the series. Enter Monogram Studios to continue the series (known as a "poverty row" studio due to its low production values). Now, the movies featured unknowns doing much of the supporting acting and Mantan Moreland was introduced to the series for new comic relief. Mantand's performances and the writing for his character was highly reminiscent of a smarter and less lazy version of Steppin Fetchit. As a kid, I laughed when he said lines like "feets don't fail me now" when he was scared (something he always seemed to be in the films). Now that I am older, I cringe a bit and know that there are Black people out there who are understandably furious about the stereotype he portrayed--especially because this type role was about the only one you'd see Black men portraying in mainstream films of the era.

So on to the film itself. It's a pretty ordinary Chan film with little to distinguish it. However, occasionally it had some serious plot holes and problems that were ignored--probably due to the low budgets and a lack of concern for quality--a Monogram Studios trademark. For instance, after tying up Chan and his #3 son, the bad guys leave the room with several guns sitting on the table! DUH!!! These sort of oversights and inconsistencies really prevent this movie from being scored any higher. If you like the series (like I actually do), you'll still have a good time watching this fast-paced film. But, if you don't, this film will do NOTHING to improve your opinion or win you over to Charlie Chan films.
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5/10
Among the Best of the Monogram Chan Films--But That's Not Saying Much
gftbiloxi10 June 2007
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
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7/10
Big Lunk of a Policeman Solves Nothing
Hitchcoc18 January 2016
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.
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8/10
Mystery, Noir, Comedy - and it all goes together just fine!
binapiraeus20 March 2014
The second of the Monogram 'Charlie Chans' is a pure 'old-fashioned' murder mystery again, without spies (although the War was still going on, as Charlie reminds us when he accepts a bet and offers to pay the money to the Chinese War Relief Funds if he loses), but a classic 'murder behind locked doors' - with the exception of a secret panel which leads to the room of the murdered man's wife, so she's the only suspect, but due to lack of evidence and motive the case is dropped. But then, months later, a criminologist writes a novel about the murder, clearly pointing out the wife of businessman Manning as his murderer.

Manning's stepdaughter in her despair calls on the unique abilities of Charlie Chan to find the real murderer; during the investigations, she'd fallen in love with Detective Dennis and wants to marry him, but now the shadow of murder keeps hanging over her family... And since son Tommy once again beat his Pop to accepting the case, Charlie can't break a family promise, of course, and starts recreating the whole case - which very soon leads him to a whole collection of diamonds hidden in various Chinese decoration figures, and to the conclusion that Manning and his business partner Deacon were crooks involved in a big diamond theft months earlier. But when Charlie and Tommy, accompanied again by Birmingham (who's become a cab driver now, and just happened to get Charlie as a passenger - which made him feel immediately that he's in for murder again...), enter the 'lion's den' disguised as a fun house, the 'fun' very soon stops, and they're being treated just like any other detective in any Film Noir of the time...

Monogram's 'new Charlie Chan style' unfolds here in a most effective way: this movie actually manages to combine successfully murder mystery (complete with hints for crime solving fanatics, like the lone chess figure) with tough, gloomy and foggy Noir elements - and of course comedy! One example: there are twin brothers involved in the gang, and one of them is murdered - and every time the other identical twin brother turns up, Birmingham and Tommy think they're seeing ghosts...!

High-quality crime entertainment, providing fun as well as suspense, and at the same time certainly NOT to be overlooked for its cinematic value!
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