When three employees of a bank are found murdered with cobra venom, Charlie Chan connects the homicides to a case he had worked in Shanghai in 1937. Even though he arrested the alleged murderer, whom later escaped from the police, Charlie wouldn't be able to recognize him because, at the time of his apprehension, his badly burned face and hands were swathed in bandages. Although Chan believes he is now involved with a gang that is stealing valuable radium from a bank vault, utilizing tunnels that connect to the area sewer system, his new identity remains a mystery. When a detective disguised as a bank guard is found dead in a tunnel by Birmingham, Charlie knows he's on the right track.Written by
Bland Story Until 'Tommy' & 'Birmingham' Go To Work
This Charlie Chan entry was more mystery-oriented than most of the Monogram Pictures versions, which tended to rely more on humor. The earlier Warner Oland-Chan films were like this one with the emphasis more on serious issues. I liked both Oland and Sidney Toler in the role of Charlie Chan, so I have no complaints either way.
As usual, it's Charlie's assistants: "Birmingham Brown" (Mantan Moreland) and "Number Three Son Tommy" (Benson Fong) who need to be rescued. They also try to help but usually wind up in trouble. Charlie has to solve the murder and help his buddies. It's a good thing because "Tommy" and "Brimingham" are the ones who add spice to this story, which was flat until the halfway mark.
This is kind of strange story and nothing was stranger than this jukebox that was rigged as a camera, with somebody behind it. It's hard to describe but it very cool, and something - technology-wise, that seemed to be way ahead of its time.
None of the Monogram Chan movies in the 1940s were "classics" but they all were entertaining and offered something different. This movie is typical: boring for some viewers, fascinating for others, lulls that shouldn't be there, but a good mix of humor, suspense and mystery.
In a nutshell, Charlie is called to Washington to help a Federal guy with a baffling case. Charlie owed him a favor so he is cashing in. It seems three people have been killed with cobra venom and the prime suspect is a guy that got caught in Shanghai eight years ago but now is not recognized. Only Charlie would know who the guys is, hence, they need him. (The suspect, "Jan Van Horn" was badly burned when the Japanese bombed the city, as the time of his arrest.)
Anyway, all three recent victims of the cobra bite worked for Sixth National Bank but the police have no clue. No wonder they always need Chan's assistance. Most of the officers shown in these movies are clueless about anything.
The story, even at a little over one hour in length, is slow in the first half hour and could use some punching up, but once Charlie's kid and "Birmingham Brown" go down to the sewers to investigate, the film is fun. Anyway, it's not like you waste half the day watching it. Charlie Chan movies are usually a fun way to spend a little over an hour.
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