Daily Archives: May 6, 2021

Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)

*. Charlie Chan returns to the home of his honored ancestors in order to break up an opium ring.
*. There’s nothing new or interesting to report here. Though it seemed for a while that there might have been. I’ve spoken before about how these movies often feature an attractive young couple heading toward getting married and that in solving the murder (or murders) Charlie helps them on their way. Well, for a while in this movie it looks as though the young man might be part of the plot. But you probably won’t be fooled because (1) it’s made too obvious, and (2) you’ve seen the previous movies so you have a pretty good idea how these things work out.
*. Opium was a drug forced upon the Chinese by Europeans in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it’s nice that this is a movie with no villainous Chinese gangsters. The bad guys are all Europeans, of a motley variety. On the other hand, Charlie does kick things off by singing a song to a group of kids about the Emperor Fu Manchu. Which is really dumb.
*. “More physical action than usual,” Leonard Maltin writes. I think this is referring to Keye Luke’s sensational flying tackle off the staircase. It is one of the highlights. Charlie himself isn’t a physical sort of guy. I’m not sure if he even fires his gun.
*. There’s little else to say. They do try to keep things a bit fresh and interesting. Number One Son turns into a master of disguise. There’s the old business of a door opening just a crack and a pistol pointing through, but they add a well-positioned mirror to the scene that helps Charlie get out of the way (this sequence would be repeated, more atmospherically, in Charlie Chan’s Secret). The bad guys really are quite resourceful. They know Charlie’s no dummy so they put a lot of work into fooling him. This works in the early going, but once he’s on to them it’s game over. And so . . . take them away! And keep the serial going.