Daily Archives: August 9, 2021

Charlie Chan in Monte Carlo (1937)

*. Warner Oland’s final film playing Charlie Chan, and indeed his last film (he only made it a week into the filming of Charlie Chan at Ringside before succumbing to ill health). At least they sent him out with a bang.
*. Alas, that bang is courtesy of a taxi’s backfire, which is one of the laboured running gags that burden this weak instalment. Though just before we get to that final backfire we do get to see the villain being run down by a car, which is actually quite impressively rendered, for the time.
*. This would also be the last entry for Keye Luke as Number One Son Lee Chan. I can’t say it’s an especially strong outing for him either. His place is partially usurped by Harold Huber as the Monte Carlo Chief of Police Jules Joubert. Huber was a versatile character actor who had also played the tough-talking New York detective Inspector Nelson in Charlie Chan on Broadway, and he’d go on to play in the Sidney Toler Chan pictures City in Darkness and Charlie Chan in Rio. These guys were plug-and-play. He’d also go on to provide the voice for Fu Manchu and Hercule Poirot in some radio adaptations.
*. Why is this episode so weak? I’d blame the script on two counts. In the first place, it’s tired. Charlie’s patter feels played out. “Questions are keys to door of truth,” has to be one of the lamest Chanagrams ever. Then there is the complexity of the plot. Now many of the Charlie Chan movies have plots that are hard to follow, but this is the first one that I found literally impossible to keep up with. Even reading a detailed synopsis I found online left me confused. It has something to do with stolen bonds and blackmail, but I wasn’t clear who was doing what to whom. And as I’ve said before on more than one occasion, when a movie is confusing it’s usually boring because when we stop being able to follow what’s going on we stop caring.
*. One of the female characters is said to have had a previous job as a “mannequin.” I was surprised by that. I don’t know what that meant in the 1930s. She was a live model who stood in store windows? Or did she just dress mannequins?
*. Not worth bothering with, even if you’re a fan. But if you are a fan you’ll want to see them all anyway. And if you stick it through to the end you do see someone getting hit by a car.