Daily Archives: March 9, 2022

The Red Dragon (1945)

*. Or Charlie Chan, Still In the Secret Service, in Mexico City. Mexico being evoked only by a single opening stock-footage shot and the presence of Fortunio Bonanova as a Mexican police inspector who gets to be Charlie’s sidekick. As usual Charlie has Benson Fong as Tommy Chan with him too, but this time Mantan Moreland’s Birmingham Brown has been replaced by Willie Best as Birmingham’s cousin Chattanooga Brown.
*. I don’t know how skilled a comic actor Best, also known as Sleep n’ Eat, was. He is stuck here doing the usual shtick of chasing after girls and being afraid of pretty much everything that moves. “My hair is getting tired,” he says at one point to Tommy, who responds “Your hair?” “Yeah, because for the last ten minutes it’s been standing on end.” Har-har.
*. It’s the usual wartime Charlie Chan plot. A scientist who is working on a new kind of super-atomic bomb using a previously unknown 95th element is killed and his research notes have gone missing. A group of suspects are assembled who are barely differentiated at all. When the killer is finally exposed your reaction is likely to be “Who’s he?”
*.  Also following the usual script, especially in these later Chan films, is the killer’s method. “One shot heard, two bullets fired, but not from a gun, how can that be?” That is a puzzler. Indeed, it’s complicated to the point of being nearly impossible to make sense of, and seems like the killer’s plan could hardly manage to go right. You see, there’s a gimcrack device containing exploding bullets that gets surreptitiously placed on the victim and which is then remotely triggered by a wall-mounted relay. Or something like that. I’m honestly not sure how it was supposed to work.
*. There’s nothing good to say about this one. It’s just a dull, confusing mess. I suppose if you’re looking for a highlight it might be Charlie dancing the rumba. He does not dance well, but it’s nearly all this movie has going for it.