*. I’ve remarked before (many times) on how hard it is to follow the plots of the Charlie Chan mysteries. They are complicated, poorly explained, and cluttered with too many suspects who all look and sound the same. Even after Charlie’s quite abrupt wrap-ups it’s hard to be clear about what just happened.
*. I thought I’d really make an effort with Dangerous Money to understand what was going on. Mainly because the Monogram Chan movies are so bad anyway I wanted to find a way of staying interested.
*. It didn’t work. I’m really not sure what was happening. Charlie’s on a ship sailing to Samoa and meets a treasury agent who is on the trail of some counterfeiters. The agent tells Charlie that someone is trying to kill him. Someone tries to kill him but fails. Then they try again and succeed. So we have a murder investigation.
*. There’s the usual crowd of suspects. Even the innocent ones — innocent, that is, of murder — are up to no good. It’s all a muddle and by the end, as I say, I’d totally lost the thread. One doesn’t watch a Charlie Chan movie for the thrill of gathering clues and solving the mystery. Indeed, by this point in the series you may well wonder why one does watch a Charlie Chan movie.
*. For the aphorisms? They’ve run out of spirit and wit. “Good wife’s place should be at mate’s elbow in time of trouble.” Got it. “Kangaroo reach its destination by leaps and bounds.” Groan. “Hasty man could drink tea with fork.” Huh?
*. For the comic relief of Mantan Moreland? Well, he’s not here, having been replaced by Willie Best as Chattanooga Brown. Best is probably best known as playing the character of Sleep n’ Eat. He’s just a racist cliché here, trembling in fear at every sign of danger and given no funny lines. For example, he confuses “Jamaican” with “shoemaker.” I must be missing something but I can’t see what’s funny about that.
*. On the plus side, welcome back Victor Sen Yung as Number Two Son Jimmy Chan. This is his first appearance in a Chan film since Castle in the Desert (1942), at the end of which he was heading off for military service. I guess he’s no longer in the army, but nothing is said about where he’s been the last four years, and there’s no mention made of Tommy Chan, who had been taking his place in the Monogram pictures up till now.
*. Speaking of the war, I wonder if the scientist’s line “I said that I’d return, and I’m returning” was meant as a nod to MacArthur’s famous speech about getting back to the Philippines. It seems forced, and Charlie smiles at it, so I suspect it was a joking reference.
*. At one point a thick wad of bills is pulled open to reveal only a bit of money on the outside and a bunch of newspaper strips on the inside. Jimmy calls this a Kansas City bankroll. I’d always heard this referred to as a Detroit roll. I looked it up and apparently both locations are used. Probably other cities lay claim to it as well.
*. A worthless film, poor even by the standards of the later days of this franchise. Toler really looks like he’s not even mailing it in. One of the villains is actually a man dressed as a woman. When captured and his disguise revealed one of the authorities exclaims “Why Mr. Chan, she’s a man!” To which the transvestite replies, “So what?” As comebacks go, that struck me as incongruously postmodern. But it’s answered with a belt to the chops that knocks him out, so we never get any clarification.