*. Believe it or not, I was looking forward to this one.
*. Yes, by this point the Charlie Chan franchise was well and truly worn out. But Dark Alibi marked the return of director Phil Karlson, who I thought did good work on his previous Chan effort The Shanghai Cobra. Plus I was watching a colourized version, which I thought would make things a little easier.
*. Alas, even Karlson’s efforts, the slapdash colouring that churns like a lava lamp, and an interesting premise can’t save Dark Alibi.
*. I said the premise is interesting. What we have here is a gang of bank robbers forging the fingerprints of released convicts and leaving them (the prints) at the scene of the crime, thus framing the ex-cons and sending them back to the big house. The process of forging fingerprints is, however, a very complicated matter and even the scientists at the crime lab have a hard time figuring out how to do it. Which makes you wonder why the bank robbers are going through all this trouble. Like, why not just wear gloves and not leave any prints in the first place?
*. Charlie is, of course, on to their little scheme, noting that all the cons who have been framed came out of the same prison. From there he uncovers the whole plot, but not before several people get killed along the way just as a way of jolting the audience awake.
*. It’s some indication of just how little material they had here that the comedy routine we got in The Scarlet Clue between Mantan Moreland and his partner Ben Carter where they each finish off each other’s sentences is repeated three times in this film. It’s a good bit, but this is overkill.
*. Another sign of the lack of new ideas is how often we’re left with Tommy Chan and Benjamin Brown (Benson Fong and Moreland) just hanging out together. These moments were, however, the best parts of the movie. It was actually nice to see them laying back on the couch killing time, or playing rock-paper-scissors. And when they get in trouble and start calling out for Charlie (“Pop! Pop!” “Mr. Chan! Mr. Chan!”) it’s actually kind of sweet and funny.
*. But then Moreland is back jumping at his own shadow and Sidney Toler is sleepwalking through his role and the plot makes no sense and can’t be followed anyway so it’s all just a waste of time.