Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum
20th Century Fox
directed by Lynn Shores
starring Sidney Toler, Victor Sen Yung, C.Henry Gordon, Marc Lawrence, Joan Valerie, Marguerite Chapman, Ted Osborne, Michael Visaroff, Hilda Vaughn, Charles Wagenheim, Archie Twitchell, Eddie Marr, Joe King, Harold Goodwin, Charles Trowbridge
screenplay by John Larkin, based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers, music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Charlie Chan, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), Charlie Chan at Fox
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After he is convicted to the electric chair, gangster McBirney (Marc
Lawrence) threatens to kill Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), the cop who
booked him - and then he makes a daring escape from the courtroom.
Birney hides out in a waxmuseum dedicated to the biggest crimes in
history, a museum run by former plastic surgeon Doctor Cream (C.Henry
Gordon), who has a reputation for hiding out criminals and giving them new
faces - exactly what McBirney needs. The museum though also hosts a weekly
radio program on famous crimes, and this is where McBirney gets his idea
on how to have his revenge on Charlie Chan: to invite him to the show then
electrocute him during the broadcast. This all sounds like a good plan,
but it doesn't work out, because first Charlie isn't sitting where he was
supposed to sit, then the wires for the electrocution are actually cut,
and then another man, a German criminologist (Michael Visaroff) is killed
by a blowdart. Thing is, that criminologist promised new evidence in a
case against one of McBirney's former associates who's now his enemy, and
he was killed in exactly the way that man used to do his killings, so it's
only natural that that man is present, and he's probably after McBirney as
well - but he is known to have a new face which nobody knows.
is confronted with a wax museum full of suspects, including the widow
(Hilda Vaughn) who was wrongly executed for the wanted killer's murders,
her shady lawyer (Artie Twitchell), or even Doctor Cream himself, who
knows more than he's willing to tell, and the fact that McBirney is still
waiting in the wings to kill Charlie doesn't make things easier. But then
McBirney himself is killed, and Charlie ultimately catches the killer, the
announcer of the radio program (Ted Osborne) by shooting him with a
toothpick pretending it's a poisoned dart, whereupon the killer confesses
to everything in hope of getting the antidote ...
Victor Sen Yung can be
seen as Charlie's Number Two Son, but he doesn't get too much to do.
bit too convoluted to really work as a murder mystery, this is
nevertheless a rather amusing film thanks to its many fun twists and
turns. Good use is made of the wax museum setting as well, though it
doesn't work half as well at setting up the film's atmosphere as could
have been expected.