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Charlie Chan in London
Die Nacht vor dem Henker

USA 1934
produced by
Fox Film
directed by Eugene Forde
starring Warner Oland, Drue Leyton, Ray Milland, Mona Barrie, Douglas Walton, Alan Mowbray, George Barraud, Paul England, Madge Bellamy, Walter Johnson, E.E. Clive, Murray Kinnell, Elsa Buchanan, John Rogers, Helena Grant, C. Montague Shaw
screenplay by Philip MacDonald, based on a character created by Earl Derr Biggers

Charlie Chan, Charlie Chan (Warner Oland), Charlie Chan at Fox

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Desperate to save her brother Paul (Douglas Walton), who is to be hanged for a murder he didn't commit on overwhelming circumstantial evidence, Pam Gray (Drue Leyton) turns to that oriental supersleuth from Honolulu, Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) for help, as he happens to stay in London just by coincidence.

Chan of course agrees & soon follows Pam to the scene of the crime, a hunting estate owned by Jeffrey Richmond (Alan Mowbray), Paul's former empoyer, & for some reason most of the people who were present at the estate when the murder took place are still there (even though it happened 3 months ago) - & of course, everyone acts mighty suspicious, including butler Philips (Murray Kinnell), Paul's attorney Neil (Ray Milland), who is also Pam's fiancé,  Richmond's new secretary Jardin (George Barraud), Richmond's fiancée Mary (Mona Barrie), Garton (Walter Johnson), the American who is secretly in love with her, & even the stable lad Lake (John Rogers), who obviously knows more than he is willing to tell Chan ... Chan decides to give Lake a night to sleep it over & force a confession out of him in the morning ... only, in the morning Lake is dead.

This, & an attempt on his own life, make Chan believe that the murderer is still on the premises after all this time - so, to find a motive for the murder, Chan digs into the past of the deceased & finds out he was an inventor for the Royal Air Force working on a silencer for war planes - which of course leads only to one possible conclusion ... international espionage !

& not only that, since the killer is still here, so must the plans for the silencer be.

So, Chan decides to set a trap for the killer, claiming he will look for the plans this night & maybe find fingerprints of the murderer on them. But alas, the trap seems to spring on Chan, when he asks, of all people, Richmond to help him, & even hands him a gun ... & Richmond is of course the killer, & when Chan finds the plans, he shoots him ... But the trap ultimately springs on Richmond after all when he has to realize the gun did only contain blanks & the police was already waiting around the corner for an arrest.

& butler Philips, the most sinister & suspicious looking person of the bunch proves to be a government agent after Richmond, who turns out to be an international superspy.

 

Of all the Oriental detectives that populated the screen in the 1930's & 40's, Charlie Chan proved to be the most enduring & also the most original: His character was etched out with more care than usual, his use of Chinese wisdom & (sometimes annoying) proverbs give his being Oriental more than just novelty value, a usually carefully chosen cast of supporting ctors makes the mysteries more interesting, whiole a dose of humour prevents it from taking itself too seriously, & lets one forget the occasional lack of logic.

Here the comical relief is provided by E.E.Clive as a bumbling British police inspector, in later movies, Charlie Chan would always bring a son as regular comic sidekick, but Keye Luke, playing Charlie Chan's Number One Son, would not join the series until one year later.

To this day, Warner Oland is considered to be the best player to have played Charlie Chan (despite not being Oriental at all but Swedish), but he was already the fourth actor to play the role after George Kuwa, Kamiyama Sojin & E.L.Parks.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD