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Charlie Chan in Rio

USA 1941
produced by
Sol M. Wurtzel for 20th Century Fox
directed by Harry Lachman
starring Sidney Toler, Mary Beth Hughes, Cobina Wright, Ted North, Victor Jory, Harold Huber, Victor Sen Yung, Richard Derr, Jacqueline Dalya, Kay Linaker, Truman Bradley, Hamilton McFadden, Leslie Denison, Iris Wong, Eugene Borden, Ann Codee
screenplay by Samuel G. Engel, Lester Ziffren, based on the characters created by Earl Derr Biggers, musical director: Emil Newman

Charlie Chan, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), Charlie Chan at Fox

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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This time around, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) and his son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung) are in Rio to arrest nightclub singer Lola Dean (Jacqueline Dalya) for murder. She's totally unaware of that and has made other plans, like marrying her boyfriend (Ted North), and paying a visit to mindreader Merana (Victor Jory) - who uses a drugged cigarette to get a recorded confession to the very murder she is to be arrested for out of her. As to why the mindreader does that, ...

Later, Lola is to have a farewell supper with all of her friends (who hate her), but with the house already full of them, she is found dead in her room, murdered. Fortunately, Charlie Chan shows up with his son and Brazilian chief of police Souto (Harold Huber) to take care of investigations. After much to and fro, Lola's jewelery are found with the butler (Leslie Denison), who eventually admits to stealing them, but denies having murdered Lola - but he ... and then the light goes out and he's shot dead.

Charlie figures out the murderer might have the needle of a broche worn by Lola when she was killed in his or her shoe - and he eventually finds the needle in the shoe of Lola's personal assistant Helen (Kay Linaker), who of course denies any involvement, and since the needle in the shoe is hardly any concrete proof, Charlie has nothing to go on. Fortunately, mindreader Merana is on the scene with his drugged cigarettes that will get the truth out of everybody (which was convincingly demonstrated to Charlie earlier), and Helen agrees to smoke one. Under the influence of the cigarette, Helen still denies everything - upon which Charlie decides to smoke the rest of the cigarette himself, and wouldn't you know it, it's a dud. Merana realizes he has been unmasked, so he confesses everything: He was the brother of the man Lola has killed, and has now killed her in revenge, and the butler because he would have revealed him.

With this confession, Charlie should be happy, only he isn't, because giving Helen an undrugged cigarette only suggests there is something she isn't supposed to say ... like that she was the wife of the man Lola has murdered, and has together with Merana tracked her down to Rio, where she became Lola's assistant, to eventually murder her when the time is right. And the butler had to go because he witnessed everything ...

And Merana? He only helped Helen to track Lola down to hand her over to the authorities eventually and confessed to everything only to cover up for her ...

 

A Charlie Chan film that has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses: On one hand, there is a strong cast and some nice, eccentric characters, on the other though, the whole mystery is a bit too convoluted, the drugged cigarette as a plot device is just a tad silly, and the whole thing is so crowded with characters hardly any of them come into their own. Still a rather enjoyable series movie, but by no means anything special ...

 

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

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