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In Honolulu, famous police detective Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler)
receives a visit of his old friend, Scotland Yard inspector Duff (C.
Montague Shaw), who tells Chan he's on Dr Sudermn's (Lionel Atwill) cruise
to find a notorious strangler. Problem is, he has no idea what the
strangler looks like, so Duff has come to Chan to ask for assistance ...
and a short time later, Duff is found dead in Chan's office, strangled.
pays a visit to the hotel where the members of the cruise are staying - to
find one cruisemember murdered. Chan soon finds a suspect, the dead man's
nephew Dick (Robert Lowery) too, who had a quarrel with him shortly before
his demise, and who is the heir to his vast fortune ... but Chan doesn't
think he's guilty, and soon finds out there was a confusion and the murder
victim actually should have been another man, the overly nervous Pendleton
(Leonard Mudie). Chan thinks it's best to continue the cruise - under his
On the cruise, Chan meets all the members, your typical
eccentric bunch of folks, like vastly rich Susie Watson (Cora Witherspoon)
and her golddigger boyfriend Ross (Don Beddoe), archeologist Gordon (Leo
G.Carroll), who likes nothing more than telling anecdotes of his
adventures, and a god-fearing couple (Charles Mittleton, Claire Du Brey)
with a tendency to create confusion. And then there's Charlie's son Jimmy
(Victor Sen Yung) too, who more than once jumps the gun.
Chan tries his
best to keep everything under control and to protect Pendleton, but then
Pendleton is killed all the same ... and Chan finds a clue that the killer
is actually after Pendleton's wife (Kay Linaker), who's not on the cruise
but supposed to meet her husband in San Francisco, the final destination
of the ship, as well. The only clue to the killer seems to be that he's
wearing a beggar's outfit, and later, a beggar is actually found on board,
hunted down and killed, even though nobody who has hunted him has ever
aimed to kill him. When his disguise is removed, the beggar is revealed to
be Ross, the golddigger. So he's the murderer, right?
Wrong of course.
Charlie has meanwhile done a background check on Mrs Pendleton and has
found out she was married to a jewel thief, Oberton, before she was
married to Pendleton, but had seen to it that he got thrown into the
slammer when she found out about his line of work. He has sworn revenge on
her and Pendleton (who had no idea what Oberton looked like) of course.
Now Ross could not have been Oberton simply because he was Oberton's fence
- which explains why he was taking turns in wearing the beggar's outfit
with Oberton. And yes, it was Oberton who eventually killed Ross to clear
himself. Problem now, still nobody knows what Oberton looks like. Nobody
but Mrs Pendleton ...
San Francisco: Chan has asked all suspects to the
coroner's office and has invited Mrs Pendleton to identify Oberton - by
voice, because she has lost her eyesight. Dr Suderman protests, is
identified, but makes a hasty getaway. While everybody's going after
Suderman though, a man in a beggar's outfit is trying to kill Mrs
Pendleton, and while doing so he's giving a full confession. Chan and
friends intervene in the very last moment, save Mrs Pendleton, unmask the
beggar and reveal him to be ... archeologist Gordon, the real Oberton.
why has Mrs Pendleton identified Suderman as Oberton?
It was all staged
by Chan to lure the real Oberton into a trap (and a confession) of course,
and Suderman was in on it. Mrs Pendleton isn't really blind either, by the
Not the greatest Charlie Chan film ever,
that's for sure, but an enjoyable series film nevertheless, thanks first
and foremost to a colourful cast playing colourful characters, and the
regulars (Sidney Toler and Victor Sen Yung) being on top of their game.
One little thing, the killer gives himself away a little too soon when he
talks at length about Chinese history and gets the facts wrong in the
process. Now I don't know a thing about Chinese history, but by mere
construction of a mystery thriller of this ilk, monologues like this are
always a dead giveaway.