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Behind that Curtain

USA 1929
produced by
William Fox for Fox Film
directed by Irving Cummings
starring Warner Baxter, Lois Moran, Gilbert Emery, Claude King, Philip Strange, Boris Karloff, Jamiel Hasson, Peter Gawthorne, John Rogers, Edgar Norton, Frank Finch Smiles, Mercedes De Valasco, E.L. Park, Kathrin Clare Ward
screenplay by Sonya Levien, Clarke Silvernail, based on the novel by Earl Derr Biggers, adaptation by George Middleton

Charlie Chan, Charlie Chan at Fox

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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London: Sir Mannering (Claude King) doesn't approve at all of her niece Eve's (Lois Moran) boyfriend Eric Durand (Philip Strange), so he sends an investigator (Edgar Norton) to dig up dirt on Durand. But before that investigator can deliver he is found dead, murdered. Curiously enough he is wearing a certain pair of Chinese slippers ...

Not only has his investigator been found murdered, on the same day Mannering also learns that Eve has married Eric just the day before. Mannering disowns Eve, and she and Eric soon leave for India, her heart half broken.

In India, Eve has to find out that Eric isn't half the man she had expected him to be, he's just a useless slob - and when she finds out that he has a) and affair with their housemaid (Mercedes De Valasco), and b) has acutally killed the investigator uncle has sent after him, she runs away and hooks up with a caravan to Persia headed by John Beetham (Warner Baxter), a man who has long admired, even loved her, but whose advances she has spurned in favour of Eric's - something she regrets now. On their trip through the desert though, John and Eve do become lovers and do get intimate ...

In the meantime, Eric receives a visit from inspector Bruce (Gilbert Emery), who's still investigating the murder back in London, and who tells Eric he has found out the Chinese slippers the dead investigator wore actually belonged to John Beetham. Furthermore he thinks that Beetham is accompanied by Eric's wife - which almost forces Eric to join thge inspector in his expedition to catch up with Beetham's caravan.

When Eve learns who has entered their camp, she hides from the visitors, and against all expectations, the inspector is aiding her - but then asks Beetham to make Eve visit him in Tehran, when Eric's no longer around. Eve though has in the meantime made a hasty escape to God knows where ...

San Francisco: Eve is working as an elevator contuctor now and hopes for anonymity, but soon eough her past catches up with her: First she learns that Beetham is in town to do a lecture on their trip through India and Persia, then Eric crosses her path and tries to force her to hand him over a certain letter, the one evidence of his guilt, and when she has shaken him and returns home, she finds someone has searched her room and took afore-mentioned letter, a certain detective named Charlie Chan (E.L. Park).

It all leads to a showdown during Beetham's lecture where Eric tries to shoot Eve but inspector Bruce catches the bullet meant for her, Charlie Chan shoots Eric dead, and the lovers - Eve and Beetham - are finally reunited.

Boris Karloff plays Beetham's manservant.


This film is significant for two reasons: a) It's the first talking picture featuring Oriental supersleuth Charlie Chan, and b) it's Fox Film's first Charlie Chan picture. That said though, Charlie Chan is a mere unimportant supporting character in the movie and doesn't appear even until the last 10 or so minutes (of about 90).

A film featuring not enough Charlie Chan isn't automatically a bad film though, right?

Right, but this film is bad for a whole lot of other reasons, and most of them have to do with the film being an early sound picture: The whole thing is shot in an awfully stagey way, quite probably because each scene's setup was dictated by the position of the sound equipment rather than by dramaturgical necessity. Also, pretty much all of the actors declaim their lines rather than putting much emotion into them. And some of the acting (especially Philip Strange) is so terribly ham it seems to have jumped right out of a bad silent flick.

Add to this a not terribly interesting story told at a way too slow pace, and you've got ... well, not very much.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




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


A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD