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Charlie Chan at Treasure Island

USA 1939
produced by
Edward Kaufman for 20th Century Fox
directed by Norman Foster
starring Sidney Toler, Victor Sen Yung, Cesar Romero, Douglas Fowley, Pauline Moore, Donald MacBride, Wally Vernon, Douglass Dumbrille, Sally Blane, Charles Halton, Billie Seward, June Gale, Trevor Bardette, Louis Jean Heydt, Gerald Mohr, John Elliott
screenplay by John Larkin, based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers, music by Samuel Kaylin

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

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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On a flight to San Francisco Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is on, a man (Louis Jean Heydt) dies from poisoning. What makes this matter delicate is that he was a crime writer who planned to bust a large blackmail operation wide open with his upcoming novel. The manuscript goes missing though ...

Chan decides to investigate the murder, also because he was a friend of the dead man, even if San Francisco is slightly out of his jurisdiction. The one clue Chan has is a radiogram that mentions a certain Doctor Zodiac (Gerald Mohr). Turns out Zodiac has two enemies, magician Rhadini (Cesar Romero) and journalist Peter Lewis (Douglas Fowley), who want to expose Zodiac as the fraud he is and thus team up with Chan. But Zodiac also has lots of followers including Rhadini's own wife (June Gale) and Lewis' fiancée Eve Cairo (Pauline Moore), a scientifically proven mindreader.

After much to and fro and even attempts made at Chan's life, he, his bumbling son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung), Rhadini and Lewis break into Zodiac's house, find a safe full of files on people Zodiac obviously blackmails (here's where the novel of the dead writer fits in)with information gathered in his seances. Chan decides to burn the files to spare a lot of people a lot of embarrassment, but at Zodiac's place, he finds something else out: The Zodiac persona is just a disguise that even includes a full facial mask, which means virtually anybody could be Zodiac, even a woman.

Chan and Rhadini decide to challenge Zodiac to a magic duel in front of a live audience, basically to expose him for good, and though Zodiac has nothing to win and everything to lose at the duel, Chan figures he's much to egocentric to not show up - and indeed he does, and is murdered right away. Once unmasked, Zodiac turns out to be his own Turkish servant (Trevor Bardette) - but that leaves one question open: Who killed Zodiac?

Chan decides it's best to totally reconstruct the situation, and now Rhadini, who has been performing a magic trick during Zodiac's murder, is wounded by a knife. Chan is faced by a packed room full of suspects, and thus he uses mindreader Eve Cairo to expose the real killer - which she can't but the killer exposes himself when he tries to kill her, and it's ... Rhadini himself, who has used some magic tricks to both kill Zodiac and injure himself without anyone noticing, but what's worse, he has actually been Zodiac all along and has only tried to expose Zodiac as a fraud to completely divert any kind of suspicion. He gets his just desserts in the end of course ...

By the way, the writers death is ultimately explained away by suicide via poisoning.

Douglass Dumbrille plays a red herring, an insurance salesman who in the end turns out to be an insurance detective on the side of the police.


Ok entry into the Charlie Chan-series in which mystery and comedy are carefully balanced out, and the occult dimension only adds mystery to the ... mystery. However, the culprit is easy to spot from early on (even if he appears together with Zodiac in an early scene) and the mindreading finale is a bit naive and unbelievable. Still, ok entertainment.


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