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Charlie Chan in Panama

USA 1940
produced by
Sol M. Wurtzel for 20th Century Fox
directed by Norman Foster
starring Sidney Toler, Jean Rogers, Lionel Atwill, Mary Nash, Victor Sen Yung, Kane Richmond, Chris-Pin Martin, Lionel Royce, Helen Ericson, Jack La Rue, Edwin Stanley, Donald Douglas, Frank Puglia, Addison Richards, Edward Keane, Charles Stevens, Eddie Acuss, Jimmy Aubrey, Lane Chandler
screenplay by John Larkin, Lester Ziffren, based on the 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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Panama, a day before the US-fleet is to pass through to the Pacific to reinforce the country's forces there. Agent Godley (Addison Richards), who is on the trail of mysterious international spy who tries to blow up the Canal, is murdered by a poisoned cigarette - but not before paying a visit to Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), who is working undercover as a panama hat seller in Panama for the secret service. Chan soon takes up investigations, and his cover is soon blown by his own son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung).

Chan focuses his investigations that were on a plane with Godley on the day he died: an author of espionage literature who's just a bit too nosey for his own good (Lionel Atwill), a middle aged school teacher looking for adventure (Mary Nash), a shady nightclub owner (Jack La Rue), a sinister Egyptian (Frank Puglia), a scientist whose experiments might not be wholly legal (Lionel Royce), an engineer working at the Canal (Kane Richmond), and the typical good girl who has gotten into trouble through no fault of her own (Jean Rogers).

At first of course, the writer seems to be the most suspicious, but then he is found dead. After much to and fro, Charlie tricks the nightclub owner into giving himself away of being with the other side, but is he the spy? Charlie thinks no. The nightclub owner gets away, too.

A trail leads Charlie, his son and the schoolteacher to a crypt that seems to implicate the Egyptian - but then they are locked in. In the meantime, the nightclub owner delivers explosives to the Canal and places a timebomb at the premises, too. Then he shows up at the crypt, and apparently without knowing what he was doing, he frees Charlie and company, but when they run after him, he is killed by two shot that nobody seems to have fired.

Charlie asks all surviving passengers of the plane to the office building of the Panama Canal, where he knows a timebomb is placed, and he also knows when it will go off, approximately ... so while he has the building evacuated, he locks himself in inside with all the suspects, knowing the closer the time of the blast will come, the more likely it is for the baddie to reveal him-/herself ... and ultimately, he is right, the spy turns out to be - the harmless schoolteacher, whom Charlie (and with him probably most of the mystery-savvy audience) has suspected for quite some time.

Of course, the Canal does not get blown up, the fleet passes undisturbed, and the teacher isw arrested on the spot.


Nothing special, but a neatly done and well-paced series murder mystery with espionage undercurrents. Of course, there have better paced, funnier, better written, better executed Charlie Chan-films, but that doesn't make this one at all bad ...


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