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Dead Men Tell

USA 1941
produced by
Ralph Dietrich, Walter Morosco for 20th Century Fox
directed by Harry Lachman
starring Sidney Toler, Sheila Ryan, Robert Weldon, Victor Sen Yung, Donald Douglas, Kay Aldridge, Paul McGrath, George Reeves, Truman Bradley, Ethel Griffies, Lenita Lane, Milton Parsons
screenplay by John Larkin, based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers, music by David Radsin

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

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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A ship is set to sait to Cocos Island the very next day for a treasure hunt, carrying an eclectic group of wannabe treasure hunters. Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) also boards the ship, but not to join the treasure hunt, but to fetch his wannabe-detective son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung), who wants to join the journey as a stowaway, looking for some mystery or another. Then the financier of the expedition, an elderly woman called Nodbury (Ethel Griffies) is murdered, frightened to dead by what was supposed to be a pirate ghost. The motive is very apparent: The killer wanted to get his hands on her treasure map ... but the good woman had the good sense to cut her map into four pieces, mailing three of them to various members of the expedition, but nobody knows to whom.

Finding the murderer is not an easy task, because there are a few too many shady characters on the boat, including a neurotic (Milton Parsons) and his alleged psychiatrist (Lenita Lane), a newspaper man who turns out to be an ex-con (George Reeves), and actor (Paul McGrath) with his newlywed wife (Kay Aldridge), a coin collector (Donald Douglas) who figures he's in for the big haul, and the manager of the trip (Robert Weldon), who seems to be just a bit too innocent to not be guilty, and his girl (Sheila Ryan) - and all of these persons are driven by greed.

Charlie eventually manages to secure three of the four portions of the map, but then they are stolen from him. At first, all clues point to the reporter/ex-con, but then he is found dead ...

There is of course another question unanswered: Where is the captain of the ship (Truman Bradley)?

Eventually, Charlie manages to track him down to a shack at the docks, where he spends his last night before setting sails - why? Because a man who has left him for dead long ago has joined the expedition and now he wants to have his revenge - but only will do so at sea, and to not give the other guy any warning, he won't be on board until the very last minute. Charlie tries to urge the captain to give away the identity of the other guy, because his story has to do with Cocos Island, and thus he's likely to be the murderer, but to no avail.

Finally, the police arrives, and upon a tip from Jimmy Chan, the manager of the expedition is booked for the murders ... but then Charlie finds himself at the mercy of the real killer, the rare coin collector, and he's only just saved by the captain. Charlie can keep the captain from killing his opponent to have his revenge though and the baddie is handed over to the police.


A routine series film that sees the series regulars handle their roles as well and amusing as expected, and that has a nice set (the boat itself) going for it, as well as a plot that's at least somewhat likely and comprehensible and a solid supporting cast - but then again, the film is really nothing special, just another Charlie Chan film, and while it's probably one of the better ones, it's not one of the more memorable ones. If you're into Charlie Chan movies of course, you will like this one, if not, you might still, it's just nothing to write home about.


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