Charlie Chan – Volume Five (20th Century Fox DVD)
C+ Sound: C+ Extras: B Films: B+
Charlie Chan – Volume Five concludes the releasing of Fox’s entire
holdings of the original Chan films, a series that at one time they were not
yet ready to issue on DVD. The series
was at its peak and to the shock of the entire film industry, pulled the plug
on thinking it had gone as far as it could.
This turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes in Hollywood studio
history when the low-budget Monogram Studios took it over and turned it into
one of the biggest hits they ever had.
series suffered with far lower budgets, but that is how popular Chan was and
can be seen as the first truly successful ongoing franchise in film history not
counting the many short series and one-shot films made from great characters
like Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan.
features seven films including:
Charlie Chan In Panama (1940) – Chan goes to South
American and lands up taking on an Axis plot in ruin The Panama Canal, but he
is secretly undercover to stop it in this energetic, smart entry directed by Norman
Foster and co-staring Jean Rogers, Kane Richmond (who also played The Shadow),
Lionel Atwill, Mary Nash and Jack La Rue.
It is one of the best.
Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise (1940) – Chan goes on a cruise
and has to sink his wits into an investigation of a murder by an old friend. When that friend also turns up dead, Chan
intends to make sure they will never reach port without reaching a conclusion
to who is guilty of murder. Remake of
1931 film Charlie Chan Carries On
has a good atmosphere and supporting cast including Lionel Atwill, Charles
Middleton (the original Ming The Merciless) and Leo G. Carroll.
Charlie Chan At The Wax Museum (1940) – This is the all-time
classic installment where Chan is threatened by a vengeful gangster (Marc
Lawrence) who escapes after a court death sentence and threatening death on
Chan. Great sets, mystery, suspense and
tight script make this a true home run for the series.
Murder Over New York (1940) – In a now-haunting
installment, terrorists intend to sabotage an airplane in the Big Apple and
only Chan can stop them in this terrific, clever film that was always charming
and is now ironic. Some great shots of
Manhattan are also here and Harry Lachman’s directing is a plus as usual.
Dead Men Tell (1941) – George Reeves is among
the cast on what turns out to be a deadly hunt for $60 Million once again
helmed by Harry Lachman, with more great atmosphere, though it should be noted
that these films never repeated their look or feel to the point that it became
formula or phony. In that respect, this
is one of the most interesting films as Chan need to monitor the scavenge hunt
before more people get hunted down.
Charlie Chan In Rio (1941) – Chan goes to Panama in
this solid remake of the 1931 Chan film The
Black Camel as a nightclub singer is murdered, leading to something more
deadly and disturbing. Watching these
again, it is remarkable the roll the makers of this series were on; the kind
few blockbuster film series could ever hope to claim.
Castle In The Desert (1942) – The final Fox/Chan film
has Toler’s detective at a haunted mansion in the Mojave Desert where people
are “suddenly just” dying. It reminds us
how exceptionally well the series was always able to richly conjure up
supernatural Horror films, then switch to their rich real-life mystery
tale. So ended a great era!
opinion, this are the later peak of the series and some of the greatest mystery
films ever made, loaded with wit, energy, darkness, suspense, comedy that
works, intelligence and underappreciated performances that have all stood the
test of time. Too bad Fox dropped the
series, but they went out on a high note and that is all that counts.
X 1 black and white image on all seven films have been nicely restored and
transferred to the point that the only limit seems to be regular DVDs 480 lines
versus more in Blu-ray High Definition.
None of these films had been issued on anything other than VHS, except
for the Rio and Wax Museum installments. Those
were also issued as part of a Toler double feature in the old 12” LaserDisc
format, but this looks better and sounds a little better except that the Video
Black was a tad richer on the old Laser.
That brings us to the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, which sounds pretty good
on all the films. The combination is
terrific and a real pleasure to watch and rewatch.
include trailers and stills for all seven films, plus Desert adds a final Fox featurette entitled The Era of Chan that concludes a remarkable set of such programs
the studio has made doing justice to what will always remain one of the great
film series of all time. For more
Charlie Chan, try these links:
- Nicholas Sheffo