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CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS(director: H. Bruce Humberstone; screenwriters: from a story by Paul Burger/Robert Ellis/Helen Logan; cinematographer: Daniel Clark; editor: Fred Allen; cast: Warner Oland (Charlie Chan), Keye Luke (Lee), C. Henry Gordon (Hughes), Jonathan Hale (Hopkins), Allan Lane (Dick Masters), Katherine de Mille (Yvonne Roland), Pauline Moore (Betty Adams), Fredrick Vogeding (Inspector Strasser), John Eldredge (Cartwright), Layne Tom, Jr. (Number Two Son), Morgan Wallace (Charles Zaraka), Andrew Tombes (Chief Scott); Runtime: 71; 20th Century Fox; 1937)
“This adventure story features some actual footage of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This adventure story features some actual footage of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It’s about spies who steal a robot remote control device to be used for navigating an airplane, and of Charlie having to solve two murders while at the Berlin Olympics. It doesn’t make too much political sense and it glorifies the police force of Berlin in a revolting manner, but it’s a snappy film and quite entertaining.

In Honolulu a test plane with an experimental robot remote control is stolen when a mechanic sneaked onto the plane during the flight and killed the pilot. The mechanic will land the plane where Charlie is fishing with Number Two Son and he will set it on fire. Cartwright (John Eldredge) invented the military device and sold a majority partnership in his invention to a Mr. Hopkins (Hale).

Chan finds the mechanic murdered in his hotel room and notes the last call he made was to someone in the Royal Hotel. He thereby deduces that the most likely suspects are those who were residing in the Royal Hotel: Masters (Allan Lane), Cartwright, Hughes (C. Henry Gordon), and Roland (Katherine DeMille). He’s asked by Honolulu Police Chief Scott to fly to the Berlin Olympics with Hopkins and Cartwright and track down the other suspects who are going there by boat. Incidentally, Charlie flew there on the dirigible Hindenburg.

Pilot Dick Masters, fur-clad mystery woman Yvonne Roland, and the untrustworthy Hughes, someone who shows an interest in either purchasing or stealing the device, are on a boat leaving from New York with Olympic athletes that include Lee Chan (Keye Luke). Lee is going there to compete as a swimmer.

Masters excused himself suspiciously from the last test flight because of an injury and is now going to compete as a pole vaulter in the Olympics. He’s accompanied by his jealous girlfriend Betty Adams (Moore). She’s upset because he’s spending so much time with Yvonne. Hughes, in the meantime, is keeping a close tab on Yvonne, even stealing a coded radiogram she receives.

Charlie, once in Berlin, gets help from Inspector Strasser (Frederick Vogeding), as they investigate the disappearance of Roland from the ship. She fled the scene and put the device in the camera she stole from Betty and then placed the device in Betty’s luggage.

When Charlie comes up with the device in Betty’s room, in the hands of a maid working for the spies, he switches the real device for a phony and gives it back to the rightful owners, Hopkins and Cartwright. When Hopkins is jumped for what is believed to be the real device in his hotel room, it turns out that Roland is behind this and that she is working with the wealthy aristocrat Zaraka (Wallace). But the gang is disappointed to learn that the device they took from Hopkins is a phony.

The exciting climax to this complex plot, comes when Lee is kidnapped by the Zaraka team to force Charlie to hand over the real device. Meanwhile, the ruthless Hughes is also after the device and has trailed Lee to the kidnapper’s house. Charlie goes after Lee by following the kidnapper’s instructions and cleverly sets a trap by putting a transmitter in the device so the police can follow him.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”