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CHARLIE CHAN AT THE WAX MUSEUM(director/writer: Lynn Shores; screenwriter: John Larkin; cinematographer: Virgil E. Miller; editor: James B. Clark; cast: Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan), Marc Lawrence (Steve McBirney), Joan Valerie (Lily Latimer), Marguerite Chapman (Mary Bolton), Ted Osborn (Tom Agnew), Michael Visaroff (Dr. Otto Von Brom), Hilda Vaughn (Mrs. Rocke), Archie Twitchell (Carter Lane), Charles Wagenheim (Willie), Henry Gordon (Dr. Cream), Sen Yung (Jimmy Chan), Joe King (Inspector O’Matthews), Jimmy Conlin (Barker); Runtime: 63; 20th Century Fox; 1940)
“If you disregard all the holes in the story, then you should find this one to be a refreshing thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A very good Chan film. It has a spooky atmosphere, a lot of plot twists, a fast-pace, and is fun to watch. There are many characters (though there are too many to fully study), many suspects, and there is a daffiness about this episode that is endearing.

It opens as convicted murderer Steve McBirney (Marc Lawrence) threatens Charlie for sending him to the electric chair, and he then escapes from the courthouse.

Steve goes to hideout in Dr. Cream’s (Gordon) wax museum for criminals, and gets Cream to perform plastic surgery. Three weeks have gone by since his escape, and the facially bandaged murderer is set to get his revenge on Chan by setting a trap for him. He gets Cream to invite Chan to participate in a radio program from his museum, as the topic will be about the execution of Joe Rocke. Chan feels Rocke was innocent while another panelist, Dr. Otto Von Brom (Visaroff), testified in court against Rocke. A news reporter, Mary Bolton (Chapman), helped arrange this debate. The moderator is Tom Agnew (Osborn). Number Two Son, Jimmy (Yung), is there to protect his father. Also present are the lawyer for Rocke, Carter Lane (Archie Twitchell); Cream’s assistant, Lily Latimer (Valerie); Mrs. Rocke, the widow of the framed man, who sneaked in with the help of the mentally deficient nightwatchman, Willie (Wagenheim); and, the escaped murderer McBirney and his bodyguard. The radio broadcast is interrupted when Brom is killed with a poison dart. Chan was to be the target, but Brom insisted on switching seats.

The plot gets more twisted as Charlie suspects a vicious partner of McBirney’s is not dead as believed. Charlie believes he got plastic surgery and falsified his death, and is present in the museum.

There are other murders, the lights keep being turned out to add more fright, Jimmy keeps stepping over the evidence, and everyone seems to be bumping into the wax dummies. If you disregard all the holes in the story, then you should find this one to be a refreshing thriller.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”