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CHARLIE CHAN IN RIO (director: Harry Lachman; screenwriters: Samuel G. Engel/Lester Ziffren; cinematographer: Joe MacDonald; editor: Alex Troffey; cast: Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan), Mary Beth Hughes (Joan Reynolds), Cobina Wright, Jr. (Grace Ellis), Ted North (Clark Denton), Victor Jory (Alfredo Marina), Harold Huber (Chief Souto), Sen Yung (Jimmy), Richard Derr (Ken Reynolds), Lola Dean (Jacqueline Dalya), Truman Bradley (Paul Wagner), Hamilton MacFadden (Bill Kellogg), Leslie Denison (Butler Rice), Kay Linaker (Helen Ashby), Iris Wong (Lily); Runtime: 60; 20th Century Fox; 1941)
“Charlie Chan in Rio is a remake of the Black Camel (31).”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Charlie Chan in Rio is a remake of the Black Camel (31), only the setting is changed from Hawaii. Honolulu detective Charlie Chan (Toler) and number two son, Jimmy (Yung), are in Rio de Janeiro to arrest an attractive nighclub singer Lola Dean (Jacqueline Dalya) for a murder she committed in Honolulu. The two are seated at the nightclub with the chief of the Rio police, Senor Souto (Huber).

Lola has been in Rio for the past year and is set to marry wealthy Clark Denton (North), which irritates the drunken socialite Joan Reynolds (Hughes) and upsets Grace Ellis (Cobina). Both women are rivals and both had designs on Clark. The women are accompanied to the nightclub by their husband and boyfriend: Ken Reynolds (Richard Derr) is with Joan, while Bill Kellogg (Hamilton MacFadden-who directed the original Black Camel) is with Grace.

When Lola gets Clark to ask for her hand in marriage, they decide to throw an engagement party after the show and invite their friends — Joan and Grace. Lola’s efficient secretary Helen (Linaker) and the maid Lily (Wong) are glad to hear that Lola will keep them employed after the wedding. Helen has also recommended that Lola see a gifted Hindu psychic, Marina (Jory), who puts her under a trance by giving her a cigarette spiked with some herbs and some coffee to drink. When Lola is under the spell, he gets her to confess to murdering a married man who won’t leave his wife to marry her and that her real name is Lola Wagner. He also records the confession on a phonograph.

When Lola leaves his place, the psychic tells her she told him about the murder. She realizes she could be blackmailed, so she gets Clark to elope with her tonight. But while Lola’s packing, she’s fatally stabbed in the back with a pin and her jewelry is stolen and many misleading clues are left around the crime scene.

Chan, Jimmy, and Souto investigate the murder, questioning all the suspects. One other suspect is caught on the premises, Paul Wagner (Bradley). When questioned, he reveals that he’s the victim’s ex-husband and sneaked in the back way to ask her to marry him again; but, when he found out the news about her elopement, he was prepared to fly back to the States.

Jimmy’s mind strays, as he’s attracted to the Chinese maid. But while pursuing her he hears the butler, Rice, warn Lily not to tell what she saw. Then Jimmy follows him to his room, he sees him packing and putting the stolen jewelry in his suitcase.

While Charlie is questioning him, the lights go out and the butler’s killed with Jimmy’s gun. Chan now believes the murderer killed both and is in the room. Chan gathers everyone in the dining room and has them sit where they sat earlier on in the evening in order to set a trap. He has the suspects smoke the spiked cigarette while he asks some questions. The trap works and Charlie gets the killer, as the reason for the two murders becomes clear.

It was a little hard to find this mystery story credible and the acting was uneven, as many of the supporting characters weren’t convincing. But there’s the usual Charlie Chan formula stuff to keep his fans relatively satisfied with this weaker than average one.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”