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CHARLIE CHAN IN THE SECRET SERVICE(director: Phil Rosen; screenwriter: George Callahan; cinematographer: Ira Morgan; editor: Martin Cohen; cast: Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan), George J. Lewis (Paul Arranto), Arthur Loft (Inspector Jones ), Gwen Kenyon (Inez Arranto), Gene Roth ( Luis Philipe Vega/Philip Von Vega), Muni Seroff (Peter Laska), Marianne Quon (Iris Chan), Benson Fong (Tommie Chan, #3 Son), Lelah Tyler (Mrs. Winters/Fraulein Manlich), Sarah Edwards (Mrs. Hargue, Housekeeper), Mantan Moreland (Birmingham Brown); Runtime: 63; Monogram; 1944)
“A fairly entertaining Charlie Chan…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fairly entertaining Charlie Chan mystery, but with the new studio Monogram taking over for 20th Century Fox the production values were much cheaper. When an inventor of an important torpedo plan is murdered in his home while being guarded by Secret Service agents, Charlie Chan (Toler) is made an agent of the United States government and is called in to investigate. He’s aided, without requesting them, by his Number Three Daughter, Iris (Quon), and Number Two Son, Tommie (Fong).

When the inventor opens a closet door, he’s electrocuted and his valuable torpedo plans are stolen by a spy. All the house guests and the housekeeper, Mrs. Hargue (Edwards), become suspects. Paul Arranto (Lewis) is in a wheelchair, but it’s soon evident he can walk. His sister Inez (Kenyon) was the first to find the body and the housekeeper says she was going through the vic’s pockets. Peter Laska is employed by Paul, and is very nervous. David Blake works for the Department of Economics, and is arrogant. Mrs. Winters (Tyler) pretends she’s a scatter-brain ditzy woman. She brings a gift of a miniature Statue of Liberty, as she keeps asking to leave because she wants to feed her pet dog. Luis Philipe Vega is a refugee from Smyrna who says he’s a salesman, but his real name is Philip Von Vega and he’s an electrical engineer.

Charlie becomes the killer’s target twice, but he is able to use those attempts to get more clues to pin the murder of the inventor on Vega. But Vega is killed by a gun mounted on the wall that is fired by a magnet releasing the trigger from another part of the room.

Birmingham Brown (Moreland) is the wisecracking chauffeur of Mrs. Winters who helps Charlie’s kids in their investigation to get at who stole the torpedo plans, while Inspector Jones (Loft) is also able to be of some mild assistance to Charlie. It wasn’t too difficult to pick out the spy, but nevertheless the film was still pleasing in spots.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”