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CHARLIE CHAN’S MURDER CRUISE (director: Eugene J. Forde; screenwriters: Robertson White/Lester Ziffren/from a story by Earl Derr Biggers “Charlie Chan Carries on”; cinematographer: Virgil E. Miller; editor: Harry Reynolds; cast: Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan), Marjorie Weaver (Paula Drake), Lionel Atwill (Dr. Sudermann), Charles Middleton (Mr. Walters), Leo G. Carroll (Professor Gordon), Robert Lowery (Dick Kenyon), Cora Witherspoon (Susie Watson), Kay Linaker (Mrs. Pendleton), Don Beddoe (Fred Ross), Leonard Mudie (Gerald Pendleton), Sen Yung (Jimmy Chan), Harlan Briggs (Coroner), C. Montague Shaw (Inspector Duff), Claire Du Brey (Mrs. Walters), Tom Layne Jr. (Willy Chan); Runtime: 75; 20th Century Fox; 1940)
“An above-average entry into the Charlie Chan series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An above-average entry into the Charlie Chan series. This version is a remake of the 1931 Fox release “Charlie Chan Carries On,” a film that no longer exists. It opens in Charlie Chan’s (Toler) police office in Honolulu, where son number two, Jimmy (Yung), and son number seven, Willy (Layne), are going through their father’s mail to intercept a bad report card from school. Soon Charlie enters his office and is about to spank son number seven for going through his mail, when Inspector Duff (Shaw) of Scotland Yard comes in and saves him from the spanking. He tells Charlie he’s working on solving a string of strangler murders, and has boarded incognito in New York a cruise ship on a world tour run by Dr. Sudermann (Lionel Atwill). When Charlie leaves the room to ask his police captain permission to work with Duff he finds out that a Mr. Kenyon, a member of the cruise party, has been strangled in his hotel. Returning to his office, he finds that the strangler has also gotten to Duff. Charlie is shaken that his good friend is killed and especially since the attack took place in his office. He says, “It’s a bitter challenge to me.” The police captain gladly assigns him the case.

There’s a ship full of suspects. The number one suspect is the nephew of the wealthy man killed, Dick Kenyon (Lowery), who stands to inherit a fortune and is going out with Paula Drake (Weaver)–she is someone his uncle thought was an adventuress, after his money. Other suspects include: the cruise director, Dr. Sudermann, whose luggage strap was used on the victim. Professor Gordon (Leo G. Carroll), an archeologist who should know better than to mistake the time of the Golden Age in China for taking place during the Han dynasty. Fred Ross (Beddoe), a suitor of wealthy socialite Susie Watson (Witherspoon), who has lots of cash but no known occupation. A religiously fanatical couple, the Walters (Claire Du Brey and Charles Middleton), who see things from ‘the beyond.’ A very nervous man, Mr. Pendleton (Mudie), who lied and did not tell the police Kenyon was killed in his bed and that he moved his body next-door back to Kenyon’s own room.

The strangler is disguised as a bearded bum, and now in order to get him it becomes a question of figuring out the motive for these revenge killings. With both the help and hindrance of Jimmy Chan, Charlie narrows down the suspects. After the cruise ship goes through the foggy night it reaches the San Francisco port and another two murders are committed. Charlie gathers all the ship’s passengers in the city morgue and sets his ingenious trap by using the supposedly blinded widow (Kay Linaker) of the first victim as bait. What made this Chan adventure fun was that there were many suspects, making it a difficult case to solve.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”