CHARLIE CHAN IN THE CHINESE CAT (CHINESE CAT)(director: Phil Rosen; screenwriter: George Callahan; cinematographer: Ira Morgan; editor: Fred Allen; cast: Dewey Robinson (Salos), Mantan Moreland (Birmingham Brown), Cy Kendall (Deacon), Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan), Benson Fong (Tommy Chan), Anthony Warde (Catlen), Joan Woodbury (Leah Manning), John Davidson (Carl/Curt Karzoff ), Betty Blythe (Mrs. Manning), Weldon Heyburn (Harvey Dennis), Sam Flint (Tom Manning), Ian Keith (Dr. Rebnik), I. Stanford Jolley (Gannet), Luke Chan (Wu Song); Runtime: 65; Monogram; 1944)
“One of the poorer scripted Charlie Chan vehicles.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the poorer scripted Charlie Chan vehicles, as this second one made by Monogram lacked the required suspense; it relied on some stilted action scenes to solve the triple murder case and its production values were cheaper than the ones from 20th Century Fox. It’s set in San Francisco, where a gang of diamond thieves are after a diamond-studded Chinese cat statue with a secret compartment. The stolen jewels are in the possession of Tom Manning, who is murdered while playing a game of solo chess in his mansion. Tom leaves a clue of a sole bishop on the board. Chan figures out that his realty partner killed him, but when he questions him he flees and is soon killed by the jewel gang.
The murder goes unsolved for six months but a noted crime writer, Dr. Rebnik, claims in a book called “Murder by the Damned” that Mrs. Manning killed her gold digger second husband and that the police officer investigating the case, Harvey Dennis, failed to implicate her because he fell in love with her attractive daughter Leah (Woodbury).
Leah is distraught but not over her step-father’s death since she didn’t like him, but over this accusation in print against her mother and gets number three son, Tommy, to promise to get his father Charlie Chan to take the case. Charlie takes it, even though he has to wrap it up over the weekend because he’s scheduled to go on another case in Cleveland.
Charlie must endure poison gas, a ride in a cab that explodes, the insults from Dr. Rebnik, and an informer being murdered as he was about to drop a dime on his twin brother.
The film’s best quote is given by Charlie when he says: “An expert is merely a man who makes quick decisions and is sometimes right.”
The finale takes place in the fun house where Charlie and Tommy are captured by the gang, but with the help of their comical taxi driver, Birmingham, they get the drop on the jewel gang.
REVIEWED ON 11/8/2001 GRADE: C –
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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