(director: William Beaudine; screenwriters: W. Scott Darling/characters Earl Derr Biggers; cinematographer: William Sickner; editors: Ace Herman/Richard Heermance; cast: Roland Winters (Charlie Chan), Victor Sen Yung(Tommy Chan), Warren Douglas (Police Sgt. Bill Davidson), Mantan Moreland (Birmingham Brown), Louise Curry (Peggy Cartwright), Philip Ahn (Captain Kong), Byron Foulger (Armstrong), Thayer Roberts (Captain Kelso), Jean Wong (Princess Mei Ling), Cha Bing (Lilly Mae), George L. Spaulding (Dr. Hickey); Runtime: 67; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: James S. Burkett; Monogram Pictures; 1947)

“Below par Charlie Chan.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Long-time B film director William “One Shot” Beaudine(“Lassies Great Adventure”/”The Ape Man”/”Spook Busters”) is not up to the task of directing a routine Charlie Chan formulaic episode in the long-running crime drama series. In this below par Charlie Chan, Beaudine rehashes bits from other Chan episodes, especially those in Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939) that starred Boris Karloff as the titular detective. Beaudine’s pedestrian direction and the introduction of Roland Winters, in his debut as Charlie Chan, instead of Warner Oland or Sidney Toler, are the main detriments in this incoherent film.

The character of Charlie Chan was created by Earl Derr Biggers in 1923, and he was mostly positively received by the public as a universally liked super-sleuth private detective working in Honolulu. In this episode, writer W. Scott Darling sets it in San Francisco, where for some reason Charlie now resides without his large family.

Chinese Princess Mei Ling (Jean Wong) lands in San Francisco by boat and visits the esteemed detective Charlie Chan (Roland Winters) at his home. The mysterious visitor is killed by a poison dart fired from the outside window of Chan’s home while she waited in the parlor to see the detective. Chan immediately calls his friend on the San Francisco police force, Sgt. Davidson (Warren Douglas). Before dying the princess gave Chan’s cringe-worthy racist stereotyped black butler (Mantan Moreland) an ancient Chinese ring; and, before she dies, the princess writes “Captain K” on a piece of paper.

Chan and Davidson team up to investigate the murder, but nosy reporter Peggy Cartwright (Louise Currie) gets wind of the murder and tags along. They find out that the princess came to America with a million bucks to purchase a fleet of airplanes for her Chinese brother’s freedom fighters in their defense of the country from invaders.

It strikes the investigators as odd that both Captain Kong (Philip Ahn) and Captain Kelso (Thayer Roberts) co-captained the same ship the princess was on and both last names begin with the letter K. We further learn that Captain Kelso was the supplier of the planes for the princess. The investigation also uncovers that the shady American banker, Armstrong (Byron Foulger), was arranging the deal.

With a slight plot twist and help from Chan’s Number Two son Tommy (Victor Sen Yung), who in previous films was called another name, all the bad guys are captured.