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SCARLET CLUE, THE(CHARLIE CHAN – THE SCARLET CLUE)(director: Phil Rosen; screenwriter: George Callahan; cinematographer: William Sickner; editor: Richard C. Currier; music: Edward Kay; cast: Robert E. Homans (Capt. Flynn), Virginia Brissac (Mrs. Marsh), I. Stanford Jolley (Brett), Sidney Toler (Charlie Chan), Mantan Moreland (Birmingham Brown ), Benson Fong (Tommy Chan), Helen Deveraux (Diane Hall), Leonard Mudie (Horace Carlos), Jack Norton (Willie Rand), Janet Shaw (Gloria Bayne), Ben Carter (Ben), Victoria Faust (Swenson), Reid Kilpatrick (Chester), Milt Kibbee (Herbert); Runtime: 65; Monogram; 1945)
“This was the best Monogram version of Charlie Chan.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Charlie has been following from New York to the West Coast a spy intent on stealing the government radar plans and has wired Captain Flynn to trail the man until he arrives. They find Flynn stabbed to death on a small boat. The only evidence is a shoe print left in the blood. When a car leaves the crime scene, Charlie gets its plate number and traces the stolen car to a radio actress named Diane Hall. She works in the Cosmo Radio Center, where coincidentally the radar plans are stored.

Charlie gets some comical assistance from his number three son Tommy Chan and his second assistant Birmingham Brown. When Charlie interviews Diane, the trio also meet the other employees of the radio show. They all become suspects. The studio manager is Mr. Brett, whom we immediately learn stole Diane’s car and killed the spy on orders from a boss he never met. Brett receives his orders when he phones someone called the manager and his message is relayed to another phone, he then receives his orders through a teletype machine.

Gloria Bayne is an ambitious actress who foolishly blackmails Brett in order to get a bigger part or else she will tell the police he stole Gloria’s car. She dies after feeling faint from her performance and when afterwards smoking a cigarette given to her by a radio station employee, Mr. Chester. Later on Charlie figures out that she died when gas was dropped into her mike while performing and when she lit the cigarette the nicotine exploded the gas causing her death. An actor impersonating a woman’s voice for the soap opera, named Mr. Rand, who offers some info to Charlie, is killed in the same manner as Gloria. Charlie discovers Brett’s the killer when his shoe matches the footprint found at the crime scene. When Brett asks his boss for help he is told to take the elevator on the 7th floor, once inside a trap door is opened and he’s crushed to death from the fall.

The other spy boss suspects are: an old-time hammy Shakespearean actor, Horace Carlos, who is a master at disguises; the martinet producer of the soap-opera show Mrs. Marsh, who seems like a Nazi; Herbert, Mrs. Marsh’s assistant, who silently accepts her verbal abuse of the actors; and, a cleaning lady named Swenson who shows up everywhere there’s some action.

There’s a funny routine between Birmingham and another black man (Ben Carter) he keeps running into in the radio station corridors, as they talk rapidly in a hurried conversation but never finish their sentences as they each seem to know what the other is saying.

This was the best Monogram version of Charlie Chan. It seemed to hit just the right lighthearted spot.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”