"When Pop takes the case, POP goes the case!"
The second of Monogram's Charlie Chan films is a much livelier and funnier entry, this time bringing back Chan, his disruptive but well-intentioned son, servant Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland), and the same house set from the previous film. (When viewed back-to-back on DVD, it's painfully clear how little money or care Monogram had for their quickie productions, often changing very little in each standing set. Even the same music tracks are repeatedly tracked throughout scenes.)
Writer George Callahan seemed more comfortable with the characters in his second venture, and opened up the basic story by having everyone run around different locations, and giving Chan a few memorable sayings to his hip-talking, over-confident son. The good guy-bad guy cliches are amusingly heavy in "Chinese Cat," and Mantan Moreland makes the second of his regular appearances in the studio's Chan series. (Moreland, a vaudeville veteran with a patented big-eyed, double-take routine, was the rube-like, black comedy relief in the series, and his caricature is arguably more controversial today than Toler's Asian impersonation.)
Like the previous entry, "Chinese Cat" has overt wartime references, including a bet between Chan and a local cop that will benefit the Chinese War Relief, and a plea over the End Credits, asking audiences to buy war bonds before leaving the theatre.
Once again MGM uses a nice print, and the mono mix is well-balanced. The next entry in Monogram's series is "Charlie Chan in Black Magic" (a.k.a. "Charlie Chan in Meeting at Midnight").
This title is available separately or as part of The Charlie Chan Chanthology, and includes The Shanghai Cobra, The Scarlet Clue, Meeting At Midnight, The Jade Mask, The Chinese Cat and Charlie Chan In The Secret Service.
Follow-up sequels are availble in the TCM / Warner Bros. collection, including " Dark Alibi" (1946), "Dangerous Money" (1946), "The Trap" (1946), and "The Chinese Ring" (1947).
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan
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