The fourth Monogram Chan outing is a nutty mix of secret rooms, radio-frequency trigger-switches, and an experimental government potion that's creating a jealous fuss after the lead scientist is dispatched to his grave.
Slightly above average among the Monogram Chans, this installment has another numbered son trying to help the family detective solve a case. Aided by man-servant Birmingham Brown, the egghead son manages to elicit a few amusing proverbial insults from his father before helping solve the case.
The hokey shocks and eerie cliches are more entertaining than the basic story, though the greatest surprise is that character actor Cyril Delevanti was once, well, young! Forever cast as a servant in every level of film and TV productions, Delevanti has a surprisingly broader (and sinister) variation of the Irritable Butler persona. Better remembered for an appearance as Bette Davis' loyal butler in "Dead Ringer" and in several "Twilight Zone" episodes, it's rather jolting to see the otherwise weather-beaten octogenarian looking so youthful, and cruelly teasing his doomed master in a manner more suited to a Duane Esper sickie.
MGM's transfer is fairly clean, with less active compression compared to some of the other Chan titles. The mono mix is pretty standard, and the original wartime plea to "80,000,000 Americans" to buy war bonds is also intact over the end credits.
The next entry in Monogram's series is "The Scarlet Clue."
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