Though George Callaghan shared screenwriting credit with generic B-writer George Wallace Sayre, it's more evident the Chan series was in need of closure after myriad efforts to spin a new variation. Neither writer offered this installment any shock twists or witty sayings - the latter of which kept some of the final films marginally interesting - and in "Shanghai Cobra," man-servant Mantan Moreland's fear of the unknown is further broadened, reducing his character and raison d'être even further.
The real star of the film is underrated director Phil Karlson, who spent decades grinding out B movies with a few close efforts in the A-arena. Phil Rosen's prior Chan films were pretty straightforward directorial efforts, but here Karlson sets a darker, noirish tone; right from the eerie opening shot by a local diner, to creepy lighting throughout the film. The cinematography is above average for the Monogram entries, and MGM offers a decent transfer of the film with some harsh contrasts during dark shots.
Karlson would helm one more Chan film in 1946 ("Dark Alibi"), and Sidney Toler would continue to wear the trademark white hat and suit for another five films before his death in 1947. After seventeen installments, the series would take its final bow in 1949, after Roland Winters assumed the Chan role in six films.
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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