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Meeting at Midnight
Black Magic / Charlie Chan in Black Magic

USA 1944
produced by
James S. Burkett, Philip N. Krasne for Monogram
directed by Phil Rosen
starring Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland, Frances Chan, Joseph Crehan, Helen Beverly, Jacqueline DeWit, Geraldine Wall, Ralph Peters, Frank Jaquet, Edward Earle, Claudia Dell, Charles Jordan, Dick Gordon
written by George Callahan, based on characters by Earl Derr Biggers

Charlie Chan, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), Charlie Chan at Monogram

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Cabbie Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland) has taken a job as butler at the Bonners, opresumably to be as far away from Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) & his murdercases as possible ... but the Bonners are phony spiritists, & Birmingham is no five minutes in their employ, is William Bonner (Dick gordon) killed during a seance. & since Chan's daughter Frances (Frances Chan ... really, that's the name of the actress too - even if maybe not her real real name) was among the particiants of the seance, it's only a matter of minutes until Charlie Chan is dragged into the case ... a case that has the police baffled, as despite the fact that the man was shot & the bullet did enter but not exit his body, no bullet can be found inside his body, plus noone among the seance's participants seems to have had a motive ...

Of course, Chan soon picks up the first suspect, Norma Duncan (Helen Beverly), who attended the seance under a false name because the Bonners drove her father into suicide & she was there to collect evidence against them ... but as soon as Chan has heard her motives he lets her go ...

Going along with his investigations, Chan, together with his daughter & Birmingham, collect more & more evidence against all of the seance's participants, & even find a couple (Claudia Dell, Charles Jordan) living in the secret passageways of the Bonner house, who are pretty much in charge of turning the seances into a convincing show. ... but be that as it may, soon Bonner's wife Justine (Jacqueline DeWit) throws herself off a building to her death, & Chan figures she was driven to suicide by hypnotic pills (!) ... but what's worse Chan is soon abducted y the villain (whoever it is) & is given one of these hypnotic pills, too (but manages to secretly spit it out). Later he too is shot at, but evades the bullet ... but curiously enough the chair he sat in starts to bleed ... the answer is really quite simple (?), the killer uses bullets made from deep-frozen blood (!), and he has the great ability to deceive everyone, ergo he is a magician ... Shardo the great from ten years ago, who had an affair with Bonner's wife Justine but Bonner tried to kill him in a carcrash ... but what nobody knew is that Shardo survived & got a new face, that of (rather pompous) Paul Hamlin (Charles Jacquet), who even seems to get away, too, as he threatens everyone with his frozen blood shooting weapon camouflaged as a cigarette case ... but Chalrlie Chan has a few magic gadgets at his own disposal, among them an extensible hand that quickly disarms the villain ...

 

Not that Monogram's Charlie Chan movies were ever particularly high on logic & stuff, & not that that ever hurt these movies all that much ... but Meeting at Midnight is pretty much pushing credibility to the limits (actually slightly over the limits), losing itself in fancy magic gadgets (blood bullets, hypnotic pills) that are of little meaning to the actual mystery but are supposed to create an eerie atmosphere - but actually fail & only distract from the main plot, that once again in the end pulls the culprit out of the hat rather than finding him by logci deduction.

Still, Toler & Moreland do their best to keep the story in a light mood, ably supoported by Frances Chan as Toler's number something (I don't suppose he says) daughter, which keeps the film from being the disaster I probably made it appear to be.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
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you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD