Scientist Melton (John Elliott) has developed a new torpedo & is thus
put under strict surveillance by the gouvernment (World War II was still on
back then, you know). But then he receives some guests for a cocktail party ...
& dies, presumably of natural causes. The plans for his torpedo are gone,
Soon the Secret Service sends his top investigator Charlie Chan
(Sidney Toler), who soon finds himself steeping in suspects like eccentric
housekeeper Mrs Hargue (Sarah Edwards), Arranto (George J.Lewis) - a disabled
man who really can walk -, Vega (Gene Roth), who looks just too suspicious to
have nothing to do with it, overly nervous Peter Laska (Muni Seroff), or naive
Mrs Winters (Lelah Tyler). & then there's of course Chan's own number 3 son
(Benson Fong) & number 2 daughter (Marianne Quon), as well as frightened
delivery boy Birmingham (Mantan Moreland) to mess things up sufficiently.
eventually, Charlie Chan can find out how Benton was killed anyhow -
electrocution via remote control - & who was the only one in the house who
had the knowledge to kill in such a manner ... Vega. But as soon as Vega is
proved guilty, he is shot ... but noone in the room did fire a gun, as they all
were in plain sight ...or was it yet another remote control ?
Of course it
was, as Melton had a wide arraiy of antique guns on display in his living room,
there was no trouble of hiding a real gun amidst them & fire it via remote
control ... & the only one who had access to thisremote control ... was Mrs
Winters, who turns out to be not only not as stupid as she looks, but in fact,
she's a Nazi spy ... Well done Charlie Chan !
Century Fox had abandoned the series 2 years earlier (click
here for Charlie Chan at Fox), this was the first Charlie Chan
film by Monogram, with many of the studio's regulars (most notably
Mantan Moreland) in cast & crew, & quite obviously done as a propaganda
The film most certainly has its flaws, as it relies less on a
stringent narrative than on fancy gadgets, remote controlled devices, an array
of eccentric characters as suspects with the culprit in the end pulled out of
the hat rather than found by deduction ... still it's hard to completely
dislike the film (or most other films of the series), thanks to an entertaining
regular supporting cast (most notably Mantan Moreland), odd pseudo-Chinese
oneliners ("Detective without curiosity is like glass eye on keyhole ...
no good !") & a well paced, if badly written script.
correct mob will love to hate this one (& the whole series) though for
presenting racial (not racist) stereotypes.