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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, May 12, 2023

Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)

I’m back with another Charlie Chan movie. If this is the first of these that you are reading, I shared my thoughts on the obvious issues casting a white actor in the role of an Asian character here. I don’t want to keep rehashing when I review another of these flicks, and there are many of them. Now onto the review.

The movie opens with Chan arriving via an airplane in France. At the airport we see a beggar asking him for some change, which he happily gives. Chan then goes to the payphone and makes a call to a woman we later find out is named Nardi. They make plans to meet later as she has some important information for him. Right away the mystery is afoot! After some other characters are introduced he makes his way to a club where Nardi is a featured dancer. In front of the crowd she is murdered, but with her dying breath tells Charlie where he can find the clues she had collected for him.

After some twists and turns including Charlie avoiding the police (whom he nearly always works with on his cases) we find out that he was hired by a bank in London to investigate the how and why behind some fake bonds that have been passed off to their customers by a bank in France. The big secrecy is due to them not wanting to cause a panic or run on the banks. That is why Charlie keeps telling everyone that he is on vacation and not a case. He does eventually bring the criminals to justice but not before his son Lee shows up, an innocent woman is accused of murder, and another body hits the floor.

I’ve watched the movies in this series many times but had forgotten how great this one is. The mystery is full of twists and turns with many locations being used to heighten the who done it. This includes a neat sequence in a sewer system that is decently creepy. I always forget that the early entries in the Chan franchise were larger budgeted studio movies (later they became staples of the Poverty Row studios). The production values here are noticeably better at least for a thirties movie. We get clues spread throughout the story so that you can guess at who the killer or killers are. This leads to a quickly paced and entertaining flick that clocks in at seventy two minutes but feels like it is over before it started.

This was the first time in the franchise that one of Chan’s children shows up. Here it is his son Lee, played by Keye Luke. Later in the franchise the number “x” son is part of the comic relief but in these early appearances the character is competent and helps to solve the case. Luke does a fine job as always and is a huge asset to the movie. Warner Oland is Charlie Chan and again does a good job in the role. You can almost see the wheels turning as he weighs clues and sorts things out long before anyone else in the room knows what is going on. He plays him as the smartest man there and you believe it.

Charlie Chan in Paris also has the only acknowledgement that I remember of the Pidgeon English aka. the overly polite and mangled accent that triggers many viewers in the series. Basically, there is a drunken creep that speaks to Charlie in an over the top and insulting imitation of him. Charlie basically calls him on his bullshit in the politest way possible, but it is acknowledged nonetheless. I thought that was interesting.

This may be one of the better if not the best entries in the entire franchise. It has been years since I sat down and watched them all so as I go thru this process for the site it is nice to get a refresher and talk about these flicks. If you are looking for a good mystery movie with a dash of international intrigue, then Charlie Chan in Paris is the movie for you. I highly recommend it.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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