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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, January 12, 2024

The Scarlet Clue (1945)

Another Charlie Chan movie for the marathon. As I do with all of these reviews I wanted to get my thoughts about a white actor in what really should have been an Asian role out of the way right off. You can click here for an article I wrote about it. Now onto the review.

The movie kicks off as all great old mystery flicks should with some shady characters skulking around a fog covered dock. A man is being trailed by a couple others and we find out that those following are police and the man who is being followed is in possession of some secret military technology. Remember that this was still during World War II and the poverty row studios like Monogram were still putting spies in everything! Charlie Chan arrives and when they go to arrest the man, they find him dead.

The rest of the movie is Chan, his son Tommy, chauffer Birmingham Brown, and a host of suspects at a radio station (there was a car at the murder scene that led them there) getting grilled. Sure enough some espionage is afoot, and Charlie needs to sort that out before the enemy makes off with some vital radar plans. Toss in some spooky masks, a thinly veiled reference to the legendary Boris Karloff, and a deadly elevator for some fun.

This is another of the Chan movies that I’ll admit doesn’t give the audience much chance to follow along with and try to figure out as it plays more like an adventure flick with some “who done it” teases along the way. You get an interesting murder weapon in both the cigarette twist as well as the trick elevator. But neither are hard to see coming. There are some clues so I don’t want to imply that we are kept in the dark but unlike any other Chan movie I can think of when the killer is revealed not only do we not get an explanation of how he sorted it out but there is also not a good connection as to why the killer/spy did what they did. That was a bit annoying.

Mooreland and Carter are excellent!
There is a bit of gunplay involved and we do get a healthy dose of comedy from Mantan Mooreland as Birmingham Brown who is joined here by his sidekick from the nightclub scene Ben Carter. They do their famous gag finishing each other’s sentences with the final punchline being given to Tommy by Mooreland. The wordplay from these guys is pure genius and makes me sad that so little of their act was saved from the thirties and forties. I would have loved to check it out.

Sidney Toler is good again in the role of Charlie Chan. His delivery is solid, and he has a lot of energy. This is one of the last movies where he was still on his game as the cancer which eventually killed him sapped him of his strength in the later entries. He did another six of these movies before passing away in nineteen forty-seven. While not the best mystery of the bunch this is one of his better performances and that makes The Scarlet Clue worth checking out.


Ó Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

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