Shadows Over Chinatown (1946)
In what turned out to be his final year portraying famed detective Charlie Chan, Sidney Toler stars once again alongside Number two son Victor Sen Yung and Mantan Moreland as Birmingham Brown.
This time out Charlie finds himself heading to San Francisco by bus with his two wanna be detectives in tow. Dirty deeds await as a shot is fired in Chan’s direction at a stopover bus depot. He’s looking into a mysterious case of a headless torso and all the while hoping the body is not that of a grieving grandmother’s missing grand daughter. Our grandmother is played by none other than Mary Gordon. The same Mary Gordon who plays Mrs. Hudson in the Rathbone – Holmes series.
With the help of his bumbling son and the family chauffeur, Toler as Chan finds the missing grand daughter and discovers her connection to an escort service. From here it’s just a matter of time before Chan will have the case solved despite the constant efforts of his assistants to unknowingly lead him in the wrong direction.
By this time in the Chan cycle, the series had moved over to the low budget specialists at Monogram. Terry Morse served as director here as he would on the next title in the series, Dangerous Money. Toler had of course played the film detective since 1938 after the death of Warner Oland. By my count he played the Chan role in a total of 22 films. The best of his films were produced by Twentieth Century Fox before the move to Monogram and a cut in budgets.
That doesn’t mean however that these are still not enjoyable films. Much has been written about the Chan films over the years and I am not about to get into any political comments about them. Bottom line is I enjoy them and have watched them over the years on numerous occasions and will continue to do so for years to come. It is my hope that someday the lost four titles from early in the series starring Warner Oland will someday surface.
As for our comedy relief, they work fine for me. Sen Yung has always been enjoyable as Jimmy Chan and Mantan Moreland as the assistant who is scared of his own shadow always puts a smile on my face. The attacks on Moreland are another sad part of the “Chan story” that is unfortunate. Once again, he makes me laugh. So did Lou Costello, Huntz Hall and the Three Stooges. That’s good enough for me.