26 May 2002 | Jim Tritten
Abracadabra the guilty party is
Fast-paced Sidney Toler who-done-it set at and around the Century of Progress Exhibition in San Francisco harbor. The exhibition was the West Coast's parallel to the 1939 New York World's Fair and the man-made Treasure Island existed and some of its building survived as parts of a naval station for many years. A new writer and producer contributed to the successful direction of Norman Foster who also excelled in his previous Chan effort. The use of close-ups and lighting contribute to the success of this film: Charlie Chan at Treasure Island is simply the best of the Sidney Toler Chan films and runs neck and neck with Charlie Chan at the Opera done by Warner Oland.
The author of 'The Secret of the Pigmy Arrow' dies aboard an eastbound 4-engine flying boat China Clipper and the manuscript disappears as the passengers and crew disembark. 'Suicide induced by blackmail is murder.' The story line is believable and aided by Cesar Romero whose role as Fred Rhandini is reminiscent of a modern James Randi, exposing fraudulent faith healers and spiritualists. Pauline Moore returns for her third Chan film and is believable as a psychic who cannot resist the stronger mind of Dr. Zodiac.
Clues and suspicious characters abound. It is possible to figure out the mystery along with Chan who shares most of what he uncovers with the viewer. 'Obvious clues like tricks in magic usually prove deceptive.' Comic relief is provided by Victor Sen Yung as No. 2 son, Jimmy, to include a hilarious scene wearing a magician's coat. Only one racial slur directed his way 'A chip off the old chopstick.' Other supporting cast members are excellent in their roles.