31 August 2008 | MartinHafer
The franchise is gasping for its last breath!!
This is one of the last of the Monogram series of Charlie Chan films. By 1948, the series had been around for many years--since the late 1920s. Through the decades, Warner Oland and Sidney Toler had made a ton of these fun murder mysteries. By the death Toler in 1946, it was obvious that the series had been gasping for life for several years. However, instead of calling a halt to the films, Monogram plodded along with several more Chan films that starred Roland Winters. Now Winters wasn't too bad--after all, with makeup he was able to look like Chan and his delivery was rather Chan-like (though a bit rapid). However, the wit of the Sidney Toler version was noticeably absent. Another problem is that by 1948, the movies just weren't as interesting and were usually written in such a hasty manner that plot holes abounded--and this one looked rather Swiss cheesy at that! I know this to be so because I have seen all of the Fox Charlie Chan films that are in existence and almost all the Monogram ones--the slide is obvious.
Charlie is out west to investigate how a supposedly played out gold mine is suddenly brimming with gold. During the investigation, the man who hired Chan is supposedly hurt and his entire face is wrapped in gauze and doctors won't let anyone in to see him. It's so completely obvious to anyone with half a brain that either this isn't the man or he's being drugged. Oddly, Chan allows this ruse to continue for some time--even though someone's life might be at risk. Even when the nurse/nun who is caring for him reveals she's an idiot and practically knows nothing about medicine, Chan does nothing.
In addition to lots of inaction, the film is brimming with dull and awkward performances. About the only one who comes off reasonably well is Tommy Chan--who oddly was re-named Tommy even though he'd been Jimmy in the earlier films and was still played by the same actor (Victor Sen Yung). Even the usual comic relief from Mantan Moreland seems very subdued in this film. There simply is no energy or life to this film and a few really broad performances sink the film further.
The bottom line is that there isn't much of a mystery and Chan could easily get to the bottom of it. Instead, the amazingly subdued Chan sits back and lets the film go on for some time until the conclusion. Dull and uninspired.