Case Number 19110: Small Claims Court

TCM SPOTLIGHT: CHARLIE CHAN COLLECTION

Dangerous Money
Warner Bros. // 1946 // 66 Minutes // Not Rated
Dark Alibi
Warner Bros. // 1946 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
The Trap
Warner Bros. // 1946 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
The Chinese Ring
Warner Bros. // 1947 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 17th, 2010

The Charge

The wit. The wisdom. The ways.

The Case

From 1926 until 1949 Charlie Chan had forty-seven big screen adventures making the Chinese detective one of the silver screen's most celebrated sleuths. In this collection from Warner Brothers, fans get four previously unreleased episodes from 1946 to 1949 which include the last adventure for actor Sidney Toler and the first for Roland Winters. Officially, Warner Brothers studios finished making Charlie Chan films in 1942, but low budget Monogram Pictures picked up and carried the torch -- allowing for all four of these films. Any Charlie Chan movie has an almost racist feel in hindsight. It's puzzling to see two American actors in Asian makeup take on the role designed as an Asian hero, but audiences embraced Toler and Winters as the Chinese detective back in the day. There was also Chan's black chauffeur and Asian son who were always portrayed as rather slow and comical. These four installments won't change your mind about all of that, but they do seem quaint and naïve. They are light entertainment from a long gone era.

Included in this set are:

Dark Alibi (1946)
The fortieth of forty-seven Charlie Chan films, this one finds Chan trying to save the life of an innocent man on death row. This installment seems to have been made quickly and on the cheap with only two sets, including a boarding house and a jail. It all revolves around fingerprints, and it's pretty standard fare for the series.

Dangerous Money (1946)
This one is the thirty-ninth film of the series. A murder on a cruise ship heading to Samoa forces Charlie Chan to figure out who would kill a man during a knife throwing show. It's an exotic setting, and the murder is a little more fantastic with someone getting a knife in the back right next to Charlie.

The Trap (1946)
This is the last Charlie Chan film for Sidney Toler who was stricken with cancer, and you can see him struggle a bit to get through this forty-first entry in the series. Chan investigates the murder of a Malibu showgirl who lives in a house with other barely-dressed entertainers.

The Chinese Ring (1947)
The debut of Roland Winters in the forty-second Charlie Chan movie. This one involves the murder of a Chinese princess in his own San Francisco house. She gets a poison dart in the back while handing him a ring. Apparently this is a remake of a 1939 Boris Karloff feature, proving that Hollywood's penchant for remakes is nothing new.

The transfers look good in general, although much grain and some print damage are very noticeable in all four features. Dangerous Money and The Chinese Ring look the best, while Dark Alibi and The Trap look less well preserved. The mono sound mixes are not pristine either with lots of background noise apparent at high volumes. It seems strange that we get each film on one disc with no extras, as each is only an hour long. There aren't even options to jump to a specific scene in the menus. And yet we have some amazingly elaborate packaging with a four panel fold out housed in a slip cover case. They could have been far more conservative in packaging these, but maybe there will be single releases for each disc on down the road.

Charlie Chan fans will be happy to see four features not previously available delivered in such handsome packaging. It's nice to see Sidney Toler's last effort, and also neat to get to see Roland Winters take his first case as the Chinese detective. For the average movie buff these are from an era when Charlie Chan flicks were shot on the cheap under Monogram's label. They aren't the best, but still fun any night you need a black and white detective adventure to go with your Chinese take-out food.

The Verdict

Guilty of being about as wise as your average fortune cookie, but just as tasty.

Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, Dangerous Money
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Dangerous Money
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 66 Minutes
Release Year: 1946
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Dangerous Money
* None

Scales of Justice, Dark Alibi
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, Dark Alibi
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 1946
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Dark Alibi
* None

Scales of Justice, The Trap
Judgment: 78

Perp Profile, The Trap
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1946
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Trap
* None

Scales of Justice, The Chinese Ring
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile, The Chinese Ring
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 1947
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Chinese Ring
* None

Accomplices
* IMDb: Dark Alibi
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0038452/combined

* IMDb: Dangerous Money
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0038449/combined

* IMDb: The Trap
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0039912/combined

* IMDb: The Chinese Ring
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0039262/combined