Another great detective film by Twentieth Century Fox with Warren Oland as Charlie Chan and Keye Luke (remember “Kung Fu”?) as number one son Lee.
Unlike other Chan films that had some pretty bad racist stereotypes, this film stuck to the story at hand. The story involves Billie Bronson who has a big secret that could “blow the lid off” the secret goings on of the gangsters of Broadway.
The banter between Charlie and his son is what makes these films so fun. They are on a boat going to NYC and Charlie is a bit seasick. Son Lee is bragging about all the food that his father just missed out on. When Charlie says stop, Lee asks if he needs a remedy. “Only cure is to find land”, says Chan.
Billie comes into town who has info that is “hot enough to blister” and deals with a few nervous gangsters and a couple of reporters – of course we have the usually snarky female reporter and her sidekick smarty male reporter for the New York Bulletin, whose editor is also a bit involved in the case.
The viewer is lead on quite a merry go round on this film. It’s not until we hit the 30 minute mark that Billie actually gets killed.
About 15 minutes into the film, a very brief uncredited cameo by Lon Chaney, Jr.!
And the murderer is quite a surprise. I had zero suspicion until the end of the film where they put all the facts together. These old films usually end with all suspects in a single room where we hash things out.
The film gets into forensics too with the “paraffin test”, looking for gunpowder marks on hands. This was quite cool for 1939, but with today’s detective & cop shows, this might not seem so hot to today’s modern view.
Bottom Line: Love the banter, the hilarious New York cracks and commentaries, on everything from Chinese cigarette girls to camera hounds (worse than newspaper reporters). Must-see for any Chan fan.