Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Charlie Chan Collection Vol 2 |
Charlie Chan at the Circus / Charlie Chan at the Olympics / Charlie Chan at the Opera / Charlie Chan at the Race Track
Actors: Warner Oland, Katherine DeMille, Pauline Moore, Allan Lane, Keye Luke
Directors: H. Bruce Humberstone, Harry Lachman
Genres: Classics, Comedy, Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts, Mystery & Suspense
Disc 1: CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA Full Screen Feature (Black & White) Charlie Chan's Lucky Director: H. Bruce Humberstone Restoration Comparison Trailer Disc 2: CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS Full Screen Feature (Black & ... more »
Similarly Requested DVDs
The Charlie Chan Series At Its Peak!
Robert M. Fells | Centreville, VA USA | 12/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Volume 2 in Fox's Charlie Chan DVD Collection seems not to have been released as much as it escaped. Volume 1 was widely heralded but this installment, which contains the best of the films when the series reached its peak, sort of snuck up on us. Frankly, I can't believe I'm the first one here to review it.
Full disclosure: I own Volume 1 and just purchased Volume 2 through Amazon. So my review at this point is based on my (repeated) TV viewings dating back to the mid 1960s through just a few years ago before the Fox Movie Channel banned the CC films. I noticed that Fox skipped one film in this set, CHARLIE CHAN'S SECRET (1936) that preceeded the four films in Volume 2. Why? I can only guess except that SECRET is a real letdown compared to the quality of the films before it - CHARLIE CHAN IN... LONDON, PARIS, EGYPT, and SHANGHAI. And the films that followed that are represented in Volume 2. But still why was it dropped? I guess that's Fox's secret.
As with Volume 1, Warner Oland simply IS Charlie Chan. Oland continues to play Chan with his usual quiet authority and stunning charisma. Although he was not Asian (athough he believed his mother was part Mongolian), his winning characterization of Chan forever changed the way Asians would be portrayed in Hollywood films.
As for the Fab Four in this set: CC AT THE CIRCUS is the closest Charlie came to film noir, thanks to German director Harry Lachman. His films tended to be dark and moody and CIRCUS is no exception. Much of the film takes place at night and even indoor scenes have a sombre edge to them. Lachman would direct a few more Chans in the Sidney Toler era during the early 40s when the series changed direction and became compact little murder mysteries such as DEAD MEN TELL (1941). These later Chans are enjoyable on their own terms but totally different in style from the Olands of the mid-30s. CIRCUS features the entire CHAN clan including his wife. Mystery-wise, if you can't spot the real killer in CIRCUS, you should resign your membership in the Charlie Chan club! I think even Charlie knows early on but has nothing to pin on the culprit.
CHARLIE CHAN AT THE RACE TRACK marks a real jazzing up of the series stylistically. Director Bruce Humberstone, who was ambitious for more important projects at Fox, wanted to show Zanuck what he could do and pulled out all the stops in RACE TRACK. Right from the opening music behind the main credits, you know this one is different. The pacing is faster and optical wipes give each scene a sense of urgency. Charlie's relationship with son Lee also progresses with Lee being given increasingly important assignments by his Pop.
Unlike the earlier drawing room style of the films, in RACE TRACK Charlie takes on a whole gambling syndicate in addition to the murders in a wide ranging series of locales from Honolulu, to Melbourne, to Los Angeles, plus an ocean voyage in between. He's shot too! High tech is employed here as Chan learns about the "new" way of timing the races with photo-electric cells and photographing the photo finish. What I particularly like in RACE TRACK is that the film "language" gives an alert viewer a big clue at one point to put you on the track of the killer. Even at the climax, the killer slips up but nobody notices (momentarily), giving the viewer another chance to solve this one.
AT THE OPERA is generally considered to be the best of the Chans and its reputation is well deserved. Oland for once is co-starred, with Boris Karloff, and the two work well together although they only share one scene. The film might more accurately be titled CHARLIE CHAN MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA because that really describes the storyline. Since Karloff is so obviously the killer you just know somebody else has to be doing the dirty work and making it look like Karloff's to blame. But Charlie ain't fooled (nor are we because this is supposed to be a murder MYSTERY). High tech again is used to help solve the mystery as we (and Charlie) are treated to a demonstration of the process involved in wire photos.
Son Lee again proves indispensible and Director Humberstone delivers the goods once again. A special faux-opera was written for the film by Oscar Levant called "Carnival" and I hate to admit it but I wish Levant had turned it into a real full length work - the music is that good. I don't know who sang for Karloff but in case viewers wonder how his character could manage to sing so well after being a patient in an insane asylum for ten years, the opening scene shows him practicing every night. A bigoted detective comically played by William Demerest finally has to admit that "Charlie is OK" at the end. A real gem of a film.
The last one in this set, 1937's CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS (just love that title!), is the most globe-trotting of all the Chans and the most ambitious production-wise. The film starts with Oland in his undershirt jogging in place! The, uh, partial nudity shows that Oland had lost weight around his mid-section when compared with his appearance circa 1934-35. The film starts in Honolulu and has a scene eirily prophetic of the Pacific sea search for Amelia Earhart's lost plane that took place a few months after the film's release. Then Chan is off to intercept the ocean liner Manhattan that is in mid-Atlantic on its way to the Olympic games in Germany (son Lee is on the U.S. swimming team in case you're wondering how he gets worked into the story). Being 1936, the only way Charlie can catch the ship is to fly from Hawaii to L.A., then grab a transcontinental plane to New York, then grab the ill-fated German zepplin Hindenburg from Lake Hurst, NJ. And travelers today think they have it rough!
The plot actually has nothing to do with the Olympics but the film is so engaging, who really cares? The games are used as a backdrop for meetings by the spies with Chan, and there is some footage of the events including Jesse Owens's spectacular run for a gold medal. High tech is employed once more as Charlie pulls a real switcheroo by substituting a radio transmitter in the aircraft device the spies are after. Son Lee is kidnapped from outside the Olympic Stadium, and even Charlie thinks he has met his match.
Actor C. Henry Gordon, an alumnus from earlier Chans, almost steals the film as a most dapper villian. Things are so dangerous for Charlie that Mr. Gordon, one of the silver screen's silkiest villians, actually saves Chan from death TWICE, and Gordon is one of the bad guys! As in OPERA, the killer is well hidden although the series of clues that Chan puts together to unmask the culprit at the finale is less than convincing. It doesn't matter because the killer can't explain away a simple clue: spilt ink on his shoe and that seals his fate (no, not a spoiler - by the time the ink-on-shoe comes up, the killer is already unmasked - I just think it's the best clue!).
By the time OLYMPICS was made, Warner Oland was really "into" the Chan character so much so that he continued speaking like Chan offscreen and even signed his name, "Charlie Chan." As one interviewrer wrote in mid-1937, "I came to interview Warner Oland about Charlie Chan but ended up interviewing Charlie Chan about Warner Oland." So what was going on? I'm afraid that's a story to be told in Volume 3. I only hope that the Fox people take this DVD project seriously enough to scour their vaults for ANY materials - film footage but most likely photos - from Oland's final and uncompleted film, CHARLIE CHAN AT THE RINGSIDE, that he worked on during the first week of January 1938."
GREEDY FOX STRIKES AGAIN!
Philly | Philadelphia, PA United States | 12/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love the Chan movies, but Fox is doing it again! They released only 4 movies in Vol. 1 and now 4 movies in Vol. 2. Since each Chan movie is no longer than 80 minutes, they could easily put 2 movies on each disc or even on each side of a disc. Fox feels the need to get every penny out of the public that they can. SHAME ON YOU, FOX!"
Among the Best In The Chan Series
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 01/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many critics feel the Charlie Chan films did not truly hit their stride until 1936 and 1937, when the release of four particularly lively titles set a new standard for the series. THE CHARLIE CHAN COLLECTION, VOL. 2 not only presents those four films, it restores them as well; after years of neglect, Warner Oland, Keye Luke, and company look better than ever.
Charlie was original created by novelist Earl Derr Biggers (1884-1933), who very loosely based the character on Hawaii's legendary police officer Chang Apana (1887-1933.) Biggers wrote six novels in all, and after several false starts 20th Century Fox (then simply known as Fox) hit on the right combination of actors, mystery, and comedy, and the result was perhaps the single most popular film series Hollywood ever created. Although contemporary audiences tend to view the films as politically incorrect, the fact remains that Chan and his family--most often personified by Keye Luke as son Jimmy--were among the very few positive Asian characters on American movie screens at the time; as such they were particularly popular with Asian-American audiences of the day.
The four Chan films in this collection are actually the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th releases in the series, all starring Warner Oland as Chan, all featuring Keye Luke as son Jimmy Chan, and all but one directed by the capable and exacting H. Bruce Humberstone. The most celebrated title is CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA, which co-stars Oland with Boris Karloff in what many consider to be the single finest film in the series. Featuring an operatic score written by Oscar Levant, the story finds Chan called upon to protect diva Lilli Rochelle (Margaret Irving), who has received a death threat. It soon transpires, however, that Madame Rochelle is no blushing innocent: she has a past that includes "an escaped maniac" in the form of Boris Karloff, and no sooner does the overture begin than murder is afoot. The film is unexpectedly stylish; the noteworthy cast includes William Demarest and Nedda Harrigan; and the script very distinctly works to undercut racist notions of the day, with Demarest at first offensively derrisive but ultimately impressed with Chan's skill.
Although not as highly budgeted as OPERA, AT THE RACE TRACK and AT THE OLYMPICS also bear Humberstone's distinct touch. RACE TRACK finds Chan matching wits with a gambling ring determined to turn otherwise honest horse races to their advantage. John Henry Allen's portrayal of "Streamline," a Stepin Fetchit-like character, is perhaps most charitably viewed as a measure of how far African-American actors have come since the 1930s; this aside, however, the cast is solid and the story entertaining. AT THE OLYMPICS is remarkably disconcerting from a historic point of view. Opening in Hawaii and making references to Pearl Harbor, the film concerns the theft of an aircraft device which has military application. Chan is soon on his way to Berlin via The Hindenberg, no less, and finds himself confronting a host of spies and counterspies at the 1936 Olympics. Interestingly, the film makers work hard to avoid mention of the Nazis; although stock footage abounds--including footage of Jessie Owens--the inevitable swatiskas are kept out of focus or more obviously simply blotted out.
While the three Humberstone films in this set tend to receive the bulk of critical favor, my own favorite in this collection is CHARLIE CHAN AT THE CIRCUS. Directed by Harry Lachman, who would go on to direct other Chan films somewhat later, the film is long on charm in its tale of murder under the big top, complete with sultry trapeze artists (Maxine Reiner), dancing little people (George and Olive Brasno), slinky contortionists (Shai Jung), and even one of those bad 1930s ape costumes. Chan films seldom trouble themselves too much with plot detail, and AT THE CIRCUS is a particularly flyweight entry; even so, it is tremendously amusing, unexpectedly atmospheric, and George and Olive Brasno are standouts among the supporting cast.
The remasters are not flawless, but they are very good indeed. I must, however, sound a slightly sour note re the bonus features, which are interesting in themselves but which slight in comparison with what might have been done if the studio had really put its heart into it. Still, the Keye Luke biography is particularly welcome (moderns tend to overlook the truly groundbreaking nature of his career) and the "Charlie Chan at the Movies" featurette is quite nice. Overall, I strongly recommend this collection to Chan fans everywhere.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Any treatment of the private eye movie would be incomplete w
Roberto Frangie | Leon, Gto. Mexico | 12/23/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There were more than forty made between 1931 and 1949, Swedish actor Warner Oland appearing in 16 of them, Sidney Toler in 22 and Roland Winters in a round half dozen...
Before the appearance of Chan, screen Orientals were often portrayed as being subhuman, always the villain and never the hero... If producers wanted a villain of the deadliest kind, then they chose an Oriental Chan, and to a lesser extent, other Eastern detectives like Mr. Wong (Boris Karloff) and Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) changed all that and helped make the celluloid "Wily Oriental Gentleman" more respectable...
Shrewd, courteous and slow moving, Chan's trademark was a cut price wisdom, expressed throughout all his films in phrases like "Too many mixed drinks make big headaches," and "Silence is golden except in police station."
Like Vance and other popular detectives he would gather his suspects in one room, going round each in turn and finally pointing to the guilty person with the words: "You murderer." As much of his detection was based on bluff as on deduction; the condemned criminal might well have been better advised to stand his ground and challenge Chan to prove his case rather than make the traditional break for freedom...
The film that is widely regarded as being one of the best Chan films is Bruce Humberstone's "Charlie Chan at the Opera." Not unlike a poor man's "Phantom of the Opera" it has Boris Karloff (in this case not the villain, just a red herring) as an operatic tenor suffering from aphasia (psychosomatic dumbness) who escapes from a mental asylum bent on revenge on his double-crossing opera singer wife... The wife duly dies and so too does her operatic lover but on this occasion the murderer is not Karloff but someone less obvious...
The old Chinaman is true to form, making the police look even more heavily and slowly than usual ("Oh, no, we're not calling Chop Suey again," groans Sergeant William Demarest) and dropping his verbal gems at every twist and turn... Although set within the normal 70 minute formula for the Chan films it is faster paced than most in the series combining thrills and music and including a special opera, Carnival, composed for the film by Oscar Levant...
Stars who appeared in the series and later became famous included Rita Hayworth (then Cansino), Ray Milland, George Brent and Cesar Romero...