Customer Reviews: Charlie Chan in The Chinese Cat
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon April 26, 2001
Monogram Pictures, one of the smaller Hollywood studios, really tried to make its Charlie Chan mysteries competitive with major-studio product, and this time it worked. "The Chinese Cat" (1944) has everything audiences had come to expect from the series: a capable cast of familiar character actors (Cy kendall, Ian Keith, Joan Woodbury, and at least four favorite serial performers), good direction (by the normally uninspired Phil Rosen), and striking photography (by veteran cameraman Ira Morgan). The story concerns an unsolved murder, and a muck-raking novelist whose latest book hits too close to home. Sidney Toler and Mantan Moreland are always enjoyable, and number-three son Benson Fong has more to do than usual (he defies the criminal mastermind in a memorable scene). Charlie Chan fans will enjoy this; followers of the Monogram corpus will applaud this fine companion piece to "The Shanghai Cobra" and "The Scarlet Clue." This is one "B" that gets a solid "A" for effort.
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on August 22, 1999
For some reason, the second Monogram Chan movie is a bit slow moving during the first half of the film. Mantan Moreland's comedy material is not very good this time, but would improve in The Scarlet Clue and The Shanghai Cobra. Chan and Number 3 son Tommy get captured and roughed up this time, unusual in a Chan film. I would call this a middling effort from Monogram. Classic Chan line is "Expert is merely man who make quick decision--and is sometimes right."
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on August 28, 2002
THE CHINESE CAT is a surprisingly good war-time film by Monogram. Sidney Toler is back as Charlie and Benson Fong has the role of Tommy Chan. Tommy is Charlie's number three son. Manton Moreland as Birmingham Brown begins the movie as a cab driver and ends up as Charlie's chauffeur. Some of the best scenes take place in a fun house.
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on May 24, 2007
A man is working on a chess game. Someone enters and fires two shots; Thomas Manning is found dead in a locked room. There are no clues, and the case is dropped. Miss Manning visits to ask Charlie Chan for help. A novel was written that accuses her mother of the crime. [There are jokes sprinkled in the dialogue for amusement. The prices date this picture.] A telephone call summons Chan to give him information about the murder. But a stranger makes sure he will tell no tales. Detective Dennis shows up, he was trailing Chan. They discover statues hidden away in loaves of bread. Chan talks to Dr. Paul Rechnick about his book Mrs. Manning was alone in the house at the time of the murder. Next they visit the murder room; there is a secret panel and door to another room. Somebody places a bomb in Chan's taxi, but Chan escapes this attempt.

Chan visits Wu San, the artist who created those hidden statues. There are gems hidden inside! When Chan visits Manning's partner they discover new facts. When this man is found dead there are no clues. Somebody uses a poison gas in their hotel room, but it is discovered in time. Three murders by three different methods seems puzzling. But Chan figures out a solution based on the wrong pieces for a jigsaw puzzle. Chan returns to the closed "Fun House" and is found by the criminal gang. After some adventures and threats (more comic than serious) the murders are solved. The last minutes explain the murders. One of the gang tried a double-cross, and this started the reaction.

The first pictures in this series were murder mysteries with some comic or witty remarks. This film has too much comedy to be a murder mystery, and too many murders to be a comedy. Yet the success of this series says they met the needs of the audiences.
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on November 20, 2011
Charlie Chan and the Chinese Cat was a bit sub-standard production of Monogram Pictures and since it was a later show, probably that's why the predictable script and story. Still, Charlie's sense of humor as acted by Sidney Toler was really well done.

Plot: The story centers around a chess expert who is shot to death in a locked room but has a secret panel. The case remains unsolved for six months! Still, the crooks are about and are not happy that Chan is reopening the case.

As with the earlier Chan tales, we have to have some comic relief at the expense of his Number Three son and his cab driver Buchanan - typical racial stereotypes of the time may offend modern audiences and really there was no need for a sidekick. Apparently Buchanan has been on other adventures with Chan as they seem to know each other well.

While clearing up the family name (the papers think his wife did it) we have lots of driving and investigating and not a lot of action until near the end when the case is solved. The comic relief is rather stupid - there is a twin brother involved, one of whom is dead, and these guys think it's a ghost rather than a twin or a double. Duh!

The Chinese Cat in question was used as a smuggling device, disguising jewel heists, but it was unclear how this was done. Also little statues were also used but again not much info about the crooks or who was involved. The ending was somewhat predictable.
Not the best Chan film, but it was in foggy San Francisco and the editing and music are typical fare for the time. Rental.
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on August 7, 2011
Benson Fong ("Tommy", #3 son) and Mantan Moreland ("Birmingham Brown") return.
Thomas Manning (Sam Flint) has been shot in his study, but by whom? The door is locked. We see their is a hidden panel in the wall that was opened. Upstairs at the time of the murder is Mrs. Manning (Betty Blythe). Leah (Joan Woodward) is concerned about the door being locked and Thomas not answering. Mrs. Manning shows Leah and Carolina the maid a secret way to get into the study from upstairs. They make it into the study by the secret passageway. They discover Mr. Manning dead.
Leah asks Charlie Chan (Sidney Tolar) to solve the case. He only has 48 hours.

Also in the cast: Ian Keith, Cy Keendall, Anthony Wade, John Davidson, Dewey Robinson, Luke Chan.

The black woman who played "Carolina" was not given credit.

Running time: 65 minutes.

Sidney Tolar in his 13th appearance as "Charlie Chan".

Next mystery: Charlie Chan in Meeting at Midnight (1944). Also known as Charlie Chan in Black Magic (1944).
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HALL OF FAMEon December 29, 2013
Charlie Chan solves a year-old murder case in two days, wrapping things up at the last minute. Unfortunately his acting is so stilted and the plot so thin that there really isn't much to enjoy. His bumbling #3 Son and bone-head chauffeur don't add much either.
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Loosely based on novels by Earl Derr Biggers, 20th Century Fox's Charlie Chan series proved an audience favorite--but when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor the studio feared audiences would turn against its Asian hero. This was a miscalculation: actor Sidney Toler took the role to "poverty row" Monogram Studios, where he continued to portray the character in eleven more popular films made between 1944 and his death in 1947.

20th Century Fox had regarded the Chan films as inexpensive "B" movies, but even so the studio took considerable care with them: the plots were often silly, but the pace was sharp, the dialogue witty, and the casts (which featured the likes of Bela Lugosi and Ray Milland) always expert. The result was a kindly charm which has stood the test of time. Monogram was a different matter: Chan films were "B" movies plain and simple. Little care was taken with scripts or cast and resulting films were flat, mediocre at best, virtually unwatchable at worst.

Released in 1944, THE CHINESE CAT finds Chan beset by son Tommy, who has promised the step-daughter of a murdered man assistance; they are joined in the investigation by cab driver Birmigham, who is not overeager to be reunited with the Chans given that murder tends to follow in their wake. Indeed, there will be three murders, stolen jewels, and a carnival fun house before the killers are captured. Like all the Monogram Chan films, the plot is trivial and the script even more so; unlike the worst of the Monogram Chan films, however, it does have the occasional touch of atmosphere and moves at a respectable pace.

Sidney Toler gives a nice reprise of Charlie Chan in this film, but as usual in the Monogram Chan films Mantan Moreland (Birmingham) is the real scene stealer. Changing times have led us to look upon Moreland's brand of comedy as demeaning to African-Americans, but he was an expert actor and comic, and taken within the context of what was possible for a black actor in the 1940s his work has tremendous charm and innocence.

Fans of the 20th Century Fox series are likely to find Monogram's Chan a significant disappointment and newcomers who like the Monogram films will probably consider them third-rate after encountering the Fox films. Like other Monogram Chan films, MEETING AT MIDNIGHT is best left to determined collectors. Three stars, and that's being generous.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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1944's "The Chinese Cat" pits famous detective Charlie Chan, here played by Sidney Toler, against a murderous diamond smuggling gang. The famous Honolulu detective, seconded to the U.S. Government for the war effort, is assisted by series regulars Number Three Son Tommy (Benson Fong) and nervous cab driver Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland).

Chan is asked to investigate a cold case involving the locked room murder of the husband of a wealthy socialite, who has now been acccused of the murder by a muck-raking novelist. Chan and his son follow a rather improbable string of clues that point to a bigger conspiracy and high stakes in the form of stolen diamonds. As witnesses keep showing up dead, and one dead witness keeps showing up alive, Chan, Tommy, and Brown close in on the smuggling gang's hideout in a old amusement park funhouse. The climax of the movie is a deadly cat and mouse chase through secret rooms.

Dialogue in this particular episode is unusually woooden. Charlie's normal chastisement of his errant son seems almost like hectoring. Tommy and Birmingham Brown are played mostly for laughs, although both will get a chance to be a hero in the end. The plot is just obscure enough to keep the audience guessing for awhile, but the wrap-up seems artificially convenient. This movie will be of interest primarily to dedicated fans of the Charlie Chan series.
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on April 21, 2007
The 6 films in the box set basically concentrated on Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan joining the US Government during WII and solving mysteries involving weapons and other sundry items involved with the government. Due to the time era, Fox had dropped the series in fear of losing profits on the series and due to the anti-oriental sentiment at the time. B studio, Monogram picked the series up. "The Chinese Cat" deviates from the usual Chan films during this period and concentrates on murder and diamond smuggling with less emphasis on government projects. #3 son Benson Fong and sidekick Matlon Moore (portrayed as a very atypical stereotyped black person of era) are along for the fun and provide comic relief. Chan also has a few good one liners he delivers to #3 son. As most of the movies made during wartime were careful and cautionary, this outing is much more relaxed and entertaining and is more typical of the series prior to the war. I would stick with the pre-war movies (most of them are now public domain and not available). But if you can get them, they are far more enjoyable. For now, we have THE CHINESE CAT for our viewing pleasure.

The best outing by Chan during WWII.
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