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Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944)

Cast: Sidney Toler, Sidney Toler, Gwen Kenyon, more...
Director: Phil Rosen, Phil Rosen
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: MGM
Running Time: 65 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Having ended its 11-year run at 20th Century-Fox, the "Charlie Chan" series set up shop at Monogram with the singularly uninspiring Charlie Chan in the Secret Service. Sidney Toler returns as the famed oriental detective, who, per the title, is now a government agent. His first assignment is to solve the murder of an inventor and recover the victim's secret plans. Two reels into the picture, all action grinds to a halt as Chan wearily interrogates the suspects. The identity of the murderer might have caught some filmgoers by surprise in 1944, but seasoned mystery fans will beon to the game the minute the culprit is introduced. The one saving grace of Charlie Chan in the Secret Service is the stereotypical but undeniably funny comedy relief of Mantan Moreland, making his first appearance as pop-eyed chauffeur Birmingham Brown. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Charlie Chan! by kamapuaa August 9, 2004 - 4:38 PM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
I went into the Charlie Chan series about the same way as I would approach Amos & Andy or Birth of a Nation, but I've actually come to enjoy the movies. The series is infamous for perpetuating stereotypes, but I found the three sins somewhat of a trifle:

1) Charlie Chan is a Chinese person played by a non-Chinese (this is still common practice in Hollywood and even some HK movies).

2) Charlie Chan talks in maxisms and a slightly broken English (big deal, it's inaccurate but not terribly over-the-top).

3) Charlie Chan has a gigantic family that he seems to run like a clan (a mostly-forgotten stereotype that isn't particularly harmful).

Overall I think Charlie Chan is the coolest movie detective ever. He walks into the room and everybody recognizes that he's in charge, and then Charlie Chan goes about taking charge of things, the way Asians in current Hollywood films don't. His (Chinese-actor) children are attractive and spirited but naive, a cliche currently given to blondes with big breasts. If there's a complaint of racism to be made, it's in the completely embarassing black driver, who operates as comic relief by being superstitious and foolish and making bug-eyes.

I must admit that on its own merits, the Charlie Chan movies are merely average, competent but unambitious. They remind one a bit too much of Murder, She Wrote. Watch them because of a sociological interest, or an interest in what a genuine B-movie was like - these movies would be played before and after the main attraction.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.80)
10 Votes
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