DVD Review: The 'Charlie Chan Collection'

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Earl Derr Biggers wanted to break a stereotype that was prevalent in the early 20th century in regards to Chinese-Americans, equality or at least as honorable and intelligent as anyone. Basing his character of a real Honolulu detective, Briggs created a beloved individual, Charlie Chan.

Over the years from first being a novel, there have been more than 50 films with this character traveling all over the world and solving some of the most baffling cases of “who done it’s”. From the U.S. to Egypt, from trains to ships, from Humans to the supernatural, Chan happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or is it the right time. Warner Bros. Entertainment brings you a small sampling of these masterful tales in the ‘Charlie Chan Collection’, featuring four films with 2 stars in the title role of Chan; starting with “Shadows Over Chinatown”, “Docks of New Orleans”, “Shanghai Chest” and “the Golden Eye”.

With Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan, we start with one of Toler’s last films, ‘Shadows Over Chinatown’. San Francisco is the backdrop for this story with Chan, with the help of his #2 son and trusted chauffeur are investigating a murder for profit ring involving insurance premiums. Directed by Terry O. Morse (Godzilla, Blue Hawaii) and written Raymond L. Schrock (Danny Boy, Club Havana).

Next we jump to the new Charlie Chan as Toler would pass away and the mantle picked up by Roland Winters. In ‘Docks of New Orleans’ we catch up with Chan who just happens to be in New Orleans when the owner of shipping company ask for his help in solving what may or may not be in the containers he is in charge of. With his trusted #2 son and chauffer, Chan is on the case but is weary of who is who and what the true nature of the shipment is. Directed by Derwin Abrahams (Hopalong Cassidy, The Cisco Kid) and written by Scott Darling (Murder at Midnight, The Ghost of Frankenstein).

How can one man be at three murder locations, in different places, and is dead?!?!? A true ‘who done it’ will once again be no match for Charlie Chan in ‘Shanghai Chest’. A young man will be caught in the act of investigating what happened will be thought of, as the murderer. Can Chan find who he was talking too and how everyone is involved? Only Roland Winters as Chan can tell. Directed by William Beaudine (Lassie, The Ape Man) written by Scott Darling and Samuel Newman (Jungle Manhunt, Voodoo Tiger).

Rounding out the collection is another classic by Beaudine, Darling and Winters again in the title role of Chan, ‘The Golden Eye’. Heading to the American southwest, Arizona, under the guise of tourists at a dude ranch, try to help a mine owner that has suddenly hit it rich, see why things may be amiss. Someone may even be out to murder the mine owner.

It is something for everyone in this collection that enjoys the murder mystery genre of the 40’s. With its longevity having spanned from the late 20’s to the 50’s and even reincarnated later, Chan films have had its ups and downs with their presentation. These films were all done prior to stereo and have been re-mastered for today’s systems. The quality is good but definitely adds to the classic feel of the films. These are black and white films, which I am happy to say, have been mastered to be much clearer than the original presentation, again keeping these classics modern for a new generation. The only complaint, if any, is that each disk only has the film and no extra features. A little time could have been taken to dig up or research more in depth information and trivia to make this collection much more valuable in classic collections.

When all is said and done and putting behind the ‘stereotype’ that many critics could not pry themselves away from, the Chan series of films are an enjoyable stroll through Hollywood’s heyday and Golden era. The collection will delight young and old and inspire some to find more of this wonderful films to take pleasure in.

The Charlie Chan Collection is now available to own on DVD. Click the link below to get your copy.

About The Films:

Shadows Over Chinatown
Charlie Chan heads to San Francisco on a murder case when he encounters a mother trying to find her daughter who’s gone missing. Chan also meets a young man, searching for his missing girlfriend. Charlie determines they’re both looking for the same person and soon uncovers a murder gang, which has been illegally benefiting from life insurance of the dead.

Docks of New Orleans
Charlie is asked to investigate after the mysterious demise of a New Orleans chemical company magnate, because even though the police believe the death was caused by a heart attack, a series of unexplainable deaths follow. Only Charlie Chan can solve the mystery!

Shanghai Chest
Three people are murdered in San Francisco – a judge, District Attorney and a juror. The fingerprints of a deceased man are found at all three murder sites, but could it really be possible for a dead man to be a serial killer? Again, leave it to Charlie Chan..!

The Golden Eye
An Arizona gold mine is suddenly making a ton of money. The mine’s owner, instead of delighting in his newfound wealth, confides to Charlie that something is wrong and he fears for his life. Charlie and “friends” go to the mine, pretending to be just visitors. They soon discover that the mine is being used as a cover up for some major crimes and that, indeed, somebody will soon be murdered.