Saturday, November 16, 2013

charlie chan in egypt - 1935

charlie chan in egypt
based on a character created by earl derr biggers

the latest adventure out of charlie chan's casebook lifts the sage of honolulu several notches above the philo vances and the perry masons. where these eminent sleuths are curiously helpless until the fifth or sixth assassination has removed most of the suspects from active competition, charlie requires only two murders for a good running start.(andre sennwald - new york times)

a little while back i decided it would be a good idea to finally get around to reading a charlie chan novel. i liked it quite a bit. by the same token i thought it might be a good idea to finally get around to watching one of the zillion or so charlie chan movies and charlie chan in egypt just happened to be the one.

the title role here was played for the eighth time by swedish-born actor warner oland, who would go on to play chan eight more times. yes, chan is in egypt this time around, trying to sort out the matter of some missing antiquities when he falls in with some archaeologists and their circle. one of their number has gone missing and before long is found inside a sarcophagus, the victim of foul play.

as the quotation listed above suggests, that's not the end of it, as another murder soon follows and then an attempted murder after that. pausing just long enough to toss off a quaint homily ever now and then, chan considers the evidence and the small circle of suspects and manages to figure it all out, including the seemingly clever (but actually flawed) method used to commit one of the murders.

not a bad outing overall, though you'll have to put your political correctness on the shelf to get through it. while some of the portrayals of egyptians are rather ridiculous, it's the role of snowshoe, played by stepin fetchit, that stands out like a sore thumb. since there have been several books written on fetchit there's no need to rehash any of that here. but even ignoring the un-pc aspects of his role, i'd rank this as one of the more irritating characters i've seen. then again, the new york times reviewer referenced above said, "the cast includes stepin fetchit, the master of slow motion, who manages as usual to be both hilarious and unintelligible." so i guess it's all relative.