Charlie Chan in London is one my favorite movies in the series. The opening grips you when you discover that a young man is about to be executed for a murder he claims he didn't commit. Only his sister believes in his innocence, and all avenues of escape seem closed after the Home Secretary turns down her appeal. But she begs Charlie Chan to see what can be done in the remaining three days.
Charlie is about to leave London but changes his plans to help the young people. Arriving at an English country manor, Charlie must examine the setting to find out what really happened. Only by finding the real killer can the young man be saved.
It all looks pretty bleak until Charlie re-creates the crime and begins to pick up clues. A rattled murderer soon begins making mistakes.
The mystery is a hard one to solve, and you won't identify the killer much before Charlie does. The continual tolling of time adds real suspense and drama to the investigation.
One of the strengths of this movie is that excellent character actors are allowed to steal scenes, in the best tradition of 30's movies: A supercilious and suspicious butler wants to keep Charlie out of the house; a drunk and his wife provide humorous by plays making fun of English pretentiousness; and a not-too-bright police detective has trouble with Charlie's name and following what Charlie tells him.
Drue Leyton is solid in the role of Pamela Gray, sister of the accused man. Her leading man, Ray Milland, is somewhat weak in his role . . . not yet having developed into the suave, assured actor he later became. But it's fun to see Milland as a young actor.
The setting is well done. With one exception (driving in a car with the steering wheel on the left), all the settings ring true for being in England. Especially good for local color is a fox hunt complete with full kit, dogs, and a fox.
If you watched this movie as a youngster as I did, I'm sure it will also provide some nostalgia by helping you remember how you reacted to the movie the first time you saw it.
CHARLIE CHAN IN LONDON was produced shortly after the death of Chan's creator, Earl Derr Biggers. The screenplay for this film was written by Philip MacDonald. The role of Chan was played by Warner Oland and the supporting cast included Drue Leyton, Doublas Walton and a very young Ray Milland. The plot focused on Charlie's efforts to save an innocent man from execution.
I received this DVD today and I'm very disappointed in the quality of the film transfer. It looks very rough and ready and doesn't make for easy viewing. Surely a better job could have been done than this? It's rather like seeing the film on an old video machine.
This is a great pity as the actual story is vintage Chan.