The Jade Mask (1945)

Article #1386 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2004
Posting Date: 5-29-2005
Directed by Phil Rosen
Featuring Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland, Edwin Luke

A scientist who was developing a gas to make wood as hard as steel is murdered, and Charlie Chan is called in to investigate.

It’s another Charlie Chan movie, but this one was made nine years later than CHARLIE CHAN’S SECRET after the title role had changed actors (Warner Oland to Sidney Toler) and the series had moved from 20th Century Fox to Monogram. In terms of its fantastic content, it has a fair amount; the gas in question (though it is never really used as such during the course of the movie), some of the lab scenes, and a trap room all have touches of science fiction to them, and there’s also a spooky feeling to some of the opening scenes. I also like the comic relief, with Edwin Luke as #4 son, and the great Mantan Moreland as the Birmingham the chauffeur. There’s also several interesting characters populating the story. I do have some problems, though. There are a number of unique elements to the story (the gas experiments, the trap room, the disappearing policeman subplot, the mysterious appearance of the body of a man downstairs who had just gone upstairs, a series of masks, a tire pump, a cast of an ear, and a set of ventriloquist dummies), but I don’t think the elements mesh all that well by the end of the movie. My other problem was with Sidney Toler, who for me never served as an adequate replacement for Warner Oland; whereas Oland always seemed totally involved in the story around him, Toler here comes across as distracted and somewhat bored, and he also lacked the authority that Oland brought to the role.

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