The Scarlet Clue (1945)

Article #1402 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-15-2005
Posting Date: 6-14-2005
Directed by Phil Rosen
Featuring Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland, Virginia Brissac

Charlie Chan tries to discover the identity of a suspect he had been tailing. His main clue is a blood-soaked footprint.

While watching this one, I found myself wondering whether it had been really intended for the Charlie Chan series or not. For one thing, almost all of Chan’s dialogue is written in straightforward English, rather than the aphoristic style usually used by the character. Unfortunately, this dialogue is at odds with the stilted voice pattern Sidney Toler uses for the role; it makes him sound as if he can’t remember his lines. To compensate for this, the movie uses Mantan Moreland a lot, and even if too many of the gags involve him being scared, he’s still the best thing here. His best scene, though, is with actor/musician Ben Carter; they have an extended conversation where they repeatedly pick up cues from each others uncompleted sentences and understanding each other completely while leaving Benson Fong totally confused.

The fantastic content is slight; there’s a bit of science fiction involving plans for radar, and a slight horror element with the killer walking around at one point in a scary mask and costume. However, one of the most interesting touches is the presence of a character named Horace Karlos, a Shakespearian actor who now specializes in playing monsters. Given that his name rhymes with Boris Karloff, I think we’re seeing another tribute to that actor. You could probably do a whole night of movies which feature characters whose names are modeled after Karloff.


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