Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)

Article 1830 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-19-2006
Posting Date: 8-16-2006
Directed by Norman Foster
Featuring Sidney Toler, Victor Sen Yung, Cesar Romero

When a friend commits suicide on an airplane flight, Charlie Chan becomes suspicious about a mystic who he thinks may have been blackmailing him.

I’ve been fairly critical of Sidney Toler’s performances in the Charlie Chan role for some time now, but I must admit that up to this point, I haven’t seen him perform with the same advantages that Warner Oland had when he played the role; specifically, working with the series while it was at Fox rather than at Monogram and while the series still was commanding good scripts. This is an excellent script indeed, and though I still prefer Oland in the role, Toler does just fine this time round. It makes me wonder if the weakness of the other Toler performances may have had something to do with his awareness of how the scripts had gone downhill, though I must say that this is just speculation. At any rate, he adds just the right touch of humor here to make the role sparkle.

This entry in the series also has perhaps the sharpest fantastic elements in comparison to the ones I’ve seen before. The plot involves spiritualism and hypnotism, and there does exist a character who has (within the context of the movie) a very real talent for telepathy. The seance scene is very moody indeed, with Dr. Zodiac proving a memorable presence. The final revelation is quite good, and Victor Sen Yung handles the comic relief duties admirably. However, anybody who expects the plot elements to have something to do with pirates (as per the title) will walk away disappointed; Treasure Island was a site at the World’s Fair in San Francisco.

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