Charlie Chan in Panama (1940)
Article 5766 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Norman Foster
Featuring Sidney Toler, Jean Rogers, Lionel Atwill
What it is: Charlie Chan movie
Charlie Chan works undercover in Panama trying to locate a saboteur/assassin named Ryner who has not been identified. One of eight people aboard a plane flight is the assassin, but which one?
The Lentz guides had a tendency to include whole movie series when only a few of the titles had real fantastic content; as a result, he includes all of the Charlie Chan movies. If I had to make the call, I’m not sure whether I’d include this one or not, but I will point out there are some touches of horror to the proceedings; in particular, there’s a visit to a creepy lab and to a creepy graveyard, and the plot includes rats carrying the plague and people trapped in a tomb. As for the movie itself, I must admit I never noticed if the Charlie Chan series had any wartime-themed entries (like the Sherlock Holmes series did) before, but this is definitely one with a war theme, as the plot also involves an American fleet trying to get through the Panama canal. It’s also a very entertaining entry in the series, though fans of Lionel Atwill should be warned that his deceptively high listing in the cast doesn’t reflect how sparingly he is used in this one. Much of the humor comes through the interactions between Toler and Victor Sen Yung as his number two son.