A scientist working on an important new invention which will protect Allied shipping from U-boat torpedoes has been assigned Secret Service security protection. Amazingly, despite the fact that his laboratory and experiments are located on the upper floor of his Washington mansion, he decides to host a dinner party for friends on the first floor.
Even though several of his guest are foreign nationals with shadowy pasts, he refuses to allow his bodyguards to attend because their presence might offend his guests. When he is killed by unknown means before he can join them, the resultant summary investigation includes Honolulu detective Charlie Chan and children Tommie and Iris, later joined by Birmingham Brown, the chauffeur of one of the guests.
When a preliminary autopsy reveals the scientist was electrocuted, Charlie and his associates must decide which of the suspects and red herrings is the guilty party.
Sidney Toler ... Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland ... Birmingham Brown
Arthur Loft ... Inspector Jones, Secret Service
Gwen Kenyon ... Inez Arranto
Sarah Edwards ... Mrs. Hargue, Housekeeper
George J. Lewis ... Paul Arranto (as George Lewis)
Marianne Quon ... Iris Chan
Benson Fong ... Tommie Chan
Muni Seroff ... Peter Laska
Barry Bernard ... David Blake
Gene Roth ... Luis Philipe Vega aka Von Vegan (as Gene Stutenroth)
Eddy Chandler ... Lewis, Secret Service (as Eddie Chandler)
Lelah Tyler ... Mrs. Winters
This movie has some of the best film noir photography I have seen in all the Charlie Chan entries. This is one I am still waiting to have issued on DVD, so I can enjoy those visuals.
Storywise, it\'s a decent story with an interesting cast of suspects. My complaint is fairly minor: it is a little below-average in the amount of humorous Charlie Chan proverbs that we Chan fans love so much. Otherwise, I enjoyed the movie.
Although not Charlie\'s official chauffeur-assistant in here as he was in most of these Monogram Chan films, Mantan Moreland (\"Birmingham Brown\") plays his usual role as a guy helping out and adding humor. He\'s a likable guy as are all of Charlie\'s kids, two of them joining in this mystery. We get Number Three Son \"Tommie\" (Benson Fong) and daughter \"Iris\" (Marianne Quon. Chan\'s kids are always nosy, goodhearted and, in the latter-day films, not that helpful.
A few quick action scenes help keep things rolling and, as usual, we get Charlie\'s summary of the case at the end in which our hero exposes the crook. Overall, is this a great Charlie Chan film? No, it\'s average....but just average is still good to me. I love these films and hope all of them eventually are available on disc.
A house full of guests is the setting for this mystery story, wherein a scientist is murdered. Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) investigates, along with his two irksome kids. The wonderful Mantan Moreland plays a bug-eyed Birmingham Brown, a role inserted presumably to add comic relief.
This sixty-three minute film contains about fifty minutes of story. The rest is filler, mostly in the film\'s first half. The story, about a secret WWII torpedo plan, is simple and direct. It\'s the kind of film I can envision as being typical for a 1940\'s Saturday afternoon matinée. There\'s a stage play quality to it, in that most of the scenes take place in three or four rooms. As with other films in the Chan series, the production design here is minimal and cheap looking. The emphasis is on the whodunit puzzle, but that\'s what counts most for murder mystery fans.
And the script does provide a good puzzle. The killer is camouflaged amid well thought out red herrings, in a way that makes solving the puzzle not real easy.
For Charlie Chan fans, this is one of the better mysteries in the Monogram series.
I\'ll say one thing for these Charlie Chan films. There\'s never a shortage of murder suspects and the clues are always readily apparent to the master sleuth but not to the audience. At least, that\'s the usual pattern, even when Sidney Toler joined forces with Monogram for several B-picture entries in the series.
CHARLIE CHAN IN THE SECRET SERVICE follows the pattern precisely, even giving us a final gathering of suspects from which to venture our own guess as to the identity of the murderer. As usual, it\'s at your own risk for it seldom turns out to be the most obvious.
Once again, Toler plays it close to the vest without giving the audience much of a hint as to which suspect he\'s onto. The story gets off to a fast start with the murder of an inventor of a torpedo plan murdered in his own home being guarded by secret service bodyguards.
Chan gets the call to solve the case and discovers that the inventor\'s plans are missing. \"No one leaves until case ends satisfactorily,\" he tells the police. Chan is soon joined by two of his eldest children, who are no help at all in solving the crime. Nor is MANTAN MORELAND as Birmingham Brown, wild-eyed with fear as still another murder occurs.
The explanations are strictly a wild concoction by the screenwriter who has left no stone unturned to make sure that the old cliché about \"the least obvious suspect\" is once again a truism.
Summing up: Good for a few chuckles, but it doesn\'t play fair with the clues.