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Black Magic (1944)
Chan stalks a fiendish murderer!
Director: Phil Rosen

Chinese detective Charlie Chan solves a murder linked to the occult. This movie had an alternative title: Meeting at Midnight.

Black Magic (1944)


The original intent of the Chan series, I suppose, was to introduce the “oriental” mind to the mystery genre. As with the equally strange notion of Belgian logic with Poirot, we would be charmed by novel synaptic paths.

By the time of this film, indeed early in the series, this novelty seems all but washed away. We are left with two things. One is the possibility of interesting setups, here a sceance-murder with a cigar gun and frozen blood bullet by a transmuted magician. Rather ho hum because of the way it unfolds.

The other is Matman. Since the exploitation of the Chinese mind was wan, we have the similar exploitation of the “black” mind, presumably equally odd but in the other direction. Forget that each direction is fictitious and now considered offensive, each has its own charm.

I really enjoyed watching this comedian work, even though the writers seems to have given him next to nothing at all to work with. This isn’t just a stereotype, it is a skilfully created characterisation. To not recognise this man’s talent is a tacit assumption that he was really like that.

Posted in 2004

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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