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PHOTOGRAPHY

CHARLIE CHAN Volume One

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: five Charlie Chan films (79 minutes, 71 minutes, 72 minutes, 71 minutes, 79 minutes, four featurettes, trailer

STUDIO: 20th Century FOX

RELEASE DATE: 6-20-2006

Many years ago, I discovered Charlie Chan back in the days when AMC was still the great channel known as American Movie Classics. I watched several Charlie Chan movies during the two holiday marathons that aired on AMC during the mid 1990s. I watched two different actors play Charlie Chan: Warner Oland and Sidney Toler. Warner Oland is my favorite of the two most recognized actors to play Chan. I think Oland owns the part much more than Toler. Warner Oland starred as Charlie Chan in 16 films. So I was happy when FOX decided to release four of the early Charlie Chan films starring Warner Oland (sadly the four Chan films before CHARLIE CHAN IN LONDON appear to be lost- CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON, CHARLIE CHAN'S CHANCE, CHARLIE CHAN'S GREATEST CASE, CHARLIE CHAN'S COURAGE). It was just like visiting an old friend who was gone for too long. Anyway FOX needs to find a way to make back the $2 million they spent on restoring the Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto films (Mr. Moto is coming to DVD in August) and DVD is a fine place to let fans enjoy the world's favorite Chinese detective from Honolulu. It looks like 20th Century Fox Home Video is giving Warner Home Video a run for their money when it comes to giving the proper treatment to the classic films.

CHARLIE CHAN IN LONDON is the case of catching Charlie Chan at the right time before he left London to go home to Honolulu. He has 64 hours to find the real murderer before an innocent man is hanged. Charlie uncovers information that the British police didn't deem important or care to find out about.

CHARLIE CHAN IN PARIS is my favorite out of the four films. Charlie goes to Paris to solve a case of forged bank notes coming from a Paris bank only to get wrapped up in two murders with his son Lee (number one son played by Keye Luke) helping to investigate. The film's story distracts you in an attempt to keep you from solving the mystery before Charlie does.

CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT is slightly supernatural. He gets wrapped up in an other murder case involving a dead professor looking for a tomb. Watch for an early appearance by Rita Hayworth (billed here as Rita Cansino).

CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI sees Chan face off against smugglers in Shanghai. A couple of cute moments and more comedy are featured in this installment. Lee takes on the action stuff that Charlie can't.

ERAN TRECE is the Spanish version of the lost Charlie Chan film, CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON. what is interesting about this film is that Charlie doesn't appear until 40 minutes in (the movie is 79 minutes). The actor playing Charlie isn't as good as Warner Oland, but the film was shot using the same script and different actors. It will be a real treasure if CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON is ever found. ERAN TRECE is a bonus feature on the CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI disc.

VIDEO: 1.33:1 (Full Frame)

Judging from the shape and condition that the four films were in when I viewed the Restoration featurette, FOX has done a great job. CHARLIE CHAN IN EYGPT is the one that isn't in as good shape as the others. However, the one in the worst shape despite the restoration is CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI. ERAN TRECE is OK looking, but it is a level below the quality of the four Charlie Chan films. Dirt, sratches, and video noise are still presnt despite the best clean up efforts that put the look of the Chan films light years ahead of what they once looked like.

AUDIO: English Mono, Spanish Mono (for ERAN TRECE only)

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Dialogue and sound are good, but a little background hiss is present at times (more so with ERAN TRECE).

SPECIAL FEATURES: The four featurettes (three of them except for the Restoration featurette are in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen) and other extras are spread out over the four discs in the collection.

CHARLIE CHAN IN LONDON-

THE LEGACY OF CHARLIE CHAN focuses on the impact Charlie Chan has had and the important step he had for being a role model when Asians were looked down on in the USA when the films first came out.

Also included on the disc is restoration featurette comparing what each film in the collection looked like before to what they look like after digital clean-up. About 400 hours were spent in trying to restore the four Charlie Chan movies to their original condition. Next is the trailer for CHARLIE CHAN IN LONDON (which is also repeated on the other three discs). I wish they cleaned up the trailer.

CHARLIE CHAN IN PARIS-

IN SEARCH OF CHARLIE CHAN chronicles the career of Earl Derr Biggers, the creator of Charlie Chan, and the early history of Charlie Chan on film. The author thought the FOX films were the first ones to get Charlie Chan right and yet he didn't like Charlie's witty sayings being rewritten. He died before he could see the impact Charlie had on the world and the introduction of Lee Chan, Charlie's eldest son.

CHARLIE CHAN IN EGYPT-

THE REAL CHARLIE CHAN looks at the real Honolulu policeman who was the basis for the Charlie Chan character, Chang Apana. He used a bullwhip as a weapon and his career is interesting enough that it would make a great film. His descendants, cops, and others tell stories about him.

As mentioned earlier in the review, ERAN TRECE (the Spanish version of a lost Charlie Chan film) is an extra on the CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI disc.

FINAL ANALYSIS: FOX has done a great job with the CHARLIE CHAN COLLECTION VOLUME ONE. The restoration work is top notch, the artwork is good, and I liked visiting an old friend via DVD. The big suggestion for future sets is have the films in slim cases instead of regular DVD cases.

this review is (c)6-22-2006 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission (except for excerpts and a link to the review). Look for additional content at http://enterlinemedia.livejournal.com and send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com