Charlie Chan Carries On, published in 1930 was the fifth of author Earl Derr Bigger's six Chan novels. Our premise finds Chan's friend and colleague Inspector Duff, from Behind That Curtain published 1928, pursuing a mysterious killer on board a luxury liner. Duff is wounded when the ship reaches Honolulu and Lt. Chan steps in as a matter of honour and friendship.
Charlie Chan Carries On was the basis of a 1931 film, sadly lost to us in a Fox Studio fire. The movie was Warner Oland's first foray as the Inspector and was directed by Hamilton MacFadden (The Black Camel).
Robertson White (Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome) and Lester Ziffren (Charlie Chan in Panama) reworked the story as Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise to suit the more contemporary sensibilities of the team of Sidney Toler and Sen Yung, who took over the popular series in 1938 with Charlie Chan in Honolulu. Eugene Forde directed the film, his only Toler outing after working on four of Warner Oland's Chan films.
Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise is a treat for fans of the series, fans of mysteries, and fans of the cast of great and familiar character actors featured in prominent roles.
We begin with a little domestic problem for "Pop" Chan dealing with Sen Yung as Jimmy and Layne Tom, Jr. as Willie. Layne Tom, Jr. appeared in three of the Chan films and they gave him a different name in each one!
The arrival of Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard is a "saved by the bell" moment for the Chan offspring. Jimmy, of course, will be back later to "help" with the case. Inspector Duff had been traveling incognito with a party on a cruise, in pursuit of a fiendish serial killer. The Inspector is murdered while at Honolulu Police Headquarters and Lt. Chan request to be assigned to carry on with the case is approved.
Before the ship sets sail for its final destination of San Francisco there is another murder among the party. A retired manufacturer called Kenyon is strangled under mysterious circumstances and his lawyer nephew played by Robert Lowery comes under suspicion. You needn't worry about him as he is involved with Paula Drake played by Marjorie Weaver and the young romantic couple in Chan pictures may get in trouble, but they always get their happy ending.
Cora Witherspoon, Marjorie Weaver, Sidney Toler, Don Beddoe
Susie Watson: "What an advertisement for Honolulu. Scream once and Charlie Chan appears."
We meet more of the party as hotel security played by James Burke joins Lt. Chan in the investigation. Guess what? Jimmy gets involved as well. Susie Watson played by Cora Witherspoon is a most insistent but not particularly reliable witness. She is a hoot who brings a lot of vibrancy to her role and the movie.
Sidney Toler, Leonard Mudie
Leonard Mudie appears as Pendleton, an extremely nervous man, with just cause. He is being pursued by a mad killer. On shipboard Pendleton remains in his cabin with a guard posted on the door. The details have yet to be revealed but apparently, the circumstances extend to his wife's first husband.
Lionel Atwill, Charles Middleton, Sen Yung, Claire Du Brey, Don Beddoe, Sidney Toler
Lionel Atwill plays Dr. Sudeman the organizer of the cruise party. It is his first and he fears the bad publicity - murders are not pleasant - will ruin his business. He desires everything to be handled discreetly.
Charles Middleton and Claire Du Brey play the Watsons. Jimmy rightly calls them "bluenosers." They are killjoys and she claims to be psychic. Just the sort you want along on a cruise.
Let the hobby horse races begin!
It's all fun and games until there is another murder or two. One appears to solve the entire case but Lt. Chan is not so easily fooled. The confines of the ship keep the suspects too close for comfort and too convenient for destroying or creating misleading evidence.
Let the Coroner's Inquest begin!
Cliff Clark, Charles Middleton, Claire Du Brey, Cora Witherspoon, Marjorie Weaver
Robert Lowery, Lionel Atwill, Sen Yung, Leo G. Carroll, Harlan Briggs
Once in San Francisco, the Coroner determines it is quick work to determine the facts and truth of the case, but let's not be too hasty. Lt. Chan has a surprise witness and an even more surprising assistant in bringing the matter to its true successful conclusion.
Jimmy Chan: "Gee, Pop. You sure figured that one out."