Amazon Prime Video runs a reliable stream of old movies. By “old movies” I mean movies that came out before or just after I was born. This is The Golden Eye from 1948, featuring Roland Winters as Honolulu detective Charlie Chan. Details are from Wikipedia. Here is the cast.
- Roland Winters as Charlie Chan
- Victor Sen Yung as Tommy Chan
- Mantan Moreland as Birmingham Brown
- Wanda McKay as Evelyn Manning
- Bruce Kellogg as Talbot Bartlett
- Tim Ryan as Lt. Mike Ruark, aka “Vincent O’Brien”
- Evelyn Brent as Sister Teresa
- Ralph Dunn as Jim Driscoll, superintendent of the Golden Eye
- Lois Austin as Mrs. Margaret Driscoll
- Forrest Taylor as Mr. Manning
- Lee ‘Lasses’ White as Pete
- Lee Tung Foo as Wong Fai, owner of a curio shop (not credited)
Here it is.
The film rolls. We see a San Francisco street at night. We see two pairs of shoes, one brown and one black. The black pair is hesitant. Somebody stops, half turns. Somebody is following the man wearing the shoes.
He’s Mr. Manning, and he stops in at a curio shop run by Wong Fai. He doesn’t want to purchase anything, but he knows the owner. He wants to meet Mr. Fai’s acquaintance, Detective Charlie Chan. Mr. Fai goes to get some tea for Mr. Manning.
Mr. black shoes notices Mr. Manning is alone, and he makes his move. We are all thinking he should not attempt the shot through that plate glass window, because the glass is going to deflect the bullet, and the shot will miss.
And that’s what happens. Mr. Manning is only wounded, and he meets up with Chan. He explains he owns a gold mine in Arizona. The name of the mine is The Golden Eye, hence the title of the movie. Some strange stuff is going on at the mine. The gold output does not agree with the mining reports. Chan will go to check out the situation, but he will stay at a dude ranch so as not to arouse suspicion about his visit. Chan arranges for his chauffeur Birmingham and his son Tommy to come along.
The next shot is Birmingham trying on his new western duds. Get a load of those spurs and also those woolly chaps.
The movie runs slightly more than an hour, but director William Beaudine decided there was plenty of time for some low-grade humor. Tommy and Birmingham spend five minutes on a gag involving Birmingham’s suitcase.
At the resort we see guest Vincent O’Brien getting drunk and making an ass of himself. Here he takes a swat at the rear end of a bathing beauty, and misses.
But he’s really San Francisco Detective Lieutenant Mike Ruark in disguise, and he spots Chan when he comes in and sits by the pool. Ruark is out in Arizona to investigate the strange influx of gold from The Golden Eye.
Bad news. Mr. Manning has taken a tumble down a mine shaft, and we will never see him for the remainder of the movie. His pretty daughter Evelyn worries as the doctor examines the bandaged Manning.
She goes into town to confer with the hunky Talbot Bartlett, who runs an essay office. They discuss a possible dinner date and also the state of the ore from the Manning mine.
Mine boss Jim Driscoll has insisted on hiring a nurse from the nearby nunnery to attend to Manning. Things are beginning to look suspicious.
Chan notices the nurse does recognize the word “tetanus” as a disease. In a ruse, Chan drops a bottle of opioid, and he gets a look at the nun’s shoes as she kneels to pick it up. Where have we seen this plot device before?
That’s right! Exactly ten years before this movie was made, director Alfred Hitchcock used the same device to discover the phony nun aboard the train in The Lady Vanishes.
There is a bunch of snooping around inside the mine, discovering multiple dead bodies, including that of Mr. Manning. Here we see how movies in those days portrayed black people. Birmingham is your comic darkie, afraid of strange things and reliably showing the whites of his eyes.
Much later than one would expect, Chan draws the curtain aside on the evil plot. The phony nun is defrocked, the phony Mr. Manning under the bandages is disclosed to be Margaret Driscoll. When the jig is up, the phony nun pulls a handgun, and attempts to turn the tables. Evelyn comes up from behind, and while Chan watches nonchalantly, she fights the fake nun for the deadly weapon. Yes, I find this hard to believe, as well.
Jim Driscoll attempts to make a run for it, and Bartlett, waiting outside, shoots him dead. It turns out Bartlett is behind the whole business, planning to marry Evelyn for her stake in the mine.
Scott Darling wrote the script, which is not up to a typical Earl Derr Biggers mystery. For example:
Hayley nodded. “The chap from Hawaii. Sergeant Chan–was that the name?”
“Charlie Chan–yes. But he’s an inspector now, in Honolulu.” “You hear from him then?”
At long intervals, yes.” Duff lighted his pipe. “Busy as I am, I’ve kept up a correspondence. Can’t get Charlie out of my mind, somehow. I wrote him a couple of months ago, asking for news of himself.”
“And he answered?”
“Yes–the reply came only this morning.” Duff took a letter from his pocket. “There are, it appears, no news,” he added, smiling.
Hayley leaned back in his chair. “None the less, let’s hear the letter,” he suggested.
Biggers, Earl Derr. Charlie Chan Carries On (pp. 2-3). Ktoczyta.pl. Kindle Edition.
Any movie fan watching this is going to notice multiple anomalies. For example, Chan figures out the nun is phony. Yet he allows the ruse to continue the ruse for another day or so, all the while not investigating the condition of Mr. Manning under all those bandages, or even whether it is Manning under those bandages. In the meantime the unfortunate Manning dies. Not much serious police work going to waste.