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6 Degrees Entertainment

'TCM Spotlight: Charlie Chan Collection'
(Sidney Toler, Roland Winters, Benson Fong, Victor Sen Yung, Gloria Warren, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / 2010 / Warner Home Video)

Overview: Four of Charlie Chan’s beloved hits move into the spotlight as Charlie Chan Mysteries makes its remastered debut as part of the established TCM Spotlight series. Presented by Warner Home Video (WHV), the set includes four films specifically selected to showcase an unforgettable cast of characters: Dark Alibi, Dangerous Money, The Trap and The Chinese Ring.

DVD: This wonderful 'TCM Spotlight: Charlie Chan Collection' set of mysteries, based on Earl Derr Biggers' Chinese-Hawaiian detective, tells four tales here - and features Caucasian (Scottish/American) actor Sidney Toler in the lead.

Sadly, as we know now in hindsight, budget restraints forced some of these Chan features to reduce the quality of their productions, and more often than not, the films took place on limited sets and without the scope or atmosphere of the earlier films. Plots were also reduced in running time and ambition. But the key pleasure of the Charlie Chan films is watching the detective unravel the case (no matter how convoluted) in his deliberate and patient manner, and Toler's performance (who would bring the character to Monogram and continue to play him until his death in 1947, after which Chan was essayed by Roland Winters) remains a distinct pleasure.

The most popular American films in 1930s China, the Chan movies were based on a fictional Chinese-American detective originally created by Earl Derr Biggers in 1923. More than four dozen films featuring Charlie Chan have been made since 1926. In 1931, the Fox Film Corporation cast Swedish actor Warner Oland as Chan in Charlie Chan Carries On; the film was a success, and Fox went on to produce 15 more Chan films with Oland in the title role.

The films in this collection are: Dark Alibi (1946), Dangerous Money (1946), The Trap (1946), and The Chinese Ring (1947) - which also featured Roland Winters as Chan!

Detailing a couple now for you, those being Dark Alibi and The Trap, the latter movie is simply woeful and not even a decent entry in the Monogram series from which all the movies on here derive! Indeed, this was Toler's swansong playing Chan and, at the time, he was gravely ill with little time remaining. Naturally this has an adverse effect on his performance.

Dark Alibi, is, however, an entertaining yarn and ranks right up there with any title released on the other Monogram DVD collection i.e 'The Chanthology'. I've only ever seen one Roland Winters Chan movie and that was 'The Goldeneye' - and that we can all live without! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.