Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On DVD: "Black Magic", aka "Meeting at Midnight" (1944)

No one would ever think there would be any sort of supernatural content in a Charlie Chan mystery, but such was the case in 1944's "Black Magic", which, when it was aired on television, was retitled, "Meeting at Midnight", for reasons unknown.

Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland), who had joined up with Team Chan by this time, has signed on as a butler for a wealthy couple who are holding a seance. We are also introduced to Chan's daughter, Frances (coincidentally played by an actress named Frances Chan), whom Dad refers to as the "Beauty of the Chan family". Oh, indeed. Anyway, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is called in when the police determine Frances is a suspect in a murder.

The Chans and Birmingham are in nearly every scene the rest of the way, and this movie flies by very quickly. Just to illustrate the absurdity of it all, Charlie pretends to be a psychic to joke around with the local police, and has some sort of gimmick strapped to his back. He ends up captured by the villain and, under hypnosis, is made to walk to the roof of a tall building, but Chan wakes up in time. Ultimately, he decides he's going to conduct a seance of his own to unmask the killer.

Let's just say that the killer isn't who you'd think it is, and leave it at that.

Not the best in the series, of course, and Toler had better outings than this one.

Edit, 5/3/17: Here is the complete film. 

Rating: B.

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