Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On DVD: Charlie Chan & the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)

Earl Derr Biggers' legendary detective returned to the big screen for the final time in 1981's "Charlie Chan & the Curse of the Dragon Queen". The producers, however, brought shame & embarrassment to the legend with this comic farce that should've been a TV-movie, nothing more.

Chan (Peter Ustinov) comes out of retirement to help Chief Baxter (Brian Keith, ex-Family Affair) of the San Francisco Police Department solve a series of bizarre murders. Keith hams it up, as Baxter seems to have a never ending laundry list of ailments. Chan's grandson, Lee, Jr. (Richard Hatch, ex-Battlestar Galactica, All My Children) is an aspiring sleuth, hoping to follow in Grandpa's footsteps. Unfortunately, he seems to be following the lead of another detective, Inspector Cleuseau. I guess the idiots in charge of this folly wanted to see if Hatch could do physical comedy. And you wonder why Hatch didn't make another picture after this one......

Lee Chan, Jr. was adopted by the widow Lubowitz (Lee Grant) years earlier, but we don't know what happened to Lee, Sr. to explain the adoption. Lubowitz's husband was killed by the Dragon Queen (Angie Dickinson, ex-Police Woman) in Hawaii some years prior, but was captured by Charlie Chan. The "Curse" in the title was little more than what the wrestling business would call a swerve, as Dragon Queen is not the true villain of the piece.

Michelle Pfeiffer makes one of her first appearances as Lee's fiancee, Cordelia. How she can put up with a klutzy boyfriend is another mystery. Roddy McDowell was wasted here as a butler who uses a wheelchair to get around when he doesn't need one. He'd have been better served checking into the prospect of reviving Planet of the Apes as a TV franchise.

Here's a commercial for the movie, as seen on TV:

Nearly a decade earlier, Chan had been brought back in a TV-movie, "Happiness Is A Warm Clue". I wish I could find that on DVD. It'd at least be better than this.

Rating: D.

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