It has been announced that the Twentieth Century Fox series of Charlie Chan films is now to be released officially on DVD in the UK. Previously only available in the UK in less that stellar versions, these appear to be based on the expensive and highly impressive restorations used for the US releases. While those were spread over five volumes, these are much less unwieldy, and cost-effective, bundling together all the extant Warner Oland titles (sadly some are still missing believed lost) in one set and the Sidney Toler films released by the studio in the other. Toler also made a batch for Monogram and some of these have already been made available in the UK as part of the excruciatingly titled Charlie Chan Chanthology …
Going on sale as two six-disc box sets from the middle of August as Region 2 DVDs (sadly not on Blu-ray yet), these have a recommended price each of £69 through Moviemail (visit them at: www.moviemail-online.co.uk/). They appear to be offering them exclusively at present and have them available for £55 each, which is a real bargain.
Of the Warner Oland titles, the standouts include two entries with scripts by Philip MacDonald (those set in Paris and London), while Charlie Chan At the Opera features a guest appearance by Boris Karloff and a specially written music piece by Oscar Levant. The less well-known Charlie Chan’s Secret is particularly atmospheric however. Of the Toler films, the best are probably Charlie Chan At Treasure Island and Charlie Chan in Panama, not least for their ultra stylish direction by B-movie auteur Norman Foster, who at that time was writing (often in collaboration with Philip MadDonald in fact) and directing the excellent Mr Moto films starring Peter Lorre (sadly not yet available in the UK, though the US sets are well worth seeking out). These are films very much of their time and the notion of European actors playing Orientals is pretty laughable today – but Chan is very much the hero in these films, always the smartest and coolest person in the room, and as such is certainly worth celebrating as an unusually positive portrayal well outside the ethnic stereotypes common at the time.
The sets contain the following films:
The Warner Oland Collection
The Black Camel (1931)
Charlie Chan In London (1934)
Charlie Chan In Paris (1934)
Charlie Chan In Egypt (1934)
Charlie Chan In Shanghai (1935)
Charlie Chan’s Secret (1935)
Charlie Chan At the Circus (1935)
Charlie Chan At the Race Track (1935)
Charlie Chan At the Opera (1936)
Charlie Chan At the Olympics (1936)
Charlie Chan On Broadway (1936)
Charlie Chan At Monte Carlo (1937).
The Sidney Toler Collection
Charlie Chan In Honolulu (1938)
Charlie Chan In Reno (1938)
Charlie Chan At Treasure Island (1938)
City in Darkness (1939)
Charlie Chan In Panama (1939)
Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise (1939)
Charlie Chan At the Wax Museum (1939)
Murder Over New York (1940)
Dead Men Tell (1940)
Charlie Chan In Rio (1941)
Castle in the Desert (1942) – see the great review of this film over at Yvette’s glorious blog, in so many words …
For complete details, visit the Moviemail website – these two releases as currently listed as exclusives though its possible that they will be available from other retailers eventually.