Charlie Chan: Sidney Toler (Collector's Edition) DVD
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Directed by Various
Produced in 1938-42
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
Eleven films (1938-42) featuring the master Chinese-American detective. Sidney Toler's portrayal was slightly edgier, as befitted the times.
Dating from the golden age of uncomplicated entertainment and tooled by Hollywood craftsmen, these are fine examples of old-time moviemaking made by professionals at the top of their game.
They are also very much products of their time so it’s worth noting that the twenty three Charlie Chan films spread across these two sets date from an era that saw nothing wrong with hiring a white actor to ‘yellow up’ to play Chinese, then furnishing him with pidgin English dialogue and a ready supply of fortune-cookie aphorisms
But Confucius, he say ‘is bad idea to judge old movies by modern standards’. This series was, in its day, considered progressive. The films were especially popular with Chinese audiences, who loved seeing a smart, likeable Asian character as the hero. Indeed, so beloved was Chan in China that Chinese filmmakers actually started making their own Charlie Chan films, with Chinese actors imitating the Westerners who played Chan! (Sadly those films are beyond the remit of these sets, which only cover the films made by 20th Century Fox.) It wasn’t just the Chinese who were Chan fans. This series was popular with audiences around the world and it’s easy to see why: they are fantastically enjoyable films.
Originally created by the writer Earl Derr Biggers, Charlie Chan was, ostensibly, a detective in the Honolulu police force, whose duties took him far beyond Hawaii – to London! Monte Carlo! Egypt! – where he would encounter murder, mystery and misbehaviour, which he swiftly resolved.
The first Chan was Warner Oland, a Swedish actor (Sweden, China – it’s all ‘abroad’, right?) who established Chan as a sagacious sleuth whose deceptive modesty and unfailing politeness concealed a razor sharp mind. When Oland died, Sidney Toler (an American) adopted the mantle and the adventures continued much as before, albeit with a little more edge.
Yes, these films are products of their time, but that applies to more than just their casting choices. Those guys knew how to craft efficient, satisfying fare in a way that has been utterly forgotten by today’s tinsel town.
James Oliver on 21st July 2011
Author of 146 reviews
The first film featuring Charlie Chan, The House Without a Key, appeared in 1925. Forty-seven films and six Charlie Chans later, the series still delights audiences. Charlie Chan connoisseurs cite a variety of reasons for the honourable detective’s longevity and appeal, ranging from his wit and personality to the films’ fascinating casts that often included future celebrities.
Following the death of Warner Oland in 1938, 20th Century Fox began the search for a new Charlie Chan. Thirty-four actors were tested before the studio made their decision to choose Sidney Toler, who, instead of mimicking the character that Oland had portrayed, adopted a sharper, more sarcastic edge that was suited to the rapidly changing times. Toler portrayed the Chinese American detective in 11 films for 20th Century Fox, who concluded the series with Castle in the Desert (1942), after which he continued his portrayal in a number of films for the budget studio Monogram Pictures.
Contains: Charlie Chan ... In Honolulu (1938), In Reno, At Treasure Island, City in Darkness, (1939), In Panama, Murder Cruise, At the Wax Museum, Murder Over New York (1940), Dead Men Tell, In Rio (1941) and Castle in the Desert (1942).
Publisher: Odeon Entertainment
Length: 710 mins
Cat No: ODNFB020
Format: DVD B&W
- 6 discs
- Digitally Remastered by 20th Century Fox
- Exclusive extras and picture galleries
- Luxury foldout digi-pack with booklet.