Charlie Chan: The Scarlet Clue

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Since I still enjoy Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in their Sherlock Holmes films, I decided to try a Charlie Chan film for last week’s “old movie.” They are commingled in my mind as a local TV station used to rotate Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes films. I remember watching many Sherlock Holmes films, but had only vaguely remembered Charlie Chan. No I realize why.

Filled with stereotypes and wooden performances. Charlie is played by a white actor whom make up artists make to look Asian. While a Chinese immigrant would speak English imperfectly if he started speaking the language after age 14, this actor’s broken English was a bit much, very annoying. I’m glad we’ve moved to a time when this would be unheard of. The story was thin and weak though the means of poisoning the victims was rather clever. I won’t be watching more of this series.

The previous week’s “old movie” was It’s a Wonderful Life, the classic film that needs no introduction or review. I shared it with my students the last week of class.

Woman in Green

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Last week I had trouble blogging as the Chinese seem to be keen on blocking VPNs. So I have been catching up on old movies for my New Year’s resolution, I just haven’t been able to blog about them.

I enjoyed The Woman in Green, a Sherlock Holmes movie starring Basil Rathbone ad Sherlock and Nigel Bruce as Watson. The pair set the standard for Sherlock and Watson and I appreciate a Sherlock who consistently shows his good humor towards his sidekick’s foibles.

In The Woman in a rich older man, Sir George Fenwick meets and alluring younger woman. After a night out with her he awakes in a cheap hotel room unable to recall how he got there. When he finds a severed finger of a woman in his pocket, he fears that he’s involved in a series of murders. He’s soon blackmailed.

The police are perplexed by the murders and call in Holmes and Watson, who happened to see Sir George out with a beautiful blonde. Sir George’s daughter brings the finger which she dug up after she saw her father burying something suspicious in their yard. When Holmes and Watson go to interview Sir George, they find him dead. Soon Holmes suspects Moriarty‘s involved.

The movie still entertains without getting quite as gruesome as a more modern depiction might. Rathbone portrays Holmes as a sophisticated genius, who may be a trifle arrogant, but has the social skills to smooth problems over as needed. It’s a classic mystery, still fun to watch.

     

    Voice of Terror

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    This week I watched The Voice of Terror for my weekly old movie selection. The Voice of Terror is a Sherlock Holmes film with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. In this film Nazi’s are predicting and broadcasting them minutes before they occur. Trains are getting derailed, factories are getting blown up, and the government is completely ineffective. Time to call in Sherlock Holmes.

    While this 1940s film lacks the slick appeal of the new Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, it’s still highly satisfying. Rathbone is Sherlock and Bruce is Watson, a delightful one to boot. They have a good rapport and can be witty and compelling as a scene requires. I think you have to watch and think a bit more carefully to appreciate the humor here, but even if you miss it, you can enjoy this detective flick. There’s a memorable scene at the end that takes some lines from Doyle’s “The Last Bow.”

    It was rather relaxing to watch an exciting drama that doesn’t need to take its viewers to the edge.

    Violence

    I really can’t take gory violence in any way, shape or form. Suspenseful, off-screen, more psychological violence is another matter. I do love cop shows: Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett or even Basil Rathbone, Columbo, The Closer, and the extraordinary Sherlock and Luther.

    But there’s a line that’s been crossed and the idea of people accepting pain in a psychologically disastrous way is it. This season, sad to say, The Good Wife has crossed this line with their story of Kalinda, the investigator. She’s a tough woman and often saves the day. This season we’ve had to see her ex-husband return and mess with her. She tries to stay away, but she also toys with him and enjoys some of the masochistic activities he’s fond of. It shows her as partially liking them too and it turns my stomach. Otherwise the show is smart and engaging, but I can read or watch something else. To continue down this seedy path just isn’t good for my psyche or soul.

    I hope this storyline soon plays itself out. Then I’ll be back.

    I’m also struggling to watch two Asian films and the violence gets to me. The Korean film The Housemaid chronicles the story of a somewhat innocent, somewhat not woman who take a job as a housemaid for a very cold- hearted, rich family.  The wife is materialistic, vacuous consumer, the husband a heartless, womanizing consumer.  They’re both users, cold blooded users. The wife is pregnant with her second child. The daughter is about 6 or 7 and she’s like a little robot. There’s also a middle aged  stern woman who manages the household and eavesdrops for a cold hearted mother-in-law.

    The husband makes sexual advances towards the housemaid, who’s interested in him, though he treats her like a prostitute, like dirt. The mother-in-law finds out the maid is pregnant and “accidentally” kicks over a ladder the maid is on so she falls two floors. It’s manipulative, vicious and reptilian. Though the film is  beautiful and I thought a way to learn more about Korean culture. I paused it a week ago and can’t bring myself to watch more.

    After pausing The Housemaid, I started watching The Drummer from Hong Kong. The image on Netflix made it seem like it would be a film about a traditional drummer. Nope. It’s about a rock star who sleeps with a gangster’s girlfriend. The gangster finds them together and assigns the drummer’s father to bring him his hands.

    Yep, small world, the drummer’s father is a gangster, who works for the cuckolded king pin. The drummer goes on the run and his father tracks him down. The scene where the father goes to his daughter’s vet clinic and roughs her up, breaking a few of her teeth, was too much for me. Good Lord.

    I remember a conversation with a Chinese man who said in China violence is viewed as beautiful, like a ballet. Whoa. Now you’ve lost me. Just like a scene with a father beating on his daughter so she could tell him where he could find his son to kill him is too much for me.  And I’m fine with that.