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Monday, June 29, 2015

INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENT (1938)

The Charlie Chan unit @ 20th/Fox had a gap to fill between Warner Oland’s last outing as the famous detective (CHARLIE CHAN AT MONTE CARLO/’37) & Sidney Toler’s first (CHARLIE CHAN IN HONOLULU/’38). Hence, two near-CHAN pics: MR. MOTO’S GAMBLE/’38 (probably the weakest MOTO), refitted from a ready-to-go Chan script; and this topical ‘Dangerous Orient’ adventure which might as well have been. Worldly George Sanders ‘meets cute’ with amateur reporter June Lang on a boat heading to war threatened Shanghai. Smooth, but threadbare, Sanders takes on an illegal guns & ammunition sale from a dying passenger only to find himself on the run with a belt-full of cash after a botched delivery, and falling for a local chanteuse who may be setting him up for a rival gang of cutthroats. Oh, and there’s that pesky bomb attack due any minute. June Lang & newsreel guy Dick Baldwin make an exceptionally dopey pair of secondary lovers, but the main espionage stuff isn’t half bad. Delores Del Rio, spectacularly made up as a Latin Garbo, sings nicely & gives blood infusions as needed, while John Carradine & Leon Ames make entertaining heavies. (Poor George Sanders lives down a caddish pencil-thin mustache, but not the curled & brilliantined hair.) Drop June Lang and most of the opening reel, and you’ve got a decent B-pic.

DOUBLE-BILL: More ‘Dangerous Orient’ drama in the very same locale in Frank Lloyd’s THE SHANGHAI STORY/’54, now with Communists causing all the trouble.

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