I was very pleased to hear that Fox Home Video is continuing their DVD releases of the Charlie Chan series. Volume 3, due in stores on August 14, is a particular bonanza as it contains the remaining Warner Oland Chan films, including the long sought-after "The Black Camel" previously available only on bootleg tapes of poor quality. (There are several additional Warner Oland Charlie Chan titles from the early 1930s titles that are lost. It is hoped they will turn up in a dusty corner of some vault somewhere).
One title happily not lost, however, is "The Black Camel."
"The Black Camel" from 1931, was apparently leased by Warner Home Video. I haven't seen it in more than 30 years when a film collector friend loaned it to my dad on 16 mm. If memory serves it's pretty good. Unlike most Hollywood films at the time that were filmed on studio backots, Fox sent cast and crew to Honolulu to film on location. The scenes of 1931 Hawaii are fascinating, and as an added bonus to horror buffs, the film re-teams "Dracula" stars Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye as suspects. I'm really looking to re-visiting this one.
"Charlie Chan's Secret" was previously released on VHS, and is a good mystery involving a mysterious mansion and a seance. "Charlie Chan on Broadway" has a jaw dropping twist at the end. "Charlie Chan in Monte Carlo" was Warner Oland's last film, and is, sad to say, one of the weakest Chan films of all. The mystery is uninvolving and Oland seems distracted and bored. There is an amusing sequence, however, when Charlie tries to order a waffle for breakfast from an uncomprehending French waiter.
As an added bonus, the set will include the first talkie Charlie Chan film, the 1929 "Behind That Curtain." Though based on a Chan novel, the film only includes Charlie briefly at the very end. The rest of it is pretty dull stuff, though for the completist in us, it will be nice to have.
Augst 14 can't come soon enough.