Dead Men Tell (1941)

dead men tell 1941

Charlie Chan and number two son Jimmy deal with a treasure map, the ghost of a pirate, a mysterious sea captain and even a parrot named Gertie. Not one of the better entries in the series as it uses too many movie staples of the day and comes out bland. Victor Sen Yung really overdoes it as Jimmy in this one.

The Suva Star is leaving on a cruise to the Cocos Islands to find a treasure worth sixty million dollars. Captain Kane (Truman Bradley) doesn’t want to be seen by the passengers before the ship sails. He tells Steve Daniels it’s his own superstition. Daniels is partners in the cruise with the elderly Patience Nodbury.

Charlie shows up after finding clues that number two son Jimmy is aboard lured by the treasure hunt. Patience tells him the treasure map was drawn by her pirate ancestor Blackhook. She divided it into four pieces. She has one and sent the others to some passengers. She says there’s a family superstition that when a family member is about to die they’ll hear a pegleg, and then there’ll be a scratch on the door by a hook. The ghost of BlackHook will be allowed in and then it’s goodbye. It’s not long before she hears the pegleg, opens the door, sees BlackHook and dies of a heart attack. He takes off with her piece of the map.

Now some passengers start arriving. They say they got a message from Steve to come aboard. He never called them. Someone wants the remaining three pieces of the map. One of them is Bill Lydig (George “Superman” Reeves), a reporter. Charlie is surprised because he says Lydig died. Bill says that was his brother Phil who also worked on the paper.

Typist Kate Ransom discovers the body of Patience and Charlie tells Jimmy to go ashore and phone the cops. Jimmy follows the prints of a pegleg to a sailor’s cafe. Turns out it’s attached to an elderly sailor. He overhears a conversation between  psychoanalyst Dr.Anne Bonney and her patient Gene LaFarge. Back on board LaFarge admits he saw Patience’s body.

Charlie gets two map pieces from the passengers and Jimmy discovers the BlackHook disguise and a map piece in Steve’s room. Steve says he’s being framed. Then Charlie finds out his pocket has been picked and his pieces are gone. Kate is found passed out. It was due to a magazine article about a passenger.

Through it all Gertie the parrot makes wisecracks and there’s another murder. There’s a running gag with Jimmy who goes for involuntary swims. Inspector Vessey (Stanley Andrews) comes aboard and makes an arrest. Charlie thinks he has the wrong man.

I don’t know if anything could have saved this. The mystery seems better suited the original Hardy Boys or played for laughs from any comedy team of the day. It tries too hard as it loads up with suspects and lame attempts at comedy relief which it didn’t need.

TV fans will recognize Stanley Andrews as The Old Ranger from “Death Valley Days” (1952-63) and Truman Bradley as the host of “Science Fiction Theatre” (1955-57)



About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
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