Meeting at Midnight (1944)

     Meeting at Midnight (1944), also known as Black Magic, was the third Charlie Chan film produced by Monogram Pictures.  Sidney Toler purchased the series from Twentieth-Century Fox, when they decided to cancel the series after Castle in the Desert (1942).  Toler portrays Inspector Charlie Chan for the fourteenth time in this film.

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Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan from the Public Domain

     Inspector Chan intends to return to Honolulu, when his daughter Frances is accused of murder.  Police Sgt. Matthews, played by Joseph Crehan, is investigating the murder.  Matthews does not believe Frances Chan committed the murder but uses her presence at the murder scene to induce Charlie Chan to help him on the case.

     Inspector Chan’s investigation leads to the scene of a séance.  During the séance, a voice keeps asking, “What happened in London, October the 5th, 1935?”  When Inspector Chan solves this riddle, he will solve the murder.

     One of the neater things about the film is Charlie Chan’s exposure of the fraudulent practices of the mediums operating at the time.  He shows how the medium uses sound equipment, visual effects and props to create the “haunted” atmosphere of the séance.

     Mantan Moreland also returns as Birmingham Brown.  Born in Monroe, Louisiana on September 3, 1902,  Moreland  may have been the most prolific black actor of the 1930s and 1940s.  THe stereotyped character he is forced to play can be hard to watch at times.

      Even these restrictions could not repress Moreland’s charisma and comic timing.  In response to one of Sgt. Matthew’s questions, Birmingham responds, “No, sir.  That was strictly a private murder to which I was not invited!”

     The film runs 67 minutes and is available on YouTube.  It would be a good weekend escape for an hour or so.

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