The House on Punchbowl Hill





















The Shanghai Cobra


Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, September 29, 1945
Production: Late May to mid-June 1945
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, August 5, 1945; LP56
New York Preview: August 1, 1945
Sound: Western Electric Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 5,797 feet
Running Time: 63-64 minutes
Source: Based on the Charlie Chan character created by Earl Derr Biggers


Producer: James S. Burkett
Director: Phil Karlson
Assistant Director: Eddie Davis (not credited)
Screenplay: George Callahan and George Wallace Sayre
Original Story: George Callahan
Director of Photography: Vincent Farrar
Editor: Ace Herman 
Production Manager: Glen Cook
Musical Direction: Edward J. Kay
Art Direction: Dave Milton
Recording: Tom Lambert
Technical Director: Ormand McGill (not credited)


CAST:

Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Benson Fong: Tommy Chan
James Caldwell: Ned Stewart
Joan Barclay: Paula Webb (alias Pauline Webster and Paula Van Horn)
Addison Richards: John Adams (alias Jan Van Horn)
Arthur Loft: Bradford Harris (alias Special Agent Hume)
Janet Warren: Lorraine
Gene Stutenroth: Morgan
Joe Devlin: Taylor
James Flavin: H.R. Jarvis
Roy Gordon: Walter Fletcher
Walter Fenner: Inspector Harry Davis
George Chandler: Joe Nelson (not credited)
Mary Moore: Rita (not credited)
Cyril Delevanti: Larkin (not credited)
Stephan Gregory: Samuel Black (not credited)
Bob Blair: Corning (not credited)
Bill Ruhl: Gregory (not credited)
John Goldsworthy: Manwaring (not credited)
Tiny Newlin: Guard (not credited)
Andy Andrews: Policeman (not credited)
Karon Knight: Telephone Switchboard Supervisor (not credited)
Dianne Quillan: Telephone Operator (not credited)
Jack Richardson: Mailman (not credited)
Bob Blkair: Corning (not credited)
Bill Ruhl: Gregory (not credited)



SUMMARY:

After Samuel Black is killed by what appears to be a cobra bite, the third victim in a series of mysterious deaths, Inspector Harry Davis of the New York City homicide squad sends a telegram to his old friend from his early days on the beat in Honolulu, Charlie Chan, for help on this puzzling case.  Davis knows that, eight years ago in Shanghai, China, Chan had worked on a similar "cobra killer" case involving accused murderer Jan Van Horn.  Van Horn, who had been badly disfigured during the Japanese bombing of that city, escaped while under arrest and was never found.

Chan, continuing his work for the United States government during the war, arrives in New York and quickly learns that all three victims had been employed by the Sixth National Bank, whose vault contains millions of dollars worth of the government's radium.  With the help of his number three son, Tommy, and his chauffeur, Birmingham Brown, Chan learns that Ned Stewart, a novice private detective, had been seen with Black on the night of his death.  After Stewart tells Chan that he had been hired by an unknown man to watch Paula Webb, the bank president's secretary, Chan checks with Paula, who corroborates his story.

Meanwhile, Larkin, a police undercover plant working at the Sixth National Bank, disappears after calling Davis for help.  Soon thereafter, Davis learns that gangsters Morgan and Taylor were seen in the office of bank president Walter Fletcher.  Tommy and Birmingham, sighting the thugs on the street, follow them to a nearby laundry.  Discovering a secret passageway leading from the laundry to the city sewer system, Chan's two assistants stumble upon Larkin's body.

An autopsy concludes that Larkin was also killed with cobra venom, so Chan reasons that there must also be a secret passageway into the bank.  Back in the sewers, Chan, Ned Stewart, and Davis discover a secret entrance into Paula's office.

The investigators then go to a nearby coffee shop, whose proprietor, Joe Nelson, tells them that he received his unusual video jukebox, which is connected to an operator in another location, from Van Horn.  Recognizing the female jukebox operator's voice from the bank, Chan and Davis search the office of chemical engineer H. R. Jarvis, where they find Lorraine operating the jukebox from a hidden room.  Chan quickly comes to the realization that Black and the other victims had been poisoned by cobra venom after they had requested change from the jukebox, pushing the coin return button.

Hoping to flush out the gangsters by forcing them to act, Chan sends a false story to the local newspapers that the government plans to remove its store of radium the next day.  While Chan checks the vault, Tommy and Birmingham follow Morgan into the laundry.  The two become trapped in the sewer as gangsters Morgan and Taylor drop a high explosive from above, attempting to kill them. Chan, hearing the muffled explosion from the bank above, hurries down into the sewer to see what has happened.  As Chan tries to free his two trapped assistants, a loosened section of the sewer caves in, trapping all three.  However, Chan notices a telephone line and uses it to send a Morse code message which is understood by a telephone operator supervisor, who relays the information to Inspector Davis.  The police arrive in time at the bank to capture the gangsters, and they also rescue Chan, Tommy, and Birmingham.

CONCLUSION:

Later, Charlie Chan concludes that John Adams, a bank guard, is actually Jan Van Horn, and Paula is his daughter.  Van Horn tells how he had followed Jarvis to America eight years earlier, believing that he was one of the men who had framed him for murder in Shanghai.  Chan then recognizes bank officer Bradford Harris as Special Agent Hume of the Shanghai police, and he is arrested as the real killer and leader of the gang.

NOTE:  The title card for this film reads: Charlie Chan in "The Shanghai Cobra".

Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG - Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960



CHARLIE CHAN'S APHORISMS:

In my business, always expect to find something wrong.
 
Rising generation sit too much.
 
Ancient ancestor once say, "Even wise man cannot fathom depth of woman's smile."
 
Buildings can be altered without altering plans.  

Cannot sell bearskin before shooting bear.

Police do not read Emily Post.

Mice will never play so long as cat is in house.

Too many hands sometime spoil pudding.


OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:

Much better for you to have dinner with young detective than with old detective.  (To Paula Webb)
 
You talk fast, you think fast.  (To Tommy) 

(Tommy: "Pop, I want to talk to you as man to man.")  I am ready, but you still have few years to go.

Lawbreakers make first move, so we make second one.  (To Inspector Davis)

Must offend Emily Post once more; your company not desired.  (To Fletcher)

(Harris [to Stewart]: "Where'd you come from? I didn't see you come in.")  You can see us all go out.

(Davis: "You know, this is slightly illegal." [upon entering H.R. Jarvis' office with a skeleton key])  Four murders slightly more illegal.
 
(Tommy: "Want a suggestion, Pop?")  No.



REVIEW:

Variety, August 8, 1945

To the Charlie Chan addicts this may be par, but viewed as an ordinary whodunit it's just slow-paced, talky material without particular flavor.

The Chinese dick employed by the U.S. Government is put on a case which involves the killing of people who are bitten by a cobra.  There is a lot of pointless walking and riding to, and from, and in the sewers underneath a bank where the Government has stored radium.  There is a lot of chatter which is supposed to be amusing, but would bore anyone above the age of eight.  In the end there is a surprise when it turns out that the bank guard is not a blackguard, but really a big innocent.  But even that point is developed mechanically.

Sidney Toler seems tired as Charlie Chan.  Benson Fong seems wasted as Charlie's son, while Mantan Moreland as "Birmingham" is just the stereotyped Negro chauffeur.



FILM NOTES:

 
THE PROBABLE DATE OF CHARLIE CHAN'S INVOLVEMENT WITH THIS CASE: Spring 1945

DURATION: Three days 

LOCATION: New York City

THE BANK BUILDING SHOWN: Sixth National Bank Building

THE LOCATION OF "JOE'S COFFEE SHOP": On a corner, across the street from the Sixth National Bank

THE THE POSTED PRICE OF "JOE'S SPECIAL CLAM CHOWDER": 35 cents

THE POSTED PRICE OF "PIE A LA MODE" AT JOE'S COFFEE SHOP: 15 cents

JOE'S SPECIAL OF THE DAY: Beef stew ("...on account of it's a rainy day.")

THE SONG REQUESTED OF THE VIDEO JUKE BOX OPERATOR BY SAMUEL BLACK: "Number ten, 'The Blue Danube.'"

THE PRICE OF A CUP OF COFFEE AT JOE'S COFFEE SHOP: 10 cents

THE COIN USED BY NED STEWART TO PAY FOR PAULA WEBB'S AND HIS COFFEE: A quarter

THE COST FOR A SONG TO BE PLAYED ON THE VIDEO JUKE BOX: 5 cents

THE POLICE PRICINCT OFFICE SHOWN: 12th Precinct

THE NEW YORK BULLETIN HEADLINE:
 
"THIRD COBRA KILLING"

THE NAME OF THE DETECTIVE WHO GAVE INSPECTOR DAVIS INFORMATION ON THE COBRA KILLINGS IN SHANGHAI: Mr. Gray
 
THE SOURCE OF THIS INFORMATION, ACCORDING TO MR. GRAY: "...Washington just got it from Scotland Yard."
 
CHARLIE CHAN'S "OLD FRIEND": Inspector Harry Davis ("...walked the same beat in Honolulu.")
 
INSPECTOR DAVIS' PRECINCT: 12th

THE NAME OF THE PERSON TAKING TELEGRAM INFORMATION FROM INSPECTOR DAVIS: George
 
INSPECTOR DAVIS' WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM TO CHARLIE CHAN:

THE NAME OF THE RESTAURANT ACROSS THE STREET FROM CHARLIE CHAN'S SECRET SERVICE OFFICE AT THE FEDERAL BUILDING IN WASHINGTON, D.C.: Blue Diamond Grills

CHARLIE CHAN'S COMMENT TO INSPECTOR DAVIS REGARDING THE COBRA KILLINGS: "In four months, three persons are murdered by bite of cobra fangs."
 
THE THREE COBRA VICTIMS, AS NOTED BY INSPECTOR DAVIS: "Man named Rafferty, then a girl called Dunham, and then a man named Black."
 
THE COBRA VICTIMS' CONNECTION, ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN: "All three victims work for Sixth National Bank."
 
THE COBRA VICTIMS' JOBS AT THE SIXTH NATIONAL BANK, AS STATED BY INSPECTOR DAVIS: "The men were bank guards, and the girl worked in the posting department."
 
THE YEAR, BY CHARLIE CHAN'S STATEMENT, THAT HE WAS IN SHANGHAI, CHINA WHEN HE WAS INVOLVED WITH VAN HORN: 1937 ("...eight years ago...")

ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST JAN VAN HORN IN SHANGHAI: "...bank robbery and murder by cobra bite."

THE DATE OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE BOMBING OF SHANGHAI BY THE JAPANESE (THE DAY THAT VAN HORN WAS CAPTURED BY POLICE WHILE CHARLIE CHAN WAS IN SHANGHAI): October 14, 1937 (Charlie Chan: "It was the first day Japanese bombers fly over city of Shanghai.")

THE NAME OF THE INSPECTOR AT THE BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENT POLICE HEADQUARTERS IN SHANGHAI: Inspector Manwaring

THE NAME OF THE MAN INTO WHOSE CUSTODY JAN VAN HORN WAS PLACED: Special Agent Hume (as ordered by Mr. Corning)

THE AGENCY TO WHICH JAN VAN HORN WAS BEING TRANSPORTED: "Singapore authorities"

"VALUABLE" U.S. GOVERNMENT ITEM THAT WAS BEING STORED IN THE VAULT OF THE SIXTH NATIONAL BANK: Radium stores

THE TEXT OF THE POSTED BANKING HOURS FOR THE SIXTH NATIONAL BANK:

"10 AM to 3 PM
SATURDAY
9:45 to 12 N"
 
THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE SIXTH NATIONAL BANK: Bradford Harris

THE YEARS, ACCORDING TO WALTER FLETCHER, THAT HE WAS IN SHANGHAI: "...in 1936 and 1937 for the International Bank Company."

THE NUMBER OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT'S SAFETY DEPOSIT BOX AT THE SIXTH NATIONAL BANK: 210

THE TERM USED BY JOE TO REFER TO PAULA WEBB: "Peacherino"

NED STEWART'S DETECTIVE AGENCY AS SEEN IN THE TELEPHONE DIRECTORY:

THE NAME OF THE PERSON WHO HIRED NED STEWART TO WATCH PAULA WEBB (PAULINE WEBSTER): R. Rogers

ACCORDING TO NED STEWART, THE DATE THAT HE OPENED HIS DETECTIVE AGENCY: "...four months ago."

THE ADDRESS OF PAULA WEBB (PAULINE WEBSTER): 1055 Harlay Street

THE TEXT OF THE NOTE SENT TO NED STEWART BY "R. ROGERS" WITH HIS FINAL PAYMENT, AS READ BY INSPECTOR DAVIS:

"Payment in full for services to date.  Do nothing more about Pauline Webster.
(signed) R. Rogers"

THE LENGTH OF TIME THAT POLICE DETECTIVE LARKIN HAD BEEN WORKING UNDERCOVER AT THE SIXTH NATIONAL BANK, ACCORDING TO INSPECTOR DAVIS: "...three months..." 

THE NEW YORK DAILY DISPATCH HEADLINE:

 
THE NAME OF THE RESTAURANT WHERE CHARLIE CHAN MET PAULS WEBB: Lotus Garden Cafe

THE TIME OF CHARLIE CHAN'S MEETING WITH PAULA WEBB: 7:30 p.m.

THE NAME OF THE CLUB LOCATED ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE LOTUS GARDEN CAFE: The Tropics 

TAYLOR'S MUG SHOT AND ARREST INFORMATION:

MORGAN'S MUG SHOT AND ARREST INFORMATION:

THE NAME OF THE LAUNDRY USED BY THE GANG: "Complete Laundry Service"

THE "PLAN" SUGGESTED BY TOMMY SO THAT HE AND BIRMINGHAM BROWN COULD GAIN ACCESS TO THE LAUNDRY: "Eager beaver routine number five"

THE LOCATION OF THE JUKE BOX COMPANY: Second floor of the Sixth National Bank Building

THE NAME GIVEN BY TOMMY CHAN TO THE LAUNDRY RECEPTIONIST AS THE PERSON HE WAS LOOKING FOR: Evelyn Wing

THE SIGN ON THE DOOR OF THE OFFICE WHERE THE UNUSUAL VIDEO JUKE BOX WAS OPERATED:

THE NUMBER OF H.R. JARVIS' OFFICE: 21

THE NAME OF THE "VERY POWERFUL EXPLOSIVE" FOUND BY CHARLIE CHAN IN JARVIS' LAB: Pentalite

THE TIME GIVEN BY JARVIS TO MORGAN TO SYNCHRONIZE THEIR WATCHES: 7:05 p.m. ("It's now five after seven.")

THE TIME THAT JARVIS WAS TO PLACE THE ROCKET IN THE TUBE BENEATH THE SIXTH NATIONAL BANK VAULT: 11 p.m. ("...at exactly eleven o'clock.")

ACCORDING TO FLETCHER, THE TIME SET FOR THE BANK'S TIME LOCK TO OPEN: "...nine tomorrow."

THE MESSAGE SENT OUT IN MORSE CODE BY CHARLIE CHAN OVER A TELEPHONE LINE WHILE TRAPED IN THE COLLAPSED SEWER WITH SON TOMMY AND BIRMINGHAM BROWN: "Bank robbers apparently attempting to blow vault by using pentalite bomb in mysterious tube in maintenance tunnel.  Instruct men to proceed at once with our plan.  We are imprisoned in sewer tunnel by explosion."

 
 

GLOSSARY:

angle - (Slang)  A devious method; a scheme.
Ned Stewart: "All right, boys, what's your angle?"
 
chezchez la peacherino (cherchez la peacherino) - (Corrupted French and Spanish)  "Look for (cherchez) the peacherino (the peach [woman])."  (See also: peacherino)
The Shanghai Cobra - Tommy Chan: "As the French say: 'Chezchez la peacherino.'"
 
chum - An intimate friend or companion.
Ned Stewart: "You've come to the wrong place, chum..."
 
dope - (Slang)  Information.
Gray: "Chief, here's the latest dope on the Cobra Killings."
 
framed - (Informal)  Made up evidence or contrived events so as to having falsely incriminated a person.
Jan Van Horn: "I'm being framed, I tell you."
 
hiya (hi ya) - Used as a greeting.
The Shanghai Cobra - Taylor: "Hiya, Jarvis."
 
hoosegow - (Slang)  A jail.
Charlie Chan: "No. You turn here and go to hoosegow."
 
jukebox - A money-operated phonograph equipped to play a selection of particular recordings.
Joe: "That's just the girl that plays records over the jukebox."
 
nab - (Informal)  To arrest or capture.
Inspector Harry Davis: "...and we'll nab him!"
 
nail - (Informal)  To stop and seize; catch.
Inspector Harry Davis: "I'll have my men outside and we'll nail 'em."
 
peacherino - (From Spanish)  Variant of peach.  A very attractive woman.
Joe: "...he went through here like a flash chasing the peacherino."
 
railroaded - (Informal)  To convict an accused person without a fair trial or on trumped-up charges.
Jan Van Horn: "I tell you, I'm being railroaded."
 
rumba -  (1) A dance of Cuban origin, combining complex footwork with a pronounced movement of the hips.  (2) A modern ballroom adaptation of this dance.  (3) Music for this dance or in this style. 
Iris Ling: "...I would love to rumba."
 
skeleton key - A key with a large portion of the bit filed away so that it can open different locks. Also called passkey.
Charlie Chan: "Skeleton key, please."
 
slip-up - An error, blunder, or oversight.
The Shanghai Cobra - Jarvis: "We must make sure that there's no slip-up." 
 
For a complete list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.   

 
 

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