It’s good to see Warner Home Video digging into their Monogram/Allied Artists holdings, even if there are no undiscovered masterpieces among the four titles in WHV’s recent “Charlie Chan Collection.” Most of the auteur interest here is concentrated in the stylish opening sequence of Phil Karlson’s 1946 “Dark Alibi”; otherwise, you get Terry Morse’s rather messy “Dangerous Money” (1946), Howard Bretherton somewhat off from his breezy best with “The Trap” (1946) and William Beaudine sleepwalking through “The Chinese Ring” (1947), the first of the Chan films to star Roland Winters after Sidney Toler’s death. My review of the box is here.
The chief asset of the Monogram Chans is, of course, Mantan Moreland, a master of comic timing who, in a more just world, would have had Bob Hope’s career. “Dark Alibi” gives him a couple of scenes with his former vaudeville partner, Ben Carter, that are worth the Netflix postage alone.
The Monogram library may not be as rich as Republic (which is still being held hostage by Paramount), but there are many fine things in it — William Nigh’s $1.98 version of Cornell Woolrich’s “I Wouldn’t Want to be in Your Shoes,” Frank McDonald’s eerie late noir “The Big Tip-Off,” to name a couple — that merit exposure on TCM, if not a box set of their own.