|he Mandarin Mystery US
Source: novel The
Chinese Orange Mystery
|Above right: The Mandarin Mystery poster.
|The Film Daily - Wednesday, June 23, 1937
"Fast-moving Mystery Murder thriller has plenty of surprises for fans.
A very ingenious murder mystery which moves along at a fast pace, and relieves the tension with good comedy bits. Eddie Quillan plays the role of Ellery Queen, the famous author-detective, who enters the case involving the disappearance of a valuable Chinese stamp. The stamp is stolen from Charlotte Henry and then follows a series of events that results in two murders before the baffling mystery is solved and the murderer uncovered. Quillan's technique is suave, and the kidding element plays a large part in the footage. A thief named Craig who steals the stamp, is later found murdered behind a door locked form the inside. The young detective finally solves the manner of this puzzling murder, and from there on he moves forward to the eventual uncovering of the criminal in quiet and easy stages that are nevertheless filled with thrills and suspense. Charlotte Henry provides the romantic interest adequately. The supporting cast is exceptionally well chosen. Franklin Pangborn and William Newell handle the comedy assignments with good effect. Rita La Roy and Kay Hughes add two good character bits. Director Ralph Staub mixed his comedy with the tense elements cleverly and in a way that didn't slow up the fast pace. It should please the thrill fans who like some laughs mixed in with the general screen excitement."
Above: Four out of a set of eight lobby cards.
Victor Zobel had The Chinese Orange Mystery based on the Ellery Queen novel, in production about Oct.15. Herman Ruby was also mentioned as one of the screenplay writers for Republic but didn't make the credits. It hit the theaters December 23. 1936.
In retrospect this movie was even worse than the first one. It seemed obviously practicable to treat it as a comedy of the absurd. Famous sleuth Ellery Queen solves two murders - both committed in impenetrably locked rooms and recovers stolen stamp worth $50,000. The primary suspect is Jo Temple, the original possessor of the stamp. Falling in love with Jo, Ellery sets about to retrieve the stolen goods and solve the murders. There was some novelty value in the fact that an actor whose initials were E.Q. was cast as intellectual sleuth but it seemed a misstep. Eddie Quillan, who though a talented and appealing performer was woefully miscast as Queen. Perhaps realizing that Quillan could never be taken seriously in the leading role, Republic opted to play The Mandarin Mystery for laughs -- another big mistake. Hopelessly muddled script and fatal miscasting of diminutive Quillan as Ellery Queen sabotages this low-budget mystery. Although the film contains the bare bones of the book, it was played for laughs, and the childish acting and ineffective direction brought the first series of EQ films to a halt after just two entries.
|Above right: The Mandarin Mystery - British trade ad poster - The larger size of the British journals (they were approximately 3 times the size of their Hollywood rivals) made the lavish and sophisticated adds ideal material for advance lobby publicity.
|Despite the fact that The Mandarin Mystery was a mess plot wise, its production values were more than adequate. As Variety reported, "Producer Nat Levine has given the film superb backgrounding. Musical direction of Harry Grey is a highlight. Flawless photography is furnished by Jack Marta." Regarding Quillan as Queen, the same trade paper noted, "Eddie Quillan partially overcomes the handicap of being made a smart-alecky detective. Only his clever handling of the role makes it believable."
Above top : Charlotte Henry and Eddie Quillan in The Mandarin Mystery.
Middle left: Wade Boteler and Quillan put on their thinking cap.
Middle right: Charlotte Henry and Eddie Quillan.
Bottom: Kay Hughes, Rita Le Roy, Eddie Quillan, and Wade Boteler in The Mandarin Mystery (1936).
|Motion Picture Herald, by
G.M. - November 28. 1936
"The idea of this film was to provide mystery comedy entertainment with a dash of topical interest tossed in for good measure. None of the things the producers hoped for, or audiences or exhibitors, is delivered in a way that will excite anybody. The story is dull, made duller in the manner in which situations are so telegraphed that even the most obtuse patron should not find it necessary to resort to any mental gymnastics to anticipate them. As acting and direction fall to the same low estate, the comedy isn't funny and the mystery is not baffling.
The whole thing, such as it is, has to do with an unscrupulous lawyer trying to cheat a few girls, for whose estate he is the executor. He trades in valuable postage stamps, but instead of delivering the real thing, he substitutes counterfeits. Enters a girl carrying a much sought after Chinese stamp. Comes also a boy detective. Ensue a couple of murders and a lot of complicated carryings on, in which the amateur sleuth is more of a hindrance to the cops than he is an aid, even though he does uncover the killer and establish his motive.
Laden down by so much implausible stuff, the few good names in the cast get nowhere at all. The handicaps under which they labor are also handicaps to any kind of audience. In any field, the film's only possibility is to fill out a program."
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