Plot: A set of jade burial tablets have been stolen from a powerful Chinese family, which has led to the promise of swift retribution. The man responsible for the theft has been marked for death, down to the minute and while he asks to be jailed for protection, the authorities refuse the request. Instead, a heavy guard is dispatched and the promised time comes and goes, with the man still alive. However, as the man leaves the protected room, he is gunned down and much to everyone’s surprise, the clocks in the room had been tampered with. Once the time had seemingly passed, the police lowered their guard and that proved to be anticipated, hence the clock manipulation. But this is not the end, as even more targets are brought into the crosshairs, while Torchy Blane (Glenda Farrell) tries to unravel this exotic mystery, before she and her detective boyfriend Steve (Barton MacLane) are next.
Entertainment Value: I’ve had a lot of fun with the Torchy Blane series, but this seventh installment just didn’t land and to me, is the weakest of the franchise, certainly as far as the Glenda Farrell led movies are concerned. The narrative in this one has some bright spots, but for some reason, the movie decides to push Torchy out of the spotlight and that was a mistake. In fact, she has so little to do in this sequel, the film updates us with what she does off screen. This just seems like a huge misstep, as Farrell is so wonderful in the role and to me, the Torchy character is what drives the entire franchise, so pulling her from the main narrative is just ridiculous. I love Tom Kennedy as Gahagan and his role is enhanced this time around, but the movie is called Torchy Blane in Chinatown and not only is Torchy’s role minimized, but she is never in Chinatown. Just an odd approach and one that does not yield good results, despite some solid potential that pops up from time to time here. I wanted to like this installment, but to me, this is easily one of the weakest in the entire Torchy Blane run.
If you’ve read any of my other Torchy Blane reviews, then you likely know that I love Gledna Farrell in this series. Which is why I was so disappointed to see her on screen time lessened in this sequel, not to mention what an odd choice is it to make the titular character a supporting presence. The premise here is decent enough, but the writing isn’t as sharp and even when Farrell is around, she simply doesn’t have good material to work with. She gives it the old college try and makes it work better than it likely should, but she can’t spin gold out of the straw she was handed. I will say that Tom Kennedy runs with his increased role however, providing most of the entertainment found in the movie, as the always humorous Gahagan. I just think the character works best when opposite Torchy and since she isn’t around as much, I think the dulls the comedic shine of Kennedy’s performance. In short, everyone tries and the efforts are passable, but the script is to blame in this case. The cast also includes Barton MacLane, Janet Shaw, Frank Shannon, and Henry O’Neill.