CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN
CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN
Starring Peter Ustinov, Lee Grant, Brian Keith, Roddy McDowall, Rachel Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Ryan, Johnny Sekka, and Richard Hatch as Lee Chan, Jr., with Angie Dickinson as the Dragon Queen.
Directed by Clive Donner.Screenplay by Stan Burns and David Axlerod from an original story by Jerry Sherlock. Produced by Jerry Sherlock. Executive Producers are Alan Belkin and Michael Leone. From American Cinema
Productions. A Jerry Sherlock Production of a Clive Donner film. An American Cinema release.
Some thirty years ago, the brilliance of Charlie Chan (PETER USTINOV) solved the love-related murder of a wealthy Hawaiian Pineapple Baron. The murderess, the Dragon Queen (ANGIE DICKINSON), cursed Chan and his descendants for three
generations. Newly released from jail, the villainous Dragon Queen now plots her revenge on the great Charlie Chan inthe comedy-mystery “CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN.”
A series of grotesque, bizarre killings is plaguing the city of San Francisco. The Police Chief (BRIAN KEITH) and his sidekick Masten (PAUL RYAN) appeal to the now retired Chan to leave the Hawaiian Islands and help solve the murders.
Upon arriving in the city, Chan is greeted by his number one grandson, Lee Chan, Jr. (RICHARD HATCH), also a detective more adept at catastrophes than clues.
The half-Chinese, half-Jewish Lee Chan, Jr. has been raised these many years by his maternal grandmother, Sylvia Lupowitz (LEE GRANT), the widow of the wealthy Pineapple Baron murdered years before by the Dragon Queen. In constant mourning, she remains faithful to her late husband Bernie by keeping his ashes close to her. Mrs. Lupowitz’s mourning for Bernie is surpassed only by her concern for Lee Chan, Jr. and his desire to follow in the great Chan’s footsteps rather than pursue a fruitful career of pineapple growing. To further annoy his grandmother, Lee Chan, Jr. plans to marry the beautiful heiress Cordelia Farrington, III (MICHELLE PFEIFFER), neither Jewish nor Chinese but a Wasp whose brains are in the bank.
Mrs. Lupowitz must also deal with a questionable staff lurking about her household. Mrs. Dangers (RACHEL ROBERTS). the schizophrenic, paranoid maid is ever alert to dangers and curses hidden in the shadows of the mansion. The crippled butler, Gillespie (RODDY McDOWALL), speeding about the halls in a motorized wheelchair is less than impeccable and far from cooperative. And the black, Oxford-educated chauffeur, Stefan (JOHNNY SEKKA), bearing distinctive Mozambi tribal
marks, is an ever ominous presence.
While Charlie Chan investigates the bizarre murders including one victim baked to death and seven drowned in an elevator, he eludes several attempts on his own life with inscrutable calm and perception. Shadowing all of these events is the sinister, exotic Dragon Queen, her dragon-ringed hand appearing from behind curtains or rising from the darkened interiors of her sumptuous limousine.
The final confrontation with his old enemy, the Dragon Queen, occurs in the wings of an old theatre hosting a Charlie Chan film festival. With the entire collection of characters assembled, Charlie Chan reveals the true identity of the killer who is in their midst.
This final honorable solution carries a twist capable of surprising even the great Chan himself!
While vacationing in Honolulu in 1919, author Earl Derr Biggers read a newspaper article about the exploits of a local Chinese detective named Chang Apana. Biggers had never heard of an Oriental detective and was so intrigued by the idea that a character began to take shape in his mind. In 1925, with the publication of “House Without A Key,” Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police Department made his first appearance and was an instant success. Biggers completed six additional books on Chan before his death in 1933.
On the screen, Charlie Chan was first played by George Kuwa in a 1926 Hollywood serial. Kamiyama Sojin played the great detective once in 1928, E.L. Park in 1929.
In 1931, Fox bought the rights to “Charlie Chan Carries On,” and introduced Warner Oland as Charlie Chan. The Swedish-born actor,selected for the title role by Earl Derr Bigger’s wife, went on to play the world’s greatest detective sixteen times (1931-37).
In 1938, Sidney Toler debuted as Chan in “Charlie Chan in Honolulu,” and completed a staggering total of twenty-two Chan films (1938-47). This was followed with the performances of Roland Winters in the role six times (1948-52). J. Carroll Naish then took over for thirty-nine television episodes in 1957.
Ross Martin appeared as Chan in a television feature in 1971, and the great detective was the subject of an animated series “Charlie Chan and the Chan Clan” in 1972: In that cartoon series, Chan was voiced by Keye Luke, who had played Chan’s number one son so often in the thirties.
American Cinema is proud to announce the triumphant return of Charlie Chan in the comedy-mystery “CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN,” starring Peter Ustinov as Chan, with Lee Grant, Brian Keith, Roddy McDowall, Rachel Roberts,
Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Ryan, Johnny Sekka, and Richard Hatch as Lee Chan, Jr. with Angie Dickinson as the Dragon Queen. Directed by Clive Donner. Screenplay by Stan Burns and David Axlerod, from a story by Jerry Sherlock. Produced by Jerry Sherlock.
Executive Producers are Michael Leone and Alan Belkin. From American Cinema Productions. A Jerry Sherlock Production of a Clive Donner film. An American Cinema release.
PETER USTINOV: ” CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I’M WORKING!”
“I always enjoyed the Charlie Chan mysteries,” says Peter Ustinov. “I remember as a young boy, urging some friends who were then experimenting with a bow and arrow, to shoot arrows through my school cap. The first shot struck dead center and I delivered the line — in the character of Chan — ‘Ah, was expecting same.’ It delights me enormously to have an opportunity of using that same line in this movie. It must be the earliest dramatic line I ever invented which has managed to live on”
Peter Ustinov arrived to shoot “CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN,” with director Clive Donner and Roddy McDowall with who he made “Theif of Baghdad,” following a triumphant production of “King Lear” at Canada’s Stratford Theatre.
Ustinov’s latest play, “Overheard,” a comedy about political dissidents, is due to open at the same time with Deborah Kerr in a lead role.
Reacting to comments about his many diverse talents,Peter Ustinov says, “It always seems to amaze people that I do so much, but in fact I think I’m doing less than the average musician. For example, very few people can write music. It seems normal to them that a man should be able to conduct an orchestra, compose and play the piano for his own piano concertos. But because everybody can write, even if it’s only to put up a little notice saying ‘back soon’ or ‘out to lunch,’ they think it’s absolutely extraordinary you can do the same things with words.
When Ustinov is not acting, writing, producing, or directing, he devotes time to UNICEF, UNESCO or the High Commission for Refugees.
Shortly after “CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN” opens in America, Peter Ustinov will be preparing for his new Poirot role in the latest of the Agatha Christie thrillers to reach the screen. Save for “moustaches down for Chan, up for Poirot,” Ustinov assesses the detectives have one basic similarity. “They both have a stillness about them. Everyone else worries what you’re thinking and what conclusions you’re going to reach. The detective asks ‘Where were you on the night of…?’ and goes off on his own train of thought.”
During the course of the production — whether rattling around in a hansom cab during a chase scene with the Dragon Queen or preparing to trap the killer by a series of deductions and perceptions Peter Ustinov was also at work writing in his trailer between scenes every day. This time on a novel.
“The only problem about that is that each time the Assistant Director comes to call you for the next scene, you want to shout, a trifle impatiently, ‘Why are you interrupting me — can’t you see that I’m working?” Such is the predicament of an excellent and talented actor/dramatist/novelist/director!
RICHARD HATCH: “I’M GETTING THERE!”
According to Richard Hatch, starring as Lee Chan, Jr. in “CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN” from American Cinema, “Taking risks is what it’s all about… stretching yourself as a person, as an actor, as an athlete.”
Richard Hatch ought to know. This left-handed, risk-taking, gymnastic, award-winning actor whose love for sports has led him to fly the trapeze and walk the high wire, also has a love for acting which has afforded him opportunities to make films,
star in successful television series, appear on stage and be recognized by millions of fans around the world.
Richard feels he’s only beginning. “I’ve barely begun when it comes to putting performances on film. So far, I haven’t been able to stretch, to reach out and say ‘Hey, this is what I’m capable of doing.’ With ‘Charlie Chan,’ for the first time I feel I’m getting there.”
The climb to stardom for this handsome young man from Santa Monica, California, began with his role on “The Streets of San Francisco.” “With ‘Streets,’ I learned that no matter how small the role, you must give your total energy; that will open doors. Karl Malden helped me understand that you have to put you whole heart into whatever, you’re doing.”
He followed that series with his award-winning performanceas Captain Apollo on the spectacular “Battlestar Gallactica.” “Science fiction is the best kind of drama. It took 13 months to film and was one of the top money spinners of the year. But both series showed just one side of me.”
As Lee Chan, Jr., the great detective’s half-Jewish, half-Chinese grandson who is more adept at creating small catastrophes than in locating clues, Hatch has found his chance to demonstrate his broad range of talents. He also admits that working with such a wonderful cast has been “good for my self-confidence.”
The actor, who recently turned in his ’67 Volkswagen for a new sportscar and his one-room apartment for a house, has formed a management and production company with partner Paul Aaron, director of “A Force of One” and the television remake of “The Miracle Worker.”
In his personal life, Richard Hatch finds himself in a transition of becoming more trusting in relationships. “I’m becoming less demanding, critical and judgemental.” And the perfect girl? “Blue-eyed blondes. I grew up on the beaches of California and there was always that surf-girl image. But in fact, I seem to like dark-haired girls, too.”
“I like very intelligent, feeling women who surprise me, take chances and are honest. But I don’t like it when women who know all about the sexual revolution push themselves on you, any more than women like it when men make straight passes at them. I’m just not into any casual relationships. It’s hard to deal with, because rejection makes all of us angry.
I just like to take my time. But this is a difficult time in sexual identities. Women are often going to extremes asserting themselves and men are continuously asking “What’s my role?’
“I’ve been in a shell, like an oyster, and I’ve been lonely alot. But now I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that when the time is right and when those magic ingredients emerge — whatever they are — for something romantic to happen.. .well, then they will happen!”
ANGIE DICKINSON: “HOW COULD I RESIST?”
Shadowing Charlie Chan’s search for a bizarre killer is the sinister, vengeful Dragon Queen. In long, swirling skirts, feathered headresses and raven black hair, Angie Dickinson takes on a dramatically different appearance as the evil force in “CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN” from American Cinema.
Angie is best known for her performances as Sergeant Pepper Anderson in the long running television series “Police Woman.” Her starring role in that series garnered her a Golden Globe award, several Emmy nominations and “Police Woman of the Year” awarded by the International Conference of Police Associations and the American Federation, of Police. She has also received many awards and citations for her work with local, state, and national agencies for law enforcement and humanitarian services.
Now Angie simmers and smolders with revenge, a threatening figure from Charlie Chan’s past. The dragon-ringed hand appearing from behind curtains or rising from darkened car interiors coincides with the occurences of a trail of bizarre murders.
“How could I resist a part like this?” Angie asks.
“It’s a really great comedy script, and the part is such achange for me. It’s fun to have a chance of doing something different.”
Since “Police Woman” ended, Angie has enjoyed her freedom from the rigors that the series commanded. “Don’t misunderstand me. The “Police Woman” series was wonderful for me. But I never got to go anywhere or see anyone. The entire time it
was just work. All the time.” Since the series ended, Angie has stayed busy with appearances in television movies such as “Pearl” and in theatrical films with her stunning, controversial role in “Dressed To Kill.” In her spare time, this warm and witty actress keeps busy every minute of the day, crammed with activity. “There’s always so much to do. I’m either considering new curtains, planning a swimming pool for the backyard or looking for a new house. And I try to fit things in with Nikki’s school schedule.”
Nikki is Angie Dickinson’s 13year-old daughter from her marriage to composer Burt Bacharach.
Angie is happy to be back on the big screen and is anxious to accept a wide variety of roles. Her successful career started in 1959 opposite John Wayne in “Rio Bravo,” and has continued with “The Sins of Rachel Cade” (1961) with Peter Finch, to “The Chase” (1966) with Marlon Brando and Robert Redford, to “CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN” with Peter Ustinov.
Despite Angie’s impressivecareer, her ambitions remain realistic. “I want to do enough work but not have to accept everything; I want to be independent.”