Paul Manderley, eccentric historian, and his wife, descendant of the Borgias, live in an isolated castle-like mansion in the Mojave Desert. When a guest suddenly collapses, Charlie Chan is invited to stay. As the standard mystery-mansion props come into play, and all means of outside communication are sabotaged, it becomes evident that one of the inhabitants has access to poisons and is prepared to use them...
Sidney Toler ... Charlie Chan
Arleen Whelan ... Brenda Hartford
Richard Derr ... Carl Detheridge
Douglass Dumbrille ... Paul Manderley
Henry Daniell ... Watson King
Edmund MacDonald ... Walter Hartford
Victor Sen Yung ... Jimmy Chan (as Sen Yung)
Lenita Lane ... Lucrezia \'Lucy\' Manderley
Ethel Griffies ... Lily, Mme. Saturnia
Milton Parsons ... Arthur Fletcher
Steven Geray ... Dr. Retling (as Steve Geray)
Lucien Littlefield ... Prof. Gleason
I caught this movie on the FOX MOVIE CHANNEL which had pulled it\'s CHARLIE CHAN month long marathon due to protests from Asian Americans. FMC resumed showing the Chan movies in September, bookending the movies with discussions by prominent Asian-Americans inluding George (Mr. Sulu)Takei who explored the racial issues of the movies.
I respect the discomfort and resentment the CHARLIE CHAN movies cause Asian Americans and there are some blatantly racial comments in this movie. There\'s a part where Charlie enters a hotel to await a car and the hotel manager takes one look at him and says; \"Chop Suey salesman, eh? I hate the stuff!\" that frankly made me cringe. But these movies have a historical value beyond simple entertainment. They remind us of how we once acted and thought of other races and other people. Even though Charlie Chan is a respected and internationally famous detective, he is still based on his appearance and skin color. Maybe we haven\'t come so far since this movie was made.
Taken strictly as entertainment, though, CASTLE IN THE DESERT is a nifty murder mystery with an eccentric cast of characters trapped in a remote location with a murderer running around loose. One character is a descendant of Lucrezia Borgia. Another is a fortune teller whose predictions actually DO come true. Charlie Chan and Number 2 son do a great job of finding the true murderer and putting things aright. The plot is perhaps more complicated than it needs to be but that\'s the great thing about those 30\'s/40\'s murder mysteries: it wasn\'t that easy to guess who was the killer. Despite the unplesant racial remarks, CASTLE IN THE DESERT is a fine entry in the CHARLIE CHAN series. I enjoyed it a lot. Lots of humor and sharp, witty dialog and great atmospheric sets.
Lucy Manderley is the obvious suspect when two guests are seemingly murdered at Manderley Castle, located in the Mojave Desert. Her husband Paul is a mysterious recluse who stands to lose his $20 million dollar estate if it can be proved he is mentally unfit.
Charlie Chan has a lot to piece together in this brisk mystery. Number Two Son Jimmy Chan is on leave from the army to help out his \"Pop\". If at all possible, try to view the Chan films in the order that they were released, the continuity is amazing. It was in the prior \"Charlie Chan in Rio\" film that Jimmy received his military papers.
Ethel Griffies and Milton Parsons are on hand from \"Dead Men Tell\" and perform admirably, particularly Ms. Griffies as the amazingly accurate psychic Madame Saturna - \"The stars never lie\".
The funniest line in the film comes from Sidney Toler\'s Chan character, responding to son Jimmy\'s choice of a suit of armor for a disguise - \"What has canned outpost observed?\" My compliments to the writer of that line, I can\'t get it out of my head!
Keep an eye out at the hotel stop where Charlie boards his ride for Manderley Castle, the sign overhead states \"Rooms 50 cents\". Better get an early reservation!
This is an enjoyable film with a fine cast, and well worth your time. Give it a try.
Final Fox Chan film leaves us somewhat dissatisfied despite a complicated but enjoyable plot. There is a body within the first few minutes, sufficient suspects, ties to the Borgia family, lots of misdirection and clues, and Chan once again dodging arrows. The characters are marooned in an eerie reconstructed medieval castle (complete with a dungeon in the basement) located in the Mojave Desert. For a change, it is possible to figure out the ending ahead of or along with Chan. $20M is a great incentive for crime.
Sidney Toler does good job at discovering a mystery and solving murder but fails to perform his usual wrap up at the end clarifying all of the loose ends. Son Jimmy (on leave from the Army) assists Pop without resorting to too much comedy. Pop takes US Army Carrier Pigeon No. 13576 with him to the desert but alas, the pigeon succumbs to the poison nightshade. `Man without enemies like dog without fleas.\'
Good supporting cast. Ethel Griffies and Milton Parsons return to play small but effective roles. Only a few (unnecessary) racial slurs. Some interesting camera work with the use of shadows to convey danger. By the way, there is a real castle in the desert, Scotty\'s Castle, now part of Death Valley National Park.
This was, sorry to say, the last Chan film made by 20th Century Fox. It is also one of the most fun and atmospheric. It is set in a castle in the Mojave Desert owned by a descendant of the Borgias, played by Douglass Dumbrille. This is creepy and funny with Jimmy Chan (Sen Yung)sneaking around the castle amid the suits of armor. Henry Danielle is also on hand as a guest of the house. A nutty fortune teller also adds to the fun! Another one to watch over and over.