Movie star Sheila Fayne is seeing wealthy Alan Jaynes while filming in Honolulu, Hawaii, but won't marry him without consulting famed psychic Tanaverro first. Tanaverro confronts her about the unsolved murder of fellow film star Denny Mayo three years earlier, and she decides to reject Jaynes' proposal. When Sheila is found shot to death in her beach-front pavilion, Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police investigates. Written by
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Primitive but fairly engaging Charlie Chan mystery, the first surviving film featuring Warner Oland as the genial Oriental detective: its major draws are the Hawaiian backdrop, the murder investigation centering around Hollywood elite and the interesting cast (including Bela Lugosi as a phony mystic, Dwight Frye as an impulsive butler named Jessup, and a pre-stardom Robert Young forming half of the bland romantic interest). Some of its greatest pleasure, then, derives from the interaction between Oland and Lugosi but also the former's relentless amiable mocking of his earnest but dim-witted assistant. The surprising denouement is not entirely plausible (though seemingly anticipating Hitchcock's STAGE FRIGHT ) with a revelation concerning Lugosi's true identity, and where the presence of a second murderer is ultimately established. By the way, the film's title as explained by Chan is a metaphor for death when it arrives unexpectedly.
P.S. As was the case recently with HORROR ISLAND (1941), my second attempt at watching THE BLACK CAMEL proved more successful than the first where the playback had frozen completely three-quarters of the way in and left me curious about the eventual solution of the case!
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