The Black Camel (1931)

Passed  |   |  Crime, Mystery, Thriller  |  21 June 1931 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 890 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 7 critic

The unsolved murder of a Hollywood actor several years earlier and an enigmatic psychic are the keys to help Charlie solve the Honolulu stabbing death of a beautiful actress.


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Complete credited cast:
Shelah Fane
Victor Varconi ...
Robert Fyfe
Murray Kinnell ...
Archie Smith
William Post Jr. ...
Alan Jaynes
Jimmy Bradshaw
Violet Dunn ...
Anna the maid
J.M. Kerrigan ...
Thomas MacMasters
Mary Gordon ...
Mrs. MacMasters
Rita Rozelle ...
Otto Yamaoka ...


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 Sister Grimm <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


CHARLIE CHAN'S Latest Thriller






Release Date:

21 June 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan in the Black Camel  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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Did You Know?


Of the five Warner Oland Charlie Chan films based on the original Earl Derr Biggers novels, only this one still survives. The other four are believed to have been lost in one of two fires, one in the thirties and the other in the sixties. See more »


The knife thrown at Chan when he discovers the scratches under the table couldn't possibly have come from the direction it is thrown from. See more »


Charlie Chan: Kashimo, I despair trying to make you smart man. Soap and water never can change perfume of billy goat.
Kashimo: [smiling] Yes!
See more »


Followed by Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo (1937) See more »


Written by Charles E. King
See more »

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User Reviews

Great movie, and a welcome rediscovery
3 September 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I'd seen this film before on a private-edition videotape and have now watched it again on the version in the Fox Charlie Chan, vol. 3 DVD boxed set. This is one of the greatest films in the Charlie Chan series with Warner Oland — of the later films that exist only "Charlie Chan at the Opera" (ironically with another horror icon, Boris Karloff, in its cast) matches it — thanks to Hamilton MacFadden's dark, atmospheric direction; a script that sticks closely to Earl Derr Biggers' source novel (except for omitting the long prologue on the ship that takes the principal characters to Hawai'i); superb art direction by Ben Carré and a marvelous cast, including Bela Lugosi playing an unusual range of emotions for him (the scene in which he confronts Dorothy Revier early on is especially impressive and not at all what we think of as Lugosi's usual acting style); a welcome reunion between him and his "Dracula" cast-mate Dwight Frye; Robert Young looking like he just graduated from high school as the suitor of Shelah Fane's personal assistant (Sally Eilers); and excellent cinematography by Joseph August and Daniel Clark, more prestigious cameramen than usually worked on the Chan films. It's nice to see Chan's family used the way they were in the Biggers novels (Biggers frequently wrote scenes in which the Chans sit down to dinner and Charlie brings them — and us — up to speed on the latest developments in his case), and another welcome touch in this film is the artful use of "source" Hawai'ian music in lieu of orchestral underscoring. While it's likely the Hawai'ian location trip only involved a second unit shooting backgrounds (there are some pretty obvious process shots here) and the Hawai'ian music could have just as easily been recorded in L.A. (where there was a large community of Hawai'ian musicians at the time), nonetheless "The Black Camel" is vividly atmospheric. Why Hamilton MacFadden didn't have much of a directorial career after the mid-1930's — and none at all after 1945 — is a mystery; judging by this film he would have been a "natural" for the noir genre.

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