An ocean liner sinks off Honolulu and Allen Colby, heir to millions, is presumed dead...but local sleuth Charlie Chan is not so sure, and flies to San Francisco to investigate further. Somehow, the missing Colby is there ahead of him...but is knifed in the back before seeing anyone. Further events revolve around spiritualist Mrs. Lowell, her family of suspicious characters, and the spooky, untenanted Colby mansion, where the body turns up during a seance! Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
I'm always a pushover for spooky old house mysteries, and this is one of the best, not so much for the intriguing puzzle itself but for the creepy noir atmosphere conjured up by Rudolph Maté's superlative cinematography (reminiscent of his work on Dreyer's Vampyr) and the marvelously bizarre background created by Hogsett and Cramer.
I like the screenplay and I love the cast too, especially Herbert Mundin, one of my favorite character actors. For once he has a major role and even figures most inventively at the climax. Warner Oland dispenses his customary bon mots with ease, while Gloria Roy steers a remarkably skillful line in making her "used" medium a sympathetic oddball.
My only quarrel is with director Gordon Wiles, the art director that William K. Howard and Jimmy Wong Howe had all the trouble with on Transatlantic and for which, after fighting Howard and Howe all the way, he then won the industry's big award! Mr Wiles was obviously not a man open to experimentation unless someone forced him into it. Left to his own devices, Wiles always preferred the safe, conservative approach. His record as a director is not an impressive one and Charlie Chan's Secret is the highlight of that 11-picture interlude from which he was rescued by Albert Lewin for whom he designed The Moon and Sixpence, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Private Affairs of Bel Ami.
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