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... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
`He'll die a violent death, he will, and his murderer shall go unpunished'
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. And I suspect that hotels in the region now rent rooms for more than $2/night! Recommended.
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