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Castle in the Desert (1942)

7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 901 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 8 critic

Charlie Chan investigates apparent poisonings at a mystery mansion in the Mojave Desert.

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(original screenplay), (character)
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Title: Castle in the Desert (1942)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Arleen Whelan ...
Richard Derr ...
Carl Detheridge
...
Manderley (as Douglas Dumbrille)
...
Watson King
Edmund MacDonald ...
Walter Hartford
Victor Sen Yung ...
Jimmy Chan (as Sen Yung)
Lenita Lane ...
Lucy Manderley
...
Madame Saturnia
Milton Parsons ...
Arthur Fletcher
Steven Geray ...
Dr. Retling (as Steve Geray)
Lucien Littlefield ...
Gleason
Edit

Storyline

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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

...a poison arrow whizzes past... as Charlie Chan opens the gate to his most baffling adventure!


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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

27 February 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan in Castle in the Desert  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Naming the residents of the isolated castle Manderley is an obvious reference the the mansion of Rebecca (1940) from two years earlier. See more »

Goofs

The supposed statue of a Medieval executioner sways momentarily, revealing the statue as an actor. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Retling: They say poison is a woman's weapon.
See more »

Connections

Follows Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936) See more »

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User Reviews

Ends Better Than It Starts
17 January 2011 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

After a muddled, convoluted first half, the plot really picks up in the second half. A big house full of suspects, candles in lieu of electric lights, an ever-so-subtle echo from the large rooms, and at least one murder combine to create mystery and suspense. At one point in the second half, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) advises all: "Return to rooms, lock doors; no one is safe now." Good plot misdirection leads us astray, as some "facts" aren't what they seem to be.

The overall premise is vaguely believable. But a runtime of only 62 minutes suggests an underdeveloped plot. We don't really get to know the suspects very well. The film hardly gets started; then it's over.

One character is strictly ornamental. I could also have done without number 2 son (Victor Sen Yung), added apparently as comic relief, who comes across as merely annoying, mostly because Sen Yung overacts.

Stark B&W lighting creates a creepy look and feel, with Chan's very white suit against a dark background and eerie shadows. Some overhead camera shots add visual interest. The castle itself creates an atmosphere of isolation.

"Castle In The Desert" ends better than it starts. A script re-write, both to make the first half clearer and to expand the back-stories of the characters, would have helped. Even so, it's not a bad Chan film, owing mostly to some good plot misdirection and effective cinematography.


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