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 <email@example.com>
Citizen Kane might have indirectly inspired this Charlie Chan classic oddly enough. The setting is a Castle In The Desert whose look might have been taken from the real life San Simeon or the film Xanadu. But it has that look of a sinister place where all kinds of crime does occur. And in this case murder does visit the Castle In The Desert.
There are two criminal conspiracies going on at the same time and the instigator of one has the hubris to ask Charlie Chan in to help with one. Silly perpetrator, did the individual not realize what forces they were turning loose, the mind of one shrewd detective?
Sidney Toler arrives with Victor Sen Yung as number 2 son and they're both among others trapped in the place. Their hosts are eccentric millionaire Douglass Dumbrille and wife Lenita Lane with such interesting and varied guests as Ethel Griffies, Henry Daniell, Steven Geray, Arleen Whelan, Richard Derr, Edmund MacDonald, and Milton Parsons, all of whom have dabbled in screen villainy. In fact that's the best thing going about Castle In The Desert, a ton of red herrings to choose from.
Castle In The Desert is not one of the strongest Charlie Chan features and 20th Century Fox would drop the series after this film and it would reemerge at Monogram in two years. But the cast makes this one a lot of fun.
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