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Eccentric scientist Harper lives in a spooky mansion with all the trimmings: hidden lab, secret panels, inscrutable butler, and greedy relatives with unusual talents. When Harper seems to be murdered, Charlie Chan (with the uninvited help of No. 4 son) tries to answer such questions as Where's the body? How can a dead man walk? And how can a secret murder be done in full view of detectives and witnesses? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
This film received its earliest documented telecasts in New York City Thursday 8 July 1948 on WCBS (Channel 2), in Los Angeles Thursday 13 October 1949 on KTLA (Channel 5), and in San Francisco Tuesday 6 December 1949 on KPIX (Channel 5). See more »
The key to identifying the murderer is an ear remaining from a broken plaster life-make, reputedly as identifiable as a fingerprint, yet when we earlier see an intact life-mask, the face is precise but the ears are generic globs. See more »
This is one of the strangest Charlie Chan films I've even seen, probably because many of the suspects were so weird. That, and the building in which most of the action takes place - with all its secret and motorized panels - is odd to see.
The story: an unpopular family member-scientist, "Dr. Harper," (Frank Reicher) has developed a chemical that makes wood as strong as steel. Our government could use this, especially in time of war, so they are obviously concerned when the scientist is found murdered. They call on Charlie Chan to help solve the case and get the formula. Charlie winds up getting help from his Number Four Son "Eddie," someone I never saw in any other Chan films. He was the bespectacled "intellectual" son in the family and another likable Chan.
Anyway, someone is after the formula - for the money it could bring them - and is culprit is probably from the big family where the doctor was working. All of these people are portrayed as guilty-looking so the audience has a hard time figuring out who's the killer.
The "whodunnit" is wrapped up in the end with a gathering of everyone while Chan explains his discoveries. That was the only problem with the film: the ending was unsatisfying and bit unrealistic.
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