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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This film received its earliest documented telecasts in New York City Thursday 8 July 1948 on KCBS (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 »
No barber shaves so close but another barber finds some work to do.
Reckon what he says is what you might call a cutting remark.
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Scientists, gas formulas, puppeteers, and an old mansion
Now how does all this go together? Well, there's scientist Harper who's working with his assistant Meeker on a gas formula that turns wood into coal instantly (and would be of enormous interest to any government during the War); he's turned a lonely old mansion into his laboratory, and he trusts nobody, so he keeps his formula locked in a secret chamber with a panel that closes automatically if anyone unauthorized enters and tries to take the envelope, and only HIS voice can open it again, while inside a deadly gas streams out to kill the invader...
And since he trusts and likes nobody, when he's killed by a poisoned dart in his laboratory, ALL the household members are suspects, because nobody liked him, either... There's his colleague Meeker, his butler Roth, his sister Louise, his niece Jean, his assistant in his hobby, making puppets and toy robots, Stella, and mute chauffeur Michael - and if that weren't enough, a policeman disappears mysteriously near the house, and a little later Harper's alleged stepson Lloyd Archer turns up to claim the formula!
So a LOT of difficult, and dangerous, detective work awaits Charlie Chan when he takes over the case; and inevitably, he's got to take his 'number 4 son' Edward and Birmingham with him to 'assist' him... The confusion continues, with a 'walking' corpse, the policeman's body being found in a closet, and mute Michael bringing Charlie an important piece of evidence: a jade mask, one of those hanging on all the walls, effigies of all the members of the household - but while handing it to him, Michael is also killed by a poisoned dart, and the mask is broken... So what is Charlie to make of all this??
A VERY intriguing crime puzzle, with the good old spooky settings of an old mansion, a big lot of suspense - and humor, as always provided by Birmingham and a Chan son; this time 'Edward', obviously the bookworm of the family, complete with glasses and scientific comments on everything - and played by Edwin Luke, the younger brother of Charlie's 'number one son Lee' from the Warner Oland films, Keye Luke!
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