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Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939)

Approved | | Comedy, Crime, Horror | 8 September 1939 (USA)
Charlie's investigation of a phony psychic during the 1939 World Exposition on San Francisco's Treasure Island leads him to expose a suicide as murder.


Norman Foster


John Francis Larkin (original story) (as John Larkin), John Francis Larkin (screenplay) (as John Larkin) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Sidney Toler ... Charlie Chan
Cesar Romero ... Rhadini
Pauline Moore ... Eve Cairo
Victor Sen Yung ... Jimmy Chan (as Sen Yung)
Douglas Fowley ... Pete Lewis
June Gale ... Myra Rhadini
Douglass Dumbrille ... Thomas Gregory (as Douglas Dumbrille)
Sally Blane ... Stella Essex
Billie Seward ... Bessie Sibley
Wally Vernon ... Elmer Kelner
Donald MacBride ... Chief J.J. Kilvaine
Charles Halton ... Redley
Trevor Bardette ... Abdul
Louis Jean Heydt ... Paul Essex


A novelist friend of Charlie's appears to have committed suicide. At the international Exposition held on San Francisco Bay's Treasure Island Charlie shows that Zodiac, a phony mystic who blackmails clients, is the culprit. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The strange case of murder by magic!


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

8 September 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Charlie Chan en la isla del tesoro See more »


Box Office


$120,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA High Fidelity Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The book Charlie Chan is reading in the opening scene on the plane is "Romantic Moon" by Michael Shawn. See more »


As Chan's airplane approaches San Francisco, we briefly see a stock shot of the uncompleted eastern span of the Bay Bridge. The bridge opened more than two years before the Golden Gate International Exposition, the film's setting. See more »


Charlie Chan: Dr. Zodiac is a native of San Francisco?
Doctor Zodiac: Dr. Zodiac is a native of the Universe. He knows all people.
See more »


Followed by Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981) See more »

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User Reviews

Black magic and blackmail
10 March 2014 | by binapiraeusSee all my reviews

When a young friend of Charlie Chan's, mystery writer Paul Essex, receives a strange message on the flight to San Francisco connected with 'Zodiac', and before the landing strangely commits suicide, Charlie feels it his duty, of course, to find out who drove him to kill himself - because, as he remarks in a conversation about the occult: black magic very often goes with blackmail...

He's invited to 'Treasure Island', part of the San Francisco World Fair, by magician Rhadini, who soon reveals that his great antagonist is - 'Mr. Zodiac'! So Charlie knows he's on the right track, especially since strange things keep happening: Essex' last script, 'The Mystery of the Pigmy Arrow', which he'd just finished on the plane, vanishes, and Charlie and son Jimmy suspect ominous 'Mr. Gregory', allegedly an insurance agent. At 'Treasure Island', they meet again; and we also get to know quite some other illustrious characters: Eve Cairo, who possesses REAL psychic powers as a mind reader and for some reason seems to believe very much in Dr. Zodiac's abilities - a fact of which her boyfriend, police reporter Pete Lewis, disapproves greatly; then there's Bessie Sibley, a reckless man-hunter, who seems quite fond of Rhadini, which in turn makes his wife Myra (a former knife thrower from vaudeville) pretty jealous...

Charlie finally manages to be granted entrance to Dr. Zodiac's house, who gives a 'performance' of his psychic abilities, communicating in a really eerie dark room séance through an ancient Egyptian priestess with Paul Essex, who declares that he hadn't been blackmailed - but Charlie is convinced otherwise. So, he returns to the house when he knows that Zodiac is out; and actually finds, hidden in a secret room behind a huge safe, a whole filing cabinet with files full of ideal blackmail information on people from all over the country! He sets the whole room on fire to destroy once and for all Zodiac's 'income source' - and then thinks of a clever way to expose the ruthless blackmailer publicly: he suggests to Rhadini to challenge Zodiac to a 'spiritual duel'...

This is certainly one of the VERY best entries in the 'Charlie Chan' series, most magnificently and literally hauntingly photographed, and marvelously acted (guest starring as 'Rhadini' is none less than one of the great matinée idols of the 30s, Cesar Romero!) - the atmosphere in this movie is so fascinating that you can't take your eyes off the screen even for a moment. And yet, amid all those creepy, murderous ongoings there is always room for some humor: Jimmy Chan, as always eager to help his Pop, rushes onto the stage for an announcement - and grabs Rhadini's 'magic' coat, which starts producing flowers, ribbons and rabbits while he's trying to make his speech! There's really NOTHING missing in this magnificent thriller...

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