Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


THE BLACK CAMEL (1931). Director: Hamilton MacFadden.

Inspector Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) is called in when an actress, Shelah Fane (Dorothy Revier), filming on location in Hawaii, is found murdered. Apparently Miss Fane knew too much about the unsolved murder three years earlier of another actor with whom she had been involved. The suspects include a fortune teller named Tarneverro (Bela Lugosi), a maid named Anna (Violet Dunn), Shelah's friend Julie (Sally Eilers), her boyfriend Jimmy (Robert Young in his "film debut," although he was also an extra in The Campus Vamp in 1928), Shelah's fiance Alan (William Post Jr.), an odd painter and beachcomber named Smith (Murray Kinnell), and Shelah's ex-husband Robert Fyfe (Victor Varconi). Aside from Oland, most of the actors are merely serviceable, although Violet Dunn is vivid, as is the ever-overwrought Dwight Frye in the role of a butler. Lugosi has a good-sized role, but is not really seen to good advantage. Handsome Varconi seems to have stolen his accent from Lugosi! Born in Hungary, Varconi was also in The Man Who Turned to Stone and Atomic Submarine. Stage-bound and slow, The Black Camel is a fairly dull Charlie Chan movie. Even the Monogram Chans were better than this. There's an amusing scene showing Chan at home with his snappy and very American family.

Verdict: It creaks. **.

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