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

Thursday, April 23, 2015


CASTLE IN THE DESERT (1942). Director: Harry Lachman.

Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) receives a note from a woman named Lucy Manderley (Lenita Lane of The Bat) that asks him to come immediately to her castle located in the Mojave Desert in California. Once he arrives, Charlie learns that Lucy never sent the note, but there has apparently already been one murder. Lucy is a descendant of the notorious Lucrezia Borgia, and when a victim or two winds up poisoned, naturally suspicion falls upon her. But there are other suspects: Carl Detheridge (Richard Derr of When Worlds Collide), who worked with Charlie on a previous case; Lucy's husband (Douglass Dumbrille of Alimony), half of whose face is hidden due to a scar; sculptor Watson King (Henry Daniell), who wants to do a bust of Lucy; cadaverous Arthur Fletcher (Milton Parsons), who has a few secrets; the weird fortune teller Madame Saturnia (Ethel Griffies); and others. As the deaths occur, Charlie and the others, including son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung), are trapped in the castle without a car or a telephone. There's an apothecary in the basement that contains numerous poisons as well as a torture chamber. Castle in the Desert gets a little silly at times, but it has a good story and is well acted by the principals. Derr and Griffies appeared in previous Chan films but played different characters. This was the last Charlie Chan film produced by Twentieth Century-Fox.

Verdict: Good fun in a creepy castle. ***.

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