Featured Post

Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, May 22, 2023

The Black Camel (1931)

I’m jumping all over the place with these Charlie Chan movies. This is one of the earlier entries and is maybe the second oldest surviving one around. As I’ve mentioned before there are older movies that are considered lost with the only copies having burned in a fire. As always when covering one of these if you have any questions to my thoughts on the casting of a white actor in an Asian role, please check this out. Now onto the review.

A film crew has arrived in Honolulu including the leading lady Shelah. On the way to the islands she met and fell madly in love with a fellow passenger, but before they can marry she insists on consulting her psychic Tarneverro. Here is where Chan enters the story as he intercepts Tarneverro and warns him not to practice his art. Basically he calls him out on being a faker, though Tarneverro implies that he and Chan only report on the subtle things that they observe. I think he basically outed himself as being a phony.

Chan also mentions the death or rather murder of an actor back on the mainland a couple of years earlier. This is important as when Tarneverro meets with Shelah he also brings it up. This leads to her admitting she knows who the murderer is and that later will reveal that to him. Before that happens, she turns up dead and the police are called. Now Chan is on the case for her murder, which connects to the one he was already looking into. Suspects are plentiful as the story plays out until in the end all is revealed.

This is an excellent movie and the only surviving one based on one of the four Earl Der Biggs novels which I think helps the story and plot a great deal. The other three were adapted but are among the lost films. They mystery is solid with the movie taking the time to give us many suspects who had both the motive and means. Then one by one they are either removed by the evidence or killed off by the real culprit. There is a lot going on and you must pay attention. Without spoiling anything I will let you know that The Black Camel does a wonderful job dropping clues that do point to the identity of the killer or killers. That is my number one must have for a mystery movie. It was also fun that my guess was totally wrong, but still plausible. The scriptwriting here is top notch.

This might be the best Warner Oland performance as Chan that I’ve seen, and I’ve watched most of these movies. It makes me sad that the missing films are his as if this any indication we are missing out on some great stuff. Unlike the jovial above it all portrayals from later in the series here Chan gets angry and frustrated at those around him. When he gets socked in the face he basically comes right out and lets the person responsible they will regret doing that. There is also a blink and you’ll miss it supporting appearance from Robert Young (Father Knows Best, Marcus Welby, M.D.) and an uncredited bit part played by Dwight Frye (Dracula, Frankenstein). Speaking of classic Universal horror, the legendary Bela Lugosi gets a rather meaty role as the psychic Tarneverro. Not only do we have a great story but an awesome cast as well!

Not sure what else I can say about this one to convince you to watch it. It is one of the best mystery movies that I’ve seen from the thirties. If you ever wanted to just dip your toes in to see if this sort of thing is for you then here is a good place to start. Personally, I will be revisiting it sooner rather than later. I highly recommend The Black Camel.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

No comments:

Post a Comment