THE BLACK CAMEL (1931)
Article #1311 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-16-2004
Posting Date: 3-15-2005
Directed by Hamilton MacFadden
Featuring Warner Oland, Bela Lugosi, Robert Young
Charlie Chan investigates the murder of an actress in Honolulu.
Fantastic aspects: Slight. They largely consist of the presence of certain actors associated with horror, and a sequence involving a crystal ball.
This may be an important movie historically. Not only does it appear to be the earliest surviving of the Warner Oland Charlie Chan movies, but it may be the first time a horror star was cast as a red herring in a mystery. I base this assumption on the fact that Bela Lugosi was the first horror star (yes, Lon Chaney predated him, but he was never really a “horror star” per se, nor do I think he was ever used as a red herring in a mystery), and this movie gives him a very high credit, indicating that it must have been made after he gained fame in DRACULA. Actually, he’s well used in this movie; he’s given a lot more to do than to give sinister glowers, and DRACULA fans will also be happy to see that Dwight Frye is on hand as well. This one is a lot of fun, with Oland quite hilarious at times. He’s assisted by a rather dim helper named Kashimo rather than his number one son, but we do have a great sequence with Chan at home with his family (which is quite large), and makes a great comment about escaping the frustrations of family life to the calm and peace of solving murders. Hamilton MacFadden (who directed) plays a movie director in the movie, and a young Robert Young (no relation to Old Robert Old) also appears.