Castle in the Desert

Castle in the Desert is a 1942 film featuring the Asian detective Charlie Chan. It was the eleventh film to feature Sidney Toler as the title character, and the last made by 20th Century Fox. The series continued with Toler, though under much reduced circumstances, at Monogram Pictures.

Castle in the Desert
Directed byHarry Lachman
Produced byRalph Dietrich
Written byEarl Derr Biggers (characters)
John Larkin
StarringSidney Toler
Music byEmil Newman
CinematographyVirgil Miller
Edited byJohn Brady
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
February 27, 1942
Running time
62 minutes
CountryUnited States


Mrs. Manderley, an eccentric descendant of the Borgias lives in a castle in the middle of the Mojave Desert with her husband Paul Manderley, a reclusive scholary millionaire. Someone is killed after being poisoned. Paul tries to cover up the murder in which Charlie Chan investigates. In addition to Paul Manderley and his wife (who may be insane and not responsible for her actions) other suspects include:

  • Walter Hartford, Paul's lawyer who wants to maintain his influence over the Manderley estate
  • Madame Saturnia, a local astrologer who takes great pride in the fact that her predictions about the growing number of murder victims are always right
  • Watson King, a sculptor who warns Chan to mind his own business and has a connection to the Manderleys

The clues include:

  • the poison used which was stolen from a laboratory
  • a forged letter sent to Charlie Chan summoning him to the Manderley Castle
  • the poisoned cocktail
  • a medieval crossbow

Aiding and hindering Chan's investigation is his Number Two son Jimmy, who is on leave with the U.S. Army, and decides to get involved to help his father solve the case, much to the senior Chan's annoyance.

The location is loosely based on Scotty's Castle, a Spanish Revival style villa built by a Chicago millionaire as a vacation home in Death Valley.


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