The House on Punchbowl Hill





















Dark Alibi


Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, May 25, 1946
Production: Began mid-December 1945
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, March 26, 1946; LP184
Sound: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 5,528 feet 
Running Time: 60-61 minutes
Production Code Administration Certificate Number: 11408
Source: Based on the character created by Earl Derr Biggers
 
 


Producer: James S. Burkett
Director: Phil Karlson
Assistant Director: Theodore Joos
Second Assistant Director: Joel Kronish (not credited) 
Original Screenplay: George Callahan
Script Supervisor: Ilona Vos (not credited)
Photography: William Sickner
Assistant Cameraman: Joe Farley (not credited) 
Second Camera: Al Nicklin (not credited)
Operator: Al Nicklin (not credited)
Loader: Bud Davidson (not credited)
Special Effects: Larry Glickman and Mario Castegnaro (neither credited)
Technical Director: Dave Milton
Supervising Film Editor: Richard Currier
Editor: Ace Herman
Set Dresser: Max Pitman (not credited)
Musical Direction: Edward J. Kay
Recording: Tom Lambert
Recorder: Dean Spencer
Mike Man: Louis Johnson
Re-recording and Effects Mixing: Joseph I. Kane (not credited)
Music Mixing: William H. Wilmarth (not credited)
Production Manager: Glenn Cook
Still Man: Bill Wallace (not credited) 
Cable Man: H.G. Bavaird (not credited)
Prop Man: Johnny Orlando (not credited)
Second Prop Man: Al Seiger (not credited)
Grip: Harry Lewis (not credited)
Second Grip: George Carstensen (not credited)
Wardrobe Man: Harry Bourne (not credited)
Wardrobe Woman: Nanette Smith (not credited)
Gaffer: John Lee (not credited)
Electrical: M.H. Serotte (not credited)
Special Effects: Augie Lohman (not credited)
Casting - Parts: Menifee Johnstone (not credited)
Casting - Bits: Rose Alexander (not credited)
Casting - Extras: Bert Hampton (not credited)
Makeup: Harry Ross (not credited)
Hairdresser: Sandra Walters (not credited)

CAST:

Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Ben Carter: Ben Carter
Benson Fong: Tommy Chan
Teala Loring: June Harley
George Holmes: Hugh Kensey
Joyce Compton: Emily Evans
John Eldridge: Anthony R. Morgan
Russell Hicks: Warden Cameron
Tim Ryan: Foggy
Janet Shaw: Miss Petrie
Edward Earle: Thomas Harley
Ray Walker: Danvers
Milton Parsons: Johnson
Edna Holland: Mrs. Foss
Anthony Warde: Jimmy Slade
George Eldredge: Brand
Meyer Grace: Doorman
William Ruhl: Thompson (not credited)
Frank Marlowe: Barker (not credited)
 



SUMMARY:

When ex-convict Thomas Harley arrives at a boarding house where he lives with his daughter June, he is arrested for robbing a bank and killing a bank guard.  He claims that he was summoned to the Carey Theatrical Warehouse by a note that sent to him by his former cell mate, Dave Wyatt, and was subsequently locked inside.  The police do not believe his alibi because Wyatt has been dead for eight years.  Fingerprints belonging to Harley are found at the crime scene, and he is put on trial, found guilty, and condemned to death.

Desperate to prove her father innocent, June asks Charlie Chan to recommend someone who can help her and her father.  Chan writes a name and address on a piece of paper and hands it to June.  The note bears Chan's name and and that of his hotel.  He agrees that the case against her father is suspect.

Together with June's boyfriend, prison guard Hugh Kensey, Chan questions Mrs. Foss, the landlady of the boarding house, who often rents rooms to ex-convicts.  It is determined that the note that was supposedly sent to June's father by Wyatt was written on Foss' typewriter.  Chan then questions the other boarders: Miss Petrie, who works for a small salary at a social foundation; Mr. Johnson, a bookkeeper for the Carey Theatrical Warehouse; Mr. Danvers, a bank alarm salesman; and Emily Evans, a showgirl whose costume was found at the warehouse.  Both Danvers and Evans had traveled to other cities immediately before banks in those locations were robbed.

The next day, Chan, son Tommy, and chauffeur Birmingham Brown, drive to San Quentin Prison where Thomas Harley is awaiting his nearing execution.  On the way there, an unknown assailant shoots at them. 
Chan deduces that only the persons at the boarding house knew of his plan to visit the prison that day.

Chan becomes convinced that the fingerprints that were found at the scene of the crime were somehow forged.  After studying the police reports, Chan discovers that although a different man was convicted for each of the previous robberies, each man had been jailed at the same prison, and the modus operandi used was identical in each case.

Miss Petrie is revealed as the wife of Jimmy Slade, a convict trustee, who is employeed in the fingerprint bureau of the prison.  When Petrie disappears, Chan, Birmingham, and Tommy hurry to the warehouse. 
Outside of the warehouse they are nearly run down by a delivery truck which then speeds off.  Inside, they locate Johnson, who suspiciously feigns hearing difficulty.  A little later, Petrie is run down and killed by the same delivery truck that had earlier attempted the same on Chan and his party.

When Chan returns to the prison, he finds that the fingerprint cards have been tampered with.  Slade overhears Chan, and is mortally wounded during a futile attempt at escape when the gun he is using misfires and shoots him due to a plugged barrel.  After stating that he will not take the rap, Slade dies.

CONCLUSION:

Chan then takes fingerprints of all of the borders at Mrs. Foss' boarding house, and finds Johnson's on one of the cards from the prison's files.  Returning to the warehouse, Chan finds the equipment necessary for forging fingerprints in the back of the truck that had killed Petrie.  Danvers then tries to kill Chan, as he did Johnson, to prevent him from talking.

After Harley is cleared, Chan explains that Slade had sent the prints to Johnson, who had copied them for Danvers, who had carried out the robberies.  He adds that Kensey was the leader of the gang, and when Harley had opposed his marriage to June, the guard framed him.

NOTES: The film's working titles were Fatal Fingerprints, Fatal Fingertips, and Charlie Chan in Alcatraz.  Stock footage used in Dark Alibi shows California's San Quentin State Prison.  The opening title card reads: "Charlie Chan in 'Dark Alibi.'"  The Call Bureau Cast Service Lists Minerva Urecal as "Mrs. Foss."  However, production information included in the file on the film at the American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library states that she was replaced by Edna Holland, who is listed in the onscreen credits.

Adapted from: AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG - Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960



CHARLIE CHAN'S APHORISMS:

Ancient proverb say, "One small wind can raise much dust."

Honorable grandmother always say, "Do not think of future - it come too soon."

Ugliest trade sometimes have moment of joy.  Even gravedigger know some people for whom he would do his work with extreme pleasure.

Remember old saying: "Earthquake may shatter the rock, but sand upon which rock stood still right there in same old place."
 

What is my reputation compared to man's life?

Never believe nightmare no matter how real it may seem.

Accidents can happen, if planned that way.

Nothing is impossible.
 
Am detective, not magician.

Skeletons in closets always speak loudest to police.

Bad men leave marks wherever they go.

No experiment is failure until last experiment is success.

Many contemptible persons in prison.


OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:

Government work keep me hopping like dissatisfied flea from dog to dog.

Wish you would wear out brains instead of seat of pants.  (To Birmingham and Tommy)

He is like tooth which has been pulled. Tooth is missing, but gap remains. From gap, we may deduce why tooth is gone.  (Regarding Thomas Harley)

(Mrs. Foss: "That's all I have to say.")  That's what woman always say, yet go right on talking.

(Birmingham: [driving to the prison] "Mr. Chan, is this the shortest way to prison?")  No, shortest way is commit crime.

You surprise yourself, huh? Usually you surprise me.  (To Tommy) 

At moment, I am like man trying to set clock by guess.  And as time does not stand still, perhaps better not stand still myself.

First time I hear cuckoos outside of clock.  (Regarding Tommy and Birmingham)

You will get out of here [jail cell] before they put you in a garment suitable to your personality.  (Birmingham: "What kind of garment is that?")  Straight jacket.  (To Tommy and Birmingham)

Son Tommy is noisy woodpecker on family tree.

He finish school - now he try to finish me.  (Regarding Tommy)

For time, I nurse theory - very excellent theory - but now, instead of nurse, I fear theory needs undertaker.

Instead of undertaker, doctor arrive, and theory now very healthy again.

You two not afraid?  (Tommy: "Afraid of what, Pop?)  You sit down so much you get concussion of brain.  (To Tommy and Birmingham)
 
(Tommy: "Pop, I've got a swell idea.")  Good, save it for old age.

Everything now in lap of gods. Very soon I give very hardy shove, perhaps clue fall off of laps.

You are travelling salesman. This time - no sale.  (To Danvers)



FILM NOTES:

THE POSSIBLE DATE OF CHARLIE CHAN'S INVOLVEMENT IN THIS CASE: Fall 1945 (between the 8th and the 14th of some month)
 
DURATION: Seven days  

PROBABLE LOCATIONS: Los Angeles, California and San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California (Located about 20 miles north of San Francisco on San Francisco Bay)

CHARLIE CHAN'S "OLD FRIEND": Warden Cameron
 
THE NAME OF THE BOARDING HOTEL: Foss Family Hotel

THE NAME OF THE BANK THAT WAS ROBBED: Citizen's State Bank (Thomas Harley convicted of robbing this bank)

THE NAME OF THE THEATRICAL WAREHOUSE: Carey's Theatrical Warehouse

THE NOTE WRITTEN TO THOMAS HARLEY:

THE BUILDING SHOWN RELATING TO THE THOMAS HARLEY TRIAL: 

The Hall of Records Building, Los Angeles, California.  This building
was located next to the Los Angeles County Courthouse.  It opened
in 1906 and was demolished in 1973.           

THE SUPERIMPOSED STAR DISPATCH FRONT PAGE AND HEADLINE AND STORY LINE:

SECOND SUPERIMPOSED HEADLINE:

THIRD SUPERIMPOSED HEADLINE:

FORTH SUPERIMPOSED HEADLINE:

THE DATE SET FOR THOMAS HARLEY'S EXECUTION: 17th of the month

THE TIME REMAINING UNTIL THOMAS HARLEY'S EXECUTION: Nine days
 
THE NOTE GIVEN TO JUNE HARLEY BY CHARLIE CHAN:

THE ABOVE NOTE WAS ACTUALLY WRITTEN BY SIDNEY TOLER HIMSELF AS EVIDENCED BY THESE WRITING SAMPLES ALSO WRITTEN BY TOLER:

 
CHARLIE CHAN'S HOTEL AND ROOM NUMBER: Larchmont Hotel, Room 325.  Larchmont is a small community located within the city of Los Angeles.

THE TOWNS WHERE BANKS WERE ROBBED: Lamont and Rordon. 
 
Lamont is a "census-designated place" located in California's Kern County about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and 8 miles south of Bakersfield.  Rordon may have been a location in California that no longer exists.

THE NAME OF THE PERSON CONVICTED OF ROBBING THE LAMONT BANK: Stephen Briggs

THE NAME OF THE PERSON CONVICTED OF ROBBING THE RORDEN BANK: Stanley Grey
 
THE PRISON WHERE THOMAS HARLEY WAS INCARCERATED: San Quentin State Prison

THE NUMBER OF PRISONER JIMMY SLADE: 8251

THE NUMBER OF PRISONER BEN CARTER, BIRMINGHAM BROWN'S FRIEND: 1452

THE NUMBER OF PRISONER THOMAS HARLEY: 8150

"FOGGY'S" CELLMATE: "Punchy"

THE EX-CONVICT WHOSE FINGERPRINTS WERE USED: Louis Mack, who was falsely accused of the murder of Miss Petrie
 
LOUIS MACK'S STATE PRISON INFORMATION CARD:

OF INTEREST, PERHAPS.  A CALENDAR SEEN IN THE OFFICE OF THE THEATRICAL WAREHOUSE SHOWING DECEMBER 1944:

 
 

GLOSSARY:

in stitches - (Idiom)  Laughing uncontollably.
Danvers: "...she always leaves me in stitches!"
 
frame - (Informal)  Made up evidence or contrive events so as to falsely incriminate a person.
Warden Cameron: "...our prison cards couldn't have been used to frame these men."
 
needle  - (Informal)  To tease.
Danvers: "Always giving me the needle..."
 
sent up - (Idiom)  Sent to prison.  Short for "sent up the river."
Anthony R. Morgan: "Harley was sent up for the bank robbery in this city."
 
For a complete list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.

 
 

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