The House on Punchbowl Hill





















The Shanghai Chest


Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, July 11, 1948
Produced: Early to mid-February 1948
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, July, 11, 1948; LP1879
Sound: Western Electric Recording
Film: Black and white
Length: 5,872 feet
Running Time: 65 minutes
Production Code Administation Certificate Number: 13021
Source: Based on the character created by Earl Derr Biggers


Producer: James S. Burkett
Director: William Beaudine
Assistant Director: Wesley Barry
Screenplay: W. Scott Darling and Sam Newman
Original Story: Sam Newman
Additional Dialogue: Tim Ryan
Photography: William Sickner
Production Supervisor: Glenn Cook 
Camera Operator: William Margulies (not credited)
Stills: James Fullerton (not credited)
Art Director: David Milton
Editor: Ace Herman
Supervising Film Editor: Otho Lovering
Set Decorations: Raymond Boltz, Jr. (not credited)
Musical Direction: Edward J. Kay
Recording: Frank McWhorter
Hair Stylist: Lela Chambers (not credited)
Grip: Harry Lewis (not credited)
 

CAST:

Roland Winters: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Tim Ryan: Lt. Mike Ruark
Victor Sen Young: Tommy Chan
Deannie Best: Phyllis Powers
Tristam Coffin: Ed Seward
John Alvin: Victor Armstrong (also called Vic)
Russell Hicks: District Attorney Frank Bronson
Pierre Watkins: Judge Wesley Armstrong
Philip Van Zandt: Joseph Pindello
Milton Parsons: Mr. Grail
Olaf Hytten: Bates
Erville Alderson: Walter Somervale
George Eldredge: Pat Finley
Charlie Sullivan: Officer Murphy (not credited)
Eddie Coke: Thomas Cartwright (not credited)
William Ruhl: Jailer (not credited)
Lois Austin: Landlady (not credited)
Chabing: Receptionist (not credited)
John Shay: Stacey (not credited)
Paul Scardon: Cemetery Custodian (not credited)
Willie Best: Himself (not credited)
Louis Mason: Custodian
 



SUMMARY:

In San Francisco, Judge Wesley Armstrong is stabbed to death in his study by an intruder, and Victor Armstrong, the judge's nephew, who has come to see him, is knocked unconscious by the same assailant as he answers the telephone in the study.

Police Lieutenant Mike Ruark is alerted by the judge's secretary, Phyllis Powers, the person who had made the telephone call to the judge's residence when Victor was attacked.  As the police arrive at the Armstrong home, they discover Victor recovering consciousness and holding the murder knife in his hand.

Meanwhile, Tommy Chan, Charlie Chan's second son, and Birmingham Brown, Chan's chauffeur, are walking home from a movie when they witness an apparent burglary taking place as they see a man enter a house by climbing through a window.  Unfortunately for the two amateur sleuths, it turns out that the "burglar" is the home's owner, district attorney Frank Bronson, and they both end up spending the night in jail.

Later, Bates, Judge Armstrong's butler, tells Bronson that the judge had denied Vic entrance to the house, and that Vic had sneaked in through a window.  Phyllis then admits to Bronson that she had overheard Vic, her boyfriend, and the judge arguing about an unwise stock deal in which the former had invested $30,000 of his assets.  The judge had called his lawyer, Ed Seward, arranging to meet him the next day to draw up a new will which would exclude his nephew who was his sole heir.  Bronson assumes that if the judge had not been killed the night before, Victor would have been completely disinherited, thus making it appear that he had a clear motive for killing his uncle.

When Chan comes to see Bronson to apologize about the misadventure of Tommy and Birmingham, Bronson and Ruark receive word that two sets of fingerprints were found on the knife - Vic's and Tony Pindello's.  Aware that Pindello had been executed at San Quentin Prison six months before, having been sentenced by judge Armstrong, Ruark asks for Chan's help with the case.

Later, someone shoots and kills Bronson and removes papers that he was examining related to the Pindello case.  Ruark tells Chan about Bronson's murder and that Pindello's fingerprints were found on Bronson's desk.

At Judge Armstrong's office, Chan and Ruark discover Walter Somervale, the judge's clerk of court, going through papers in a filing cabinet.  While Chan and Ruark examine the judge's papers, Seward shows up and tells them that, before he became the judge's personal attorney, he had defended Pindello in his murder trial. In the judge's safe, are found papers regarding a commission investigating eacketeering in the insurance business, on which Seward is also serving.  They also find a letter addressed to Vic, to be opened only in the event of the judge's death.  In the letter, Judge Armstrong states that he had uncovered evidence suggesting that Pindello may have been innocent and that he had intended to inform Bronson of this.

After Chan learns that Pindello was buried in a local cemetery, they go there and discover that the coffin has been removed.  Chan then requests that all members of the Pindello jury be placed under police protection as he fears for their safety.  However, Lt. Ruark fails to locate one juror, Thomas Cartwright.

Pat Finley, Ruark's assistant, locates Cartwright's new address but, before he can reach him, someone enters Cartwright's room and slugs him with the butt of a pistol.  When Finley arrives, he finds Cartwright dead by hanging.  Once again, Pindello's fingerprints are found at the crime scene.  The third victim's name, Chan notes, begins with the letter "C," pointing to an alphabetical list of intended victims.  Chan also tells Ruark that he thinks there could be a connection between the Pindello case and the insurance swindle.

After Chan discovers a method by which Pindello's fingerprints might have been forged, he asks Ruark to arrange a meeting with Phyllis, Vic, and Seward at the judge's home.  While they are in the study, the lights go out, and a masked gunman locks them in a closet, then leaves.  They manage to break out, and find that all of the papers relating to the Pindello case are missing.

Later, Chan discovers that a director of a funeral parlor has recently reburied a sealed coffin and obtains the address of the man who had arranged for the burial.  Chan seeks out the address and breaks into the man's room but is surprised by Joseph Pindello, Tony's brother.

CONCLUSION:

Later, Ruark assembles all of the principals in the case.  Chan explains that Pindello had a brother, Joseph, who was in jail when Tony had written to him telling him that he was about to be executed for a crime that he had not committed.  According to Chan, when Joseph was released from jail, he had dug up his brother's body, and had intended to kill everyone who was associated with the execution.

As Chan explains this, Joseph enters, holds everyone at gunpoint, and says that he had simply intended to give his brother a proper burial.  Before he can continue, he is tackled from behind by Tommy and is taken prisoner.  However, Chan tells the group that Joseph is not the murderer of Armstrong, Bronson, or Cartwright, but that Seward is.  Chan states that he was involved with Tony Pindello in an insurance swindle.  Seward wanted all of the money, so he framed Tony for murder.  Fearing that Armstrong and Bronson were about to discover this, Seward murdered them and also killed Cartwright to make it look like a series of murders.  Seward grabs Joseph's gun and explains how he had used Tony's fingerprints to divert attention from himself.  Chan then reveals that Joseph was part of the set-up that they have just gone through and that the gun in Seward's hand is not loaded.  Seward tries to flee, but runs into Birmingham and, in the confusion, is captured.

NOTES: This film's working title was Murder By Alphabet.  Louis Mason is listed in the Call Bureau Cast Service in the role of the cemetery custodian, but the part was actually played by Paul Scardon.

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



CHARLIE CHAN'S APHORISMS:

Have two ears, but can only hear one thing at time.
 
Night in Bastille not exactly bed of roses.

Happiest walk in life of mailman are on holiday.

Surprised detective might just as well clutch iron ball and dive in lake.

Hardly worth exhibiting puzzle until more pieces fit together.

Patience are virtue one must hug to bosom.

Sometimes muddy waters, when stirred sufficiently, bring strange things to surface.

So seldom brains and beauty dance in street together.

Someone once say, "Out of mouths of babes come wisdom."

People who have gone beyond cannot harm you.

Man who have gun either afraid or have guilty conscience.


OTHER WORTHY STATEMENTS:

(Lt. Ruark: "Say, that's a funny gag, isn't it!  Chinese puzzle - Chinese cop!")  Very funny.

Sometimes feel it better to lull suspected person with false sense of security.  (To Lt. Ruark)

Many people greatly exaggerate humble abilities.  (Responding to a compliment from Ed Seward)

(Lt. Ruark: "Do dead people walk around committing murders?")  Well, sometimes do if somebody dig them up.

This definitely combing hair of iron donkey.  (To Lt. Ruark regarding the very difficult nature of the case)

(Receptionist: "You're a detective, aren't you?")  Sometime act in such capacity.

(Receptionist: "I don't know anything, Mr. Chan, I'm just here to answer the telephone.")  Seem like Charlie Chan get wrong number.

(Tommy: "You mean I can't go with you?")  Statement has earmarks of extreme truthfulness.

Certain facts begin to gleam clear like snow on distant mountain top.  (To Phyllis Powers)

Seems like trusted servant Birmingham immitate bear and hibernate.  (To Tommy)

Think maybe Charlie Chan have found exit from dead-end street.  (To Tommy)



REVIEW:

Variety, September 8, 1948

Latest Charlie Chan is so loaded with pseudo-Chinese wisdom that thesps find it difficult to sweep through the maze into film's cloudy plot.  "Shanghai Chest" will probably hold up in its intended lower rung rack though it is rather dull material.

Roland Winters particularly must have found the dialog very difficult to mouth during the greater part of the film's 65-minute running time.  Supporting players fight a static battle in their effort to stay abreast of the entangled, triple-murder plot.  Deannie Best turns in the only really bad performance, but limited screen time reduces all the negations to a minimum.

W. Scott Darling and Sam Newman's screenplay brings Winters into scene with proverbs trained on a dead man who leaves his fingerprints in plain view after each of three murders.  Detective eventually traces the culprit sporting the dead man's fingertips.  Needless to say, he is always within firing range, but never within suspicion.
 
William Beaudine did the utmost with his directional chores but plot's verbosity curtailed his power to bring in a sharp, low budget thriller to the screen. James S. Burkett's production leaves much to be desired.

 
 

FILM NOTES:

PROBABLE DATE: Early February (?) 1948 (three days)
 
LOCATION: San Francisco, California
 
THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE VIEWED BY JIMMY CHAN AND BIRMINGHAM BROWN: "The Hatchet in the Head"
 
THE FRIEND OF CHARLIE CHAN: San Francisco District Attorney Frank Bronson
 
THE AMOUNT OF VICTOR ARMSTRONG'S "BAD INVESTMENTS" ACCORDING TO HIS UNCLE, JUDGE ARMSTRONG: $30,000
 
THE AGREED UPON TIME THAT ED SEWARD WAS SCHEDULED TO MEET JUDGE ARMSTRONG AT THE OFFICE OF THE LATTER: "...ten in the morning..." 
 
ACCORCING TO FRANK BRONSON, THE LENGTH OF TIME THAT TONY PINDELLO HAD BEEN DEAD: "Tony Pindello's been dead for six months."
 
ACCORDING TO FRANK BRONSON, THE CAUSE OF TONY PINDELLO'S DEATH: "He was executed in the gas chamber at San Quenton [prison]."
 
ACCORDING TO WILLIE BEST, THE LENGTH OF HIS OWN JAIL SENTENCE: "90 days."
 
THE REASON THAT WILLIE BEST WAS IN JAIL: For "loitering" in a bank at midnight.
 
THE WRITING ON THE EMPTY ENVELOPE SEEN NEXT TO THE MURDERED FRANK BRONSON: "Pindello Case"
 
ACCORDING TO LT. RUARK, THE TIME OF THE DISCOVERY OF FRANK BRONSON'S MURDER: "...about two hours ago."
 
THE TEXT OF THE PLAQUE SHOWN ON THE SAN FRANCISCO HALL OF JUSTICE:
     
       "HALL OF JUSTICE
     ERECTED MCMX
NEWTON J. THARP ARCHITECT"
 
THE ROOM NUMBER OF JUDGE ARMSTRONG'S OFFICE AT THE HALL OF JUSTICE: 605
 
THE LAST PART OF JUDGE ARMSTRONG'S SAFE COMBINATION AS READ BY PHYLLIS POWERS: "Right to 72."
 
ACCORDING TO LT. RUARK, THE LOCATION OF THE BODY OF TONY PINDELLO: "He was buried right here in town - City Cemetery."
 
THE NAME, AS READ BY CHARLIE CHAN, ON THE GRAVE MARKER: "Antonio Pindello."
 
THE NAME OF THE FIRST INBSURANCE COMPANY VISITED BY CHARLIE CHAN: Acme Insurance Co.
 
THE NAME OF THE DETECTIVE AGENCY LOCATED IN THE SAME BUILDING: Apex Detective Agency
 
THE NAMES OF THE OTHER INSURANCE COMPANIES VISITED:
 
Latimer & Logan Insurance Brokers
Comprehensive Insurance Co.
Barnett Pace General Insurance
Inter-island Insurance Co.
 
THE NAME ON ANOTHER SIGN SHOWN IN CHINATOWN: "Sing Ching"
 
LT. RUARK'S OFFICE NUMBER: 14
 
THE NAME OF THE BUSINESS LOCATED BELOW THOMAS CARTWRIGHT'S APARTMENT: Bennie's
 
THE NUMBER OF THE MANAGER'S APARTMENT AT THOMAS CARTWRIGHT'S APARTMENT HOUSE: 1   
 
THOMAS CARTWRIGHT'S ADDRESS: 191 Golden Gate Avenue, Apt. 2
 
ACCORDING TO LT. RUARK, THE NAME OF THE POTENTIAL FOURTH VICTIM IN THE "ABC MURDERS": "Duncan..."
 
DUNCAN'S ADDRESS, ACCORDING TO LT. RUARK: "...4 Fairview Avenue."
 
THE NAME OF THE SUSPICIOUS FUNERAL PARLOR VISITED BY CHARLIE CHAN: AAA Funeral Parlor
 
THE OTHER FUNERAL PARLORS VISITED BY CHARLIE CHAN:
 
Reed A. Nesbit Funeral Chapel
Harian L. Howard Mortician
Zorberg Funeral Chapel
Haronson Funeral Parlor
Gordon & Harper Funeral Chapel
Leymoyne & Co. Morticians
 
AN ADDITIONAL FUNERAL PARLOR AS SEEN LISTED IN THE TELEPHONE BOOK:
 
  "RIMER AND HOLT
FUNERAL EXECUTORS
30 Dresler St.    MArket----"
 
JOSEPH PINDELLO'S CHINATOWN APARTMENT NUMBER: 12
 
THE LOCATION OF THE "SHANGHAI CHEST": Joseph Pindello's apartment
 
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE CRIME COMMITTED BY JOSEPH PINDELLO THAT RESULTED IN HIS PRISON SENTENCE: "...Robbing safe."
 
ACCORDING TO CHARLIE CHAN, THE DATE OF JOSEPH PINDELLO'S ESCAPE FROM PRISON: "...three weeks ago."
 
THE MURDER METHODS USED IN THE "ABC MURDERS":
 
Judge Armstrong: knife in the back
District Attorney Bronson: shot
Thomas Cartwright: rendered unconscious by a blow to the head and then hanged

 
 

GLOSSARY:

bastille - A prison; a jail.  The Bastille was an infamous prison located in Paris in pre-revolutionary France.
Charlie Chan: "Night in bastille not exactly bed of roses."
 
bird - (Slang)  A person, especially one who is odd or remarkable.
Lt. Mike Ruark: "...we should've found out more from that bird."
 
copper - (Slang)  A police officer.
Joseph Pindello: "Don't turn around, copper!"
 
double talk - Deliberately ambiguous or evasive language.
Birmingham Brown: "You mean double talk."
 
fire away - (Informal)  To begin to talk or ask a question or questions.
Ed Seward: "Fire away."
 
framed - (Slang)  Having been incriminated by made up evidence or contrived events.
Joseph Pindello: "He was framed."
 
knocked for a loop - (Idiom)  To be astonished of confused.
Edward Seward: "This thing has knocked me for a loop."
 
on the spot - (Idiom)  In a difficult situation.
Lt. Mike Ruark: "You're on the spot, son."
 
second story man - A burglar who enters buildings from the second floor.
Birmingham Brown: "I've been through more windows than a second story man."
 
spring - (Slang)  To cause to be released from prison or other confinement.
Lt. Mike Ruark: "I'll arrange to spring him right away."
 
stall - To deceptively cause a delay.
Joseph Pindello: "You're not trying to stall me 'til the cops come, are you. Mr. Chan?"
 
For a complete list from all films, please visit our Charlie Chan Glossary.

 
 

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