Shanghai Chest


56m 1948

Brief Synopsis

Vic Armstrong arrives at his Uncle Judge Armstrong's home just in time to answer the telephone. Unknown to him, his uncle has just been murdered and the culprit is right there in the room with him! Phyllis Powers, on the other end of the line, recognizes Vic's voice, but just then Vic is knocked unconscious by the murderer. When he awakens, he (for reasons known only to movie mystery writers) pulls the knife out of his uncle's back, thus putting his fingerprints all over it, and just in time for the police, having been called by a worried Phyllis, to discover him standing over the body. Well, we know he didn't do it, but the police don't agree. Can Charlie Chan recognize the boy's innocence, and find the real murderer before Vic is sent into durance vile, or even worse?

Film Details

Also Known As
Murder by Alphabet
Release Date
Jul 11, 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Monogram Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Monogram Distributing Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers.

Technical Specs

Duration
56m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,872ft

Synopsis

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 slugged by the same assailant. Police lieutenant Mike Ruark is alerted by the judge's secretary, Phyllis Powers, and discovers Victor recovering consciousness with a knife in his hand. Meanwhile, Tommy Chan, the second son of renowned private detective Charlie Chan, and Birmingham, Chan's chauffeur, are walking home from a movie when they spot an apparent burglar entering a house by a window. When it turns out that the "burglar" was the house's owner, district attorney Frank Bronson, however, they both end up spending the night in jail. Later, Bates, the judge's butler, tells Bronson that the judge had denied Vic entrance to the house, and Vic had sneaked in through a window. Phyllis then admits to Bronson that she overheard Vic, her boyfriend, and the judge arguing about an unwise stock deal in which Vic had invested $30,000 of his assets. The judge called his lawyer, Ed Seward, and arranged to meet him the following morning to draw up a new will which would exclude Vic, then his sole heir. Bronson assumes that if the judge had not been killed the night before, Vic would have been totally disinherited, thus making it appear that he had every motivation to kill his uncle. When Chan comes to see Bronson to apologize about Tommy and Birmingham, Bronson and Ruark are notified that two sets of fingerprints were found on the knife--Vic's and Tony Pindello's. Aware that Pindello was executed in the San Quentin gas chamber six months before, having been sentenced by Judge Armstrong, Ruark asks for Chan's help with the case. Later, someone shoots and kills Bronson, then removes papers 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 defended Pindello in his murder trial. In the judge's safe, the detectives find papers regarding a commission investigating racketeering 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, the judge states that he had uncovered evidence suggesting that Pindello may have been innocent and that he intended to inform Bronson of such. After Chan learns that Pindello was buried in a local cemetery, they go there and discover that the coffin has been removed. Chan requests that all members of the Pindello jury be placed under police protection as he fears for their safety. However, Ruark fails to locate one juror, Thomas Cartwright. Chan tells Ruark that he thinks that there may be a connection between the Pindello case and the insurance swindle. Pat Finlay, Ruark's assistant, locates Cartwright's new address but, before he can reach him, someone enters Cartwright's room and slugs him. When Finlay arrives, he finds Cartwright dead by hanging and, once again, Pindello's fingerprints are found at the crime scene. After Chan discovers that it is possible to forge fingerprints, 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 the papers related to the Pindello case are gone. Later, Chan discovers that the director of a funeral parlor has recently reburied a sealed coffin and obtains the address of the man who arranged for the burial. Chan breaks into the man's room but is surprised by Joseph Pindello, Tony's brother. Later, Ruark assembles all the principals in the case and Chan explains that Pindello had a brother Joseph, who was in jail when Tony wrote to him telling him that he was about to be executed for a crime he had not committed. According to Chan, when Joseph got out of jail, he dug up his brother's body and intended to kill everyone associated with his execution. As Chan explains this, Joseph enters, holds everyone at gunpoint and says that he simply intended to give his brother a proper burial. Before he can continue, Joseph 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. Although Seward denies it, Chan states that he was involved with Tony Pindello in an insurance swindle. Seward wanted all the money, however, and framed Tony for murder. Fearing that Armstrong and Bronson were about to discover this, Seward murdered them and added Cartwright to make it look like a series of killings. Seward grabs Joseph's gun and explains how he used copies of Tony's fingerprints to divert attention from himself. Chan then reveals that Joseph was part of the set-up they have just gone through and that the gun is not loaded. As Seward tries to leave, he collides with Birmingham and is captured.

Film Details

Also Known As
Murder by Alphabet
Release Date
Jul 11, 1948
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Monogram Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Monogram Distributing Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers.

Technical Specs

Duration
56m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,872ft

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

This film's working title was Murder by Alphabet. Louis Mason is listed in CBCS in the role of the cemetery custodian, but that part was actually played by Paul Scardon. For additional information on the "Charlie Chan" series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry for Charlie Chan Carries On in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0663.