Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) is sent from Paris to Egypt on a special mission. He was sent by the underwriters of the French Archeological Society, to investigate the excavation of the tomb of the High Priest Ameti. The leader of the excavation is Professor Arnold (George Irving) in association with his son Barry (James Eagles), Professor Thurston (Frank Conroy) and Tom Evans (Thomas Beck). The Society is concerned because some of the archeological finds have shown up in other museums and in the hands of private collectors.
Charlie finds that Arnold is away, and that Professor Thurston is in charge while he is gone. Thurston eventually admits to giving some of the artifacts to Dr. Racine (Jameson Thomas) to pay him back when he loaned money to continue with the dig. Charlie asks to see the remaining artifacts. One of the items is the sarcophagus of Ameti. Charlie notices that the seal on the sarcophagus has been disturbed. An X-ray of the sarcophagus shows that the body inside has a modern bullet in it. Inside is the mummified body of Professor Arnold.
Professor Arnold’s daughter Carol (Pat Paterson) and his son Barry (James Eagles) are high strung. Barry is also disabled from having had a statue fall on his foot. The news of their father’s dead makes things worse for them. Barry believes that his father discovered the secret of Ameti’s tomb, and it got him killed. Charlie takes a trip to the tomb to investigate Barry’s claim that there is a secret treasure somewhere in the tomb. He doesn’t find anything obvious to point him in the right direction. Charlie decides to question Barry further. The next night Barry mysteriously dies. Charlie decides he must go back to the tomb and search for the hidden treasure, the result of which will put another life on the line.
“Charlie Chan in Egypt” was released in 1935 and was directed by Louis King. It is the eighth of sixteen Charlie Chan films that starred Warner Oland as Chan. The character was created by Earl Der Biggers.
The film also stars one of the most controversial actors ever. Born Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry he went by the rather derogatory stage name of Stepin Fetchit. Fetchit usually played characters such as butlers, servants, janitors, porters and various other menial workers. His slow talking, slow walking, low intelligent demeanor was his trademark. Even his name produced controversy, both at the time and now. He was born in Key West, Florida of West Indian parents. He was the first Black to attain superstar status and become a millionaire. In the film he provides the racist comic relief.
Despite the racist overtones the movie is a standard part of the Charlie Chan cannon even though it’s not one of my favorite Chan films. It’s slower paced and there seemed to be a lot of hysterics with both Carol and Barry swooning. There were some red herrings that were too obvious. Everybody looks like they are guilty of hiding secrets. The story itself is also not all that interesting. I like movies with ancient Egyptian tombs and hidden treasure but here it just didn’t have any momentum. If they had thrown in a shambling mummy, it would have gotten more of my attention.
Rita Hayworth has a minor role as a servant named Nayda.