A group of showgirls are staying in a beach house in Malibu called the Rutherford mansion. They are part of the Cole King (Howard Negley) theater ensemble on vacation. Assisting the troupe are the press agent Rick Daniels (Larry J. Blake), the wardrobe woman Mrs. Thorn (Lois Austin), and the physiotherapist Dr. George Brandt (Walden Boyle). The team is assigned cabañas while the girls in the troupe are assigned rooms in the house. The mansion’s housekeeper is Mrs. Weebles (Minerva Urecal).
The main girl that everyone in the troupe hates is Marcia (Anne Nagel). Marcia is the bitch who knows all the dark secrets of everyone and orders the other girls around. While everyone else is out swimming, Marcia instructs Lois (Jan Bryant) to go into Adelaide’s (Tanis Chandler) trunk and find a metal box containing papers. She instructs Lois to take some letters out of the box and bring them to her. Marcia plans on using them as leverage. While Lois is complying someone comes into the room and strangles her with a silk cord. As this is happening Marcia disappears.
San Toy (Barbara Jean Wong) finds Lois’ body. Everyone points fingers at everyone else and panic ensues. Several people start looking at San Toy suspiciously. San Toy says she knows a famous Chinese detective named Jimmy Chan (Victor Sen Yung). She calls the Chan house and gets a sleepy and confused Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland) on the phone. He tells Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) that Jimmy is dead. Birmingham writes the address down and leaves it. Birmingham and Charlie end up at the mansion and in the middle of a murder investigation. Jimmy gets home and sees the paper with the address on it. Knowing it probably has to do with a murder he goes to the house to assist.
All signs are pointing to Marcia as the killer until Marcia’s dead body is found on the beach. She too was strangled with a garrote. Charlie now needs a new suspect. He has plenty. Charlie delves into everyone’s secrets to find out who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. When someone tries to attack San Toy it’s clear that the killer is not done. Charlie devises a trap to capture the killer.
“The Trap” was released in 1946 and was directed by Howard Bretherton. It is the thirty-eighth film in the standard 20th Century fox/Monogram Charlie Chan franchise and the eleventh of seventeen films done by Monogram. It is also the 22nd and final appearance of Sidney Toler as Chan.
Toler had been suffering from cancer during his last few films. By this point he was very weak and could hardly walk or say his lines. Toler died in February 1947. Roland Winters took up the Charlie Chan mantle in 1947 with “The Chinese Ring”.
Victor Sen Yung played Charlie Chan’s number two son seventeen times. Thirteen times as Jimmy Chan and four as Tommy Chan. “The Trap” was the last time he was Jimmy. He also played Hop Sing in the television series Bonanza.
Charlie Chan movies are always light and fluffy affairs. More comedy than mystery. This one, however, is a little sadder due to Toler’s health issues. Charlie is not as bouncy as usual and there are very few Chan-isms sprinkled about and fewer smiles. We do get a little Minerva Urecal as the testy housekeeper. Her dead pan delivery is always a spark of fun in any movie. It is the last time that Toler, Sen Yung and Mantan are together on film. It’s not one of the better Chan films but for Charlie Chan fans it still delivers.