The House on Punchbowl Hill

Black Magic/Meeting at Midnight

Monogram Pictures Corporation
Distributed: Monogram Pictures Corporation, September 9, 1944
Production: May 3 to mid-May 1944
Copyright: Monogram Pictures Corporation, July 15, 1944; LP12437
Sound: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Film: Black and White
Length: 5,822 feet
Running Time: 64-65 minutes
Source: Suggested by Earl Derr Biggers' character

Producers: Phillip N. Krasne and James S. Burkett
Director: Phil Rosen
Assistant Director: Bobby Ray
Original Screenplay: George Callahan
Director of Photography: Arthur Martinelli
Camera Operator: Dave Smith (not credited)
Assistant: Monte Steadman (not credited)
Still Photography: Earl Crowley (not credited)
Special Effects: M. B. Kinne (not credited)
Art Director: Dave Milton
Film Editor: John Link
Set Decorations: Al Greenwood
Ward: Harry Bourne (not credited)
Musical Director: David Chudnow
Musical Score: Alexander Lazlo
Sound Recording: Max Hutchinson
Production Manager: Dick L'Estrange
Script Girl: Marie Messinger (not credited)
Props: Sammy Gordon and Ralph Martin (neither credited)
Grip: Lew Dow and George Booker (neither credited)
Gaffer: Joe Wharton (not credited)


Sidney Toler: Charlie Chan
Mantan Moreland: Birmingham Brown
Frances Chan: Frances Chan
Joseph Crehan: Sergeant Matthews
Helen Beverley: Norma Duncan (alias Nancy Woods)
Jacqueline deWit: Justine Bonner
Geraldine Wall: Harriett Green
Ralph Peters: Rafferty
Frank Jaquet: Paul Hamlin
Edward Earle: Dawson
Claudia Dell: Vera Starkey
Harry Depp: Charles Edwards
Charles Jordan: Tom Starkey
Richard Gordon: William Bonner
Darby Jones: Mr. Johnson (not credited)
George Morrell: Man at Elevator (not credited)
Dick Rush: Policeman (not credited)


While holding a sťance at his home, psychic William Bonner asks for questions from those present.  After a voice asks, "What happened in London on the night of October 5th, 1935?" the lights are extinguished Bonner slumps forward.  When the lights are restored, it becomes apparent that the psychic has been murdered.

As Bonner's wife, Justine, summons Sgt. Matthews of the homicide bureau, Bonner's assistants, Tom and Vera Starkey, who operate from a hidden room, are panicky and wish to flee.  Arriving on the scene, Matthews orders all of those present at the Bonner house, including, Justine Bonner, Harriet Green, Paul Hamlin, Charles Edwards, Nancy Wood, and Frances Chan, Charlie Chan's daughter, along with newly hired butler Birmingham Brown, to police headquarters for questioning.  When the coroner notifies Matthews that the murder bullet cannot be found in Bonner's body, the inspector coerces Chan into joining the investigation, suggesting that he will have to hold his daughter, Frances, as a suspect.

After studying the interviews with the suspects, Chan asks to speak with Nancy Woods, informing the inspector that she must be using an alias because the monogram on her purse reads "ND."  A conversation with the hotel clerk reveals that Nancy's real name is Norma Duncan.  When confronted with her lie, Norma claims that she had used the alias to infiltrate Bonner's sťance and prove that the psychic had driven her father to commit suicide.

Meanwhile, at the Bonner house, Mrs. Bonner communicates to Tom and Vera through an intercom that is linked to their hidden room.  When Frances, who has come to visit Birmingham, overhears the conversation, she alerts her father.  Hurrying to the house, Chan discovers the secret room hidden behind a cabinet in the seance room.

After reassembling the suspects at police headquarters, Chan reveals that Mr. Hamilton and Mrs. Green were both being blackmailed by Bonner, and that Mrs. Bonner had threatened to kill her husband because of his infidelity.  Chan then asks if anyone can identify the speaker at the seance who has asked the question about London, however, no one offers any information.

Later, Norma Duncan sends Chan a message asking him to come to her hotel, but when the detective enters her room, he finds her in a trance. Suddenly, the lights go out, a gun is fired, and the assailant runs out the door.  Awakened from her trance, Norma is unable to remember what happened to her.  Leaving Norma in the care of Rafferty, Matthew's assistant, Chan leaves to send a cable to Scotland Yard.

Later, at the Bonner house, Frances and Birmingham overhear Mrs. Bonner asking her unseen assistants, Tom and Vera, for their help, and Frances decides to follow her.  Following her to the Berkeley building, Frances meets her father and Inspector Matthews there and finds Mrs. Bonner's glove on the floor outside of an office door. 
Mrs. Bonner, in a trance, ascends the rooftop of the building across the street. Standing on the rooftop of the building, Mrs. Bonner hears a voice coaxing her to step over the edge.

After she plunges to her death, Chan notices a peculiar stain on her coat, and takes it to be examined at a lab, where it discovered that the residue is that of a mind-altering drug that renders its victims helpless.  Chan is then given several pills that contain the antidote to the drug.

Announcing that Mrs. Bonner had committed suicide out of remorse for murder