Friday, October 02, 2015


Businessman Simon Dayton feels threatened and has detective James Lee Wong brought in protect him. Dayton and his business partners Meisel and Wilk are shipping out a new chemical weapon and Dayton feels paranoid, mostly because inventor Carl Roemer claims that the men stole his formula and Dayton fears he may make trouble. Meisel and Wilk insist on having Dayton sign legal papers stating that if any one of them dies, the others will inherit the dead man's shares in the company. That very day, Roemer shows up brandishing a gun, demanding money. Roemer is subdued and led out of Dayton's office and the police are called. Moments later, Dayton is found dead in his office, killed by poison gas released from a small glass sphere. Wong has a glassblower reproduce the sphere and runs experiments on what might have caused the sphere to shatter, releasing the deadly gas. Roemer is held as a likely suspect, but when Wilk gets a threatening letter and is found dead from the same gas, Roemer seems to be in the clear and suspicion falls on Meisel. But what about the rather suspicious Russian baron and countess who enter the picture? And when Meisel dies a similar death, the police seem stumped. But Mr. Wong is not…

The two most famous Asian sleuths in Hollywood in the 1930s were Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto. B-studio Monogram introduced a third, Mr. Wong, based on a magazine fiction series by Hugh Wiley. As played by Boris Karloff, he is the least stereotyped of the bunch—he speaks in full English sentences, his make-up is fairly subtle and, though inclined to wear long Chinese robes while at home, there is otherwise little else to differentiate him from any movie detective of the era. This film, the first of six, is generally undistinguished in terms of acting, sets or style, though Karloff is fine—though he vanishes for long stretches of time so that the plot can get more convoluted than it needs to. To be fair, it's fairly easy to follow and I did enjoy the twists in both the identity of the killer and the method he uses to kill. Grant Withers is Sam Street, the cop who partners with Wong in all the films, and the worst I can say about him is that he's colorless. I've seen many of these in the past but have been revisiting the boxed set recently, so I'll review a few more soon. [DVD]

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