Friday, October 07, 2016


Archeologist John Benton returns from an expedition to Mongolia where Benton found a scroll in an ancient tomb which may hold the key to the location of the fabled Temple of Eternal Fire. His cameraman Frasier shows some clips of the expedition at a presentation at the local university, but just as Benton is about to discuss his findings, he drops dead at the lectern. The police, led by Captain Street (Grant Withers), find that someone had put a quick-acting poison in his water carafe. Jimmy Lee Wong (Keye Luke), a former student of Benson's, offers Street his help and soon the two are trying to narrow down a list of suspects including Win Len, Benson's somewhat secretive secretary (Lotus Long); Tommy, the expedition pilot (Robert Kellard); Frasier, the cameraman; the owner of a Chinatown restaurant who acts like he has something to hide; and Benton's butler. Added to the mix is Mason, an expedition team member assumed lost and dead in a storm in Mongolia but who may be alive and kicking—and out for revenge.

This is the last of six Mr. Wong B-mysteries from Monogram, and, despite attempts at doing something different, one of the lesser efforts. The primary unusual aspect is that a central Chinese character is actually played by a Chinese actor. I've liked Keye Luke in supporting roles, but here, he doesn't have the charisma or gravitas to anchor the movie. The earlier films all had Boris Karloff in the main role, which points to another interesting thing about this film: it goes back in time to show Wong before he became a card-carrying detective—but this potentially intriguing plot point is never brought forward, so if you were unaware of the earlier Mr. Wong movies, this would just be another Asian detective yarn. Wong fans may enjoy the continued presence of Grant Withers as Capt. Street, but the rest of the supporting cast is unexceptional at best, and in the case of Lotus Long, terrible—she reads virtually all of her lines like it's the first time she's read them. Unsurprisingly, she did not have a stellar career, though she does have small roles in other Mr. Wong movies. I'm sorry that the handsome Robert Kellard (pictured with Luke) had so little to do except look handsome. The plot itself is a little unusual in that it's basically a "Mummy" movie storyline, set in China instead of Egypt, and without a mummy. But the filmmakers don't do much with that novelty, except for the gimmick of having flashbacks to the expedition alternate with the filmed footage that Frasier took. Monogram gets a couple of points for trying, but generally a disappointing end to the series. [DVD]

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