The Mysterious Mr. Wong
George Yohalem for Monogram
directed by William Nigh
starring Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford, Arline Judge, Fred Warren, Lotus Long, Robert Emmett O'Connor, Edward Peil sr, Luke Chan, Lee Shumway, Etta Lee, Ernest F. Young, Theodore Lorch
screenplay by Nina Howatt, Lew Levinson, James Herbuveaux, based on The Twelve Coins of Confucius by Harry Stephen Keeler, musical director: Abe Meyer, cinematography by Harry Neumann
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Mr.Wong (Bela Lugosi), that mysterious Chinaman who by the daytime
dresses up as a simple herbs salesman, is trying to attain world
domination by collecting the 12 Coins of Confucius (somehow they
grant its owner limitless power, but don't ask how), and he even kills his
fellow Chinaman to get the full collection. But alas, he only has eleven,
and when he tries to get the twelfth, he crosses paths with nosey
newspaper reporteer Barton (Wallace Ford), pretty much the only man in
town who doesn't believe the story of the police who attribute Wong's
murders to a Tong War.
Somehow it seems though that Barton is just bumbling about, hitting
dead ends whichever direction he turns to in his investigations and
repeatedly tripping over new corpses, but somehow the twelfth coin
eventually makes its way into Barton's possession. And as if that wasn't
enough, by sure luck he and his girlfriend Peg (Arline Judge) stumble over
Wong's secret hide-out ... which is mostly bad news, because Wong has
decided to torture Peg (focussing on her fingernails) to get Barton to
tell him where he has hidden the coin. But somehow Barton has managed to
inform the police, and in the end Wong is shot as a reward for his attempt
to rule the world.
First of all, from today's point of view this film is hardly
politically correct, it's filled with quite some racist remarks towards
the Chinese population (e.g. Wallace Ford quips about a dead Chinaman
"one less laundryman"), but it's slightly unfair to judge 70
year old films solely by today's standards ...
Taken by its merits as a B-mystery, The Mysterious Mr.Wong is an
ok if not outstanding little thriller with a better than usual
wisecracking leading couple (both Wallace Ford and Arline Judge had
previously made themselves a name over at RKO)
that also handles the comedy aspects of the film. And Bela Lugosi plays
his villain role with relish, even if his thick Hungarian accent does not
sit well with his role as a Chinaman.
This film, by the way, has nothing in the least to whatsoever do with
Wong series of the late 1930's/early 40's starring Boris
Karloff (and Keye Luke, later on), which was also produced by Monogram
and mostly also directed by William Nigh.