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Phantom of Chinatown

USA 1940
produced by
Monogram (Monarch)
directed by Phil Rosen
starring Keye Luke, Grant Withers, Lotus Long, John Dilson, John Holland, William Costello, Lee Tung Foo, Charles F. Miller, Virginia Carpenter, Richard Terry, Victor Wong, Huntley Gordon, Philip McVey
based on characters created by Hugh Wiley

Mister Wong

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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On an expedition to Mongolia, Doctor Benton (Charles F.Miller) finds a scroll containing the secret of the eternal flame.(whatever exactly that is). However, such a discovery tends top bring many criminal elements to the fore, so when Benton makes a lecture on his findings in Mongolia, someone makes sure he doesn't survive it, poisoning the water Benton drinks during the lecture and stealing the scroll.

But who could it have been, captain Street (Grant Withers) from homicide wonders. Benton's cameraman Charlie Fraser (John Dilson), his secretary Win Lee (Lotus Long), the suspicious butler Jonas (William Costello), maybe even the pilot Mason (John Holland), who has allegedly gone missing during the expedition (but is very much alive, as the audience soon learns) ? & what about that curious Chinese follow Jimmy Wong (Keye Luke), whom Benton's daughter Louise (Virginia Carpenter) & her fiancé Tommy (Robert Kellard)have brought into the mix ?

Indeed, Street's investigations at first concentrate on Wong, as that man seems a little too nosey, but soon Street has to realize Wong is on his side & only tries to help the investigations. They soon join forces & concentrate on Win Lee - who turns out to b e a Chinese agent only trying to make sure the secret of the Eternal Flame (whatever that is) is not abused.

When Wong & Street want to make a visit to Fraser though to watch the footage he has shot in Mongolia for clues, they find the man was knocked out & vital parts of the footage gone. & the thief still to be around, throwing knives at everyone involved. The trace of the knifethrower leads Wong & Street to Chinatown, where they soon find Mason's hideout - but he can escape, if just, without them recoginzing him.

Wong now decides to go for a long shot, as he puts an article into the newspapers that Mason was indeed found, & now lies in hospital waiting police questioning - which in Wong's eyes should bring the killer to the fore.

& really, the very next night at the hospital, Wong, disguised as Mason, is attacked by the killer - who turns out to be Fraser. & for some reason the real Mason shows up too to save Wong & get his revenge on Fraser, with whom he was partners in crime, but Fraser  has left him to die in the desert ...

All that is left for Street to do now is to arrest both Fraser & Mason ...

 

The 6th episode of the Mr.Wong-series shows a change in tone, not only because the lead is played (for the first time, & an extreme rarity in Oriental detective movies) by an actual Oriental - Keye Luke, best known as Charlie Chan's Number One Son. Also Luke's relative youth & appearance would shift the character from being the restrained center of wisdom (as Boris Karloff has portrayed him in previous movies) to the role of a more active investigator, with Grant Withers' captain Street giving him good & able support - as opposed to previous portrayals of Street as choleric & somewhat idiotic flatfoot (apart from Withers, only Lee Tung Foo as Wong's butler is allowed to repeat his role in the series, but the butler role is & always was of minor importance).

As a result, Phantom of Chinatown is a lively (much livelier as previous entries) episode of the Mr. Wong-series, but ultimately not a remarkable movie, as the major elements of the story - the Eternal Flame subplot & the murder mystery - just fail to click, & the solution is at least a little muddled - why Mason would in the end show up at the hospital when, of all persons, he would know that it wasn't the real Mason  who is lying there is never satisfactorily explained.

Phantom of Chinatown would remain the last of Monogram's  Mr.Wong films, the idea of an Oriental detective it seems, has worn out. However, in 1944, Monogram acquired the rights to Charlie Chan & made a (longer lasting) series about that Oriental super sleuth (click here !), with many of the initial entries also directed by Phil Rosen.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD