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Mr. Wong, Detective

USA 1938
produced by
Monogram
directed by William Nigh
starring Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, Lucien Prival, Evelyn Brent, John St. Polis, Maxine Jennings, George Lloyd, William Gould, Hooper Atchley, John Hamilton, William Mack, Lee Tung Foo, Lynton Brent, Grace Wood, Frank Bruno
based on characters created by Hugh Wiley

Mister Wong

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Fearing for his life, businessman & owner of Dayton Chemicals Inc. Dayton (John Hamilton) turns to Oriental detective Mr.Wong (Boris Karloff), who advices him to, before doing anything drastic, have a good night sleep, & offers to talk things over the next morning.

Not the best of advices, maybe, for in the morning, Dayton is first threatened by scientist Carl Roemer (John St.Polis), who claims Dayton has stolen his formula for a poison gas, with a gun, then, after he has called the police to take care of Roemer, Dayton is found dead in his office. Police detective Sam Street (Grant Withers) immediately jumps to conclusions & arrests Roemer for shooting Dayton - problem is, Dayton was not shot but poisoned by gas, & only thanks to Wong - who does show up shortly after Dayton's death - are pieces of the globe containing the gas found.

Not convinced of Roemer's guilt takes investigations into his own hands & starts with Wilk (Hooper Atchley), Dayton's business partner, where 2 sinister characters, Baron Von Krantz a.k.a. Anton Mohl (Lucien Prival) & Countess Dubois a.k.a. Olga Petroff (Evelyn Brent) also happen to show up as well as Dayton's other business partner Meisel (William Gould). & among all these possible suspects, Wilk receives a letter from Roemer, warning him that his life's in danger. Wilk locks himself inside his office & calls the police - but as they show up, he is already dead, poisoned just like Dayton, & Wong again finds pieces of the glass globe.

& as a trail again leads to Roemer, who is still in police custody, his questioning gets even tougher until he breaks down, admitting that he has evidence against Meisel, which he wasn't willing to disclose since Meisel threatened to harm Roemer's wife (Grace Wood). The police now rush to Meisel, whom they only find dead, killed by the same gas as Dayton & Wilk - was it suicide, one might wonder ...

Only for Wong, the case is not closed yet, as at his home he is threatened by Anton Mohl, Olga Petroff & their thug Lescardi (Frank Bruno), who are involved in some smuggling of chemicals & who notice the detective on their trail. But fortunately, Wong has arranged for the police & Roemer to stop by at his house & arrest the trio of smugglers on any number of charges, but not the murder of Dayton, Wilk & Meisel.

But who, you may ask, did commit the killings then, and how ?

It was Roemer after all, who has planned the crimes months ahead & planted a globe containing the gas in each man's office, & the globes were made of glass that would break by the frequency of a police siren. All Roemer had to do now was to arrange for the police to come to each man's house - which he could easily do from out of prison, thereby also having the perfect alibi ...

 

When big Fox had amazing success with its Charlie Chan-series & even its house-produced rip-off, the Mister Moto-series, little Monogram decided they wanted to have a piece of the cake as well, & found perfect source material in Hugh Wiley's stories about Mister Wong, yet another oriental supersleuth.

Of course, Boris Karloff, a tall British actor with a very accurate & soft-spoken English pronounciation, was, despite his versatility, totally unconvincing as a Chinaman, & the series didn't catch on quite as well as the Charlie Chan-series, even when, after 5 films, the lead was handed over to Keye Luke - formerly Charlie Chan's Number One Son - for Phantom of Chinatown (1940) - who was the only Oriental of his time to play an Oriental detective.

Eventually, the series was shelved altogether in 1940, but in 1944 Monogram did acquire the rights to the Charlie Chan-series, & naturally no longer needed to bother with an imitation. However, most Mister Wong-films were later remade as in Monogram's Charlie Chan-series, this one as Docks of New Orleans in 1948.

This film, the first entry into the Mr.Wong-series is a slow & predictable but not altogether unintelligent crime drama, it does however lack some good-natured humour that would - among many other B-mystery-series - make the Charlie Chan-series so loveable.

By the way, the Mister Wong-series has nothing to do with the 1935 Bela Lugosi-vehicle Mysterious Mr. Wong, also directed by William Nigh, also for Monogram.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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