Mr Wong, Detective (1938)

April 18, 2011

In an effort to compete with Charlie Chan, Monogram (4690) enlisted Boris Karloff  in the role of James Lee Wong a character from Collier’s magazine, a character created by Hugh Wiley. This was the first in a series of five films that Boris made with the sixth being made by Keye Luke. This story was later used in a Charlie Chan “Docks of New Orleans” when Monogram took the character Chan over producing (16) more in the series. Directed by William Nigh and also starring Grant Withers, who continued his role in other Mr. Wong films as detective Sam Street. Maxine Jennings provides the humor with Withers, a kind of a Thin Man couple. Wong spoke with an English accent because he went to school at Oxford. Without this information one would really ponder a Chinese detective talking the way Karloff does. Simon Dayton (John ‘Perry White’ Hamilton) is being threatened by a group of spies who are trying to get a formula for poison gas along with preventing a chemical shipment of it being shipped to our allies. He is killed by a poison gas globe which breaks when a certain sound frequency is heard. As the story unfolds one of the partners Wilk (Hooper Atchley) is also killed followed by the third partner Meisel (William Gould). Police detective Sam Street is of course like Lestrade and one step behind Wong. The ending was a good one surprising me.I liked the idea of a sound setting off a frequency causing the small test tube like vial to break bringing instant death to whoever is in the room, the basic plot for the story. In this film it was the sound of the police siren breaking the glass, somewhat ironic. I found the lack of a soundtrack to be annoying in some sections that cried out for a little music. Available for free viewing on the internet as well as for purchase at a reasonable price from Alpha Video (ALP 3316D).  Well worth a watch if you like Karloff who carries this picture (**1/2). I’ve included an audio clip of the main title mr wong detective main title


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