FATAL HOUR 1940 Mr. Wong
November 16, 2016
Fourth in the series of 6 films about “the Chinese Copper” James Lee Wong, the Monogram answer to Charlie Chan is featured in this 67 minute film which also includes the somewhat regular cast of Marjorie Reynolds (3) and Grant Withers (6). The story centers around the death of his long time friend on the police force Dan Grady (never saw him) who was fished out of the water with lead shoes and two bullets in the back of his neck. A perfect story about revenge where the police force sends out every available man to catch the killer. Nope. Captain Street (Withers) is going to handle this alone with “Bobbi” Logan (Reynolds) and the “Chinese Copper” Wong. Wong upon seeing the jade in Grady’s desk drawer, immediately seeks the assistance of the Chinese jeweler (Richard Loo) in San Francisco’s Chinatown. His advice was “A wise man could become more wise by visiting Belden’s a jewelry store. It appears a dead end but leads to the clue of the smuggling ring. The Neptune Club run by Cookie (Stanford Jolley uncredited) and owned by Harry “Hardway” Lockett (Frank Puglia) are behind the smuggling and two more deaths occur, Tanya Serova (Lita Chevret), girlfriend of Belden Jr. and Hardway, and Frank Belden Sr.(Hooper Atchley. Both knew too much.John T. Forbes (Charles Towbridge) , lawyer for the creditors not to his surprise finds that $50 jade is actually $3000 pieces and when he finds that Belden Sr. is ready to confess he is murdered. Tanya is murdered because Forbes, who is in love with her, is thrown aside for Belden Jr. and he murders her. Another murder, Griswold (Jason Robards) a radio programmer, and a remote control radio all play part in the plot.
Scott Darling, a prolific writer of nearly 200 screenplays, along with adaption by George Waggner best known for his directing of “The Wolfman” (1941) offered a clever story with enough twists and turns to make it interesting. William Nigh, who did over 120 films, directed an adequate job with no frills, exactly what Monogram wanted, quick, on time and on budget. The theme, written by Edward Kay nicely depicts the character Wong as a slow prodding but always moving forward character. The music is spotted rather sparsely something that Monogram does but this film is better than others in the series.
As long as one keeps in mind that this is a ‘B’ picture and was designed to fill an hour of time, the function of Monogram. It provided second billing to the ‘A’ feature and did a nice job.
The good news is that this film is in public domain which means you can watch it for free. I t is 1 hour and seven minutes so make sure you are getting the full version as there are some that are only one hour. If you wish an entire 6 DVD set it be purchased for a very reasonable price, under $20.00 from Oldies.com http://www.oldies.com/product-view/9571D.html. It is also available used on the net. The Roan Group seems to have the best quality.