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Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)



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Monogram Pictures, once a film studio that specialized in rock bottom budget B movies. Mr. Wong was their answer to Charlie Chan, then well into a successful series of detective films by Twentieth Century Fox. In fact, this story is sandwiched between two other Charlie Chan films: it was inspired by Charlie Chan In Egypt (1935) and was remade as the Charlie Chan film Docks of New Orleans (1948), made once Monogram picked up the rights to the then faltering series.

The Mr. Wong series lasted for six episodes, all churned out quickly. The series was typical of low budget mysteries of the day: a charismatic detective, surrounded by an array of suspects -- all with motives, all generally portrayed by poor actors -- gets to the bottom of a clever crime by unravelling one clue after another and perceiving details that others never notice.

As for Mr. Wong, Detective, it's pretty decent for what it is. There are just enough twists in the mystery and just enough mysterious sneaking around in the dark to make this worth a look for those with an interest in the pulp mysteries of the day. Boris Karloff does not make a convincing Chinese gentleman, but he does bring some power and dignity to the role. The rest of the acting is pretty bad, and the writing is terrible. The police in this movie are dumber than dirt; of course, they have to be, because it's up to Mr. Wong to solve the mystery. It's all part of the game.

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