One evening a young Chinese woman knocks on the door of Mr. James Lee Wong (Boris Karloff). Wong’s servant Willie (Lee Tung Foo) lets her in and goes to tell Wong that he has a visitor. By the time Wong gets to the living room she is dead. Before she dies she manages to write on a piece of paper Captain J. On the floor next to the body he finds a dart. Wong calls Inspector Bill Street (Grant Withers).
By the time Street arrives Wong has been able to determine that she comes from an important family, based on the crest on the ring she was wearing. He has also determined that she was killed by a poison dart shot from the window across the room. The dart came from a Chinese sleeve gun. Wong has one himself in his collection.
While they are in the next room a woman climbs through the window and surveys the room and body. She grabs the phone and calls her editor. She is reporter Bobbie Logan (Marorie Reynolds) and she wants to phone in the story. Bobbie knows the identity of the woman. She is Princess Lin Hwa (Lotus Long). She came to the US by ship, “The Maid of the Orient”. The captain of the ship she was on was Captain Jaime (William Royle).
Wong talks to his sources in Chinatown. His investigation reveals that the princess was in America to purchase planes for her brother. He is the leader of a tong. She came to the US with close to a million dollars to purchase the planes and smuggle them back to China. Wong finds out that the money was paid out, put the planes were not purchased. After talking to bank president Mr. Davidson (Huntley Gordon) Wong finds out that checks on her US account reduced her account to zero.
Wong’s investigation also puts him in contact with the manufacturer of the planes and Captain Guy Jackson (George Lynn) from Phelps Aviation Company. It also brings him deep into a conspiracy involving murder, contraband, forgery, embezzlement and targets him for death.
“Mr. Wong in Chinatown” was released in 1939 and was directed by William Nigh. It is the third of six Mr. Wong films produced by Monogram Pictures and the third of five with Boris Karloff portraying the Chinese detective.
It is the first to feature Marjorie Reynolds as reporter and Captain Street’s girlfriend Bobby Logan. Bobby is feisty, stubborn and totally consumed with getting her story. She’s also smart, capable and quite sure of herself. Despite himself, Street grudgingly admires her tenacity but would never let her know.
Angelo Rossitto plays a Chinese Mute Dwarf. Rossitto has played everything from a Pygmy in several Jungle films, a Gnome, a munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz” 1939, an Arab dwarf, an alien in “Invasion of the Saucer Men” 1957, a midget wrestler in “Requiem for a Heavyweight” 1962, even a spider in “Pufnstuf” 1970. His career spanned sixty years.
I enjoyed all the Mr. Wong stories. I’ll admit that this entry is a little confusing. The plot is a bit of a patchwork of unconnected clues. There also appear to have been a couple leaps of faith to discover the killer but I still liked the movie. Perhaps it’s just a fondness for the characters and how they interact. The relationship between Street and Wong is of mutual admiration and friendship. Street saves all his barking for when Bobby is around. She is frustratingly independent and Street is old fashioned as far as how he thinks a woman’s role should be. Bobby is a strong willed person and won’t change herself or curtail any of her beliefs for any man so Street must let her be herself since he really has no choice in the matter.
Writer Scott Darling used this same script for the Charlie Chan film “The Chinese Ring” 1947 with Roland Winters as the Chinese detective Charlie Chan.