Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)

MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938)
Article 4569 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 6-29-2014
Directed by William Nigh
Featuring Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, Maxine Jennings
Country: USA
What it is: Murder mystery

A chemical manufacturer contacts Mr. Wong when he believes his life is in danger. When Mr. Wong shows up for their appointment, he discovers that the manufacturer has died mysteriously in the interim. Can he figure out who killed him and how?

Despite the presence of Boris Karloff, the Mr. Wong movies were mysteries rather than horror movies; this one only gets by because the method of murder (which involves poison gas in small glass spheres that shatter under specific circumstances) pushes the movie marginally into science fiction territory. Fortunately, that’s not giving away a major spoiler; we find out about this aspect of the story during the first half of the movie. and the real mystery is trying to figure out what those specific circumstances are. I was fortunate enough to guess that aspect early enough to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game Mr. Wong was playing with the various suspects. Karloff does a good job, and though he eschews trying to give his character an Oriental accent, this probably helps to keep the character from being a stereotype as well. It’s a good and entertaining B feature, albeit one that is fairly uneven.

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