Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Lugosi surveys the scene as Wong

THE MYSTERIOUS MR. WONG (1934). Director: William Nigh.

"Wong has dared many things -- he will continue to dare!"

According to legend, when Confucius was on his deathbed he gave twelve special coins to his friends. Whichever man collects all twelve coins will gain great power. A series of murders of "Chinamen" in Chinatown have police convinced that they are victims of Tong wars, but reporter Jason Barton (Wallace Ford) isn't so sure. Wong (Bela Lugosi) is a mysterious figure who runs about in disguise, and is behind more than one kidnapping; he even has a torture chamber hidden in his house. This all sounds like it might be fun but that's far from the case. Boris Karloff was given the entertaining and memorable The Mask of Fu Manchu to star in, but poor Bela Lugosi was handed this piece of crap for his "yellow peril/Oriental fiend" undertaking. [This is not to be confused with Karloff's "Mr. Wong" series.] There is far too much of Barton and a gal pal, Peg (Arline Judge) bantering and cracking wise and far too little atmosphere and mystery. The film runs a little over an hour but seems interminable at times. Attitudes toward the Chinese are horribly condescending and racist -- the dead "Chinamen" aren't even looked upon as particularly human --  and we've even got the fat, dumb Irish cop stereotype (Robert Emmett O'Connor) to boot. You can overlook these politically incorrect elements in old movies when they're entertaining, but when they're like The Mysterious Mr. Wong they just seem more glaring. Lugosi is fine, and aside from a few Oriental extras, is the only worthwhile thing in the movie.

Verdict: Another crappy movie that wastes the considerable talents of Bela Lugosi. *.

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