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

Monday, June 30, 2008

PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN


PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN (1940). Director: Phil Rosen.

While giving a lecture accompanying slides of a recent trip he'd undertaken with colleagues, Dr. Benton (Charles Miller) collapses and dies. Jimmy Wong (Keye Luke) investigates and along the way discovers the existence of a scroll that leads to a shrine of eternal flame that is over a valuable oil deposit. Captain Street (Grant Withers) pokes his nose in the plot, and so does Benton's secretary, Win Lee (Lotus Long), who may or may not be on the side of the angels. Keye Luke isn't bad as Wong, and he's authentically Chinese-American, but he's a bit colorless compared to Karloff, who originated the role. Of course, he plays a sort of alternate Wong. Lee Tung Foo makes an impression as Jimmy's excitable cook, Foo. Mason is played by John Holland, probably most famous for his role as Alice's handsome employer, who thinks Ralph is her brother, in a classic episode of The Honeymooners. (He also played Henry Higgins' butler years later in My Fair Lady.)

Verdict: Acceptable if very minor mystery. **.

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