Backlog becoming depleted. Desperate for another Bad Movie of the Week. Amazon Prime Video to the rescue. From 1939 it’s The Mystery of Mr. Wong, starring Boris Karloff as famous (after Charlie Chan) Chinese crime detective Mr. Wong. I only watched this through one time, so I’m relying on Wikipedia for the details. This is from Monogram Pictures, as seen previously. Karloff was a regular with this studio.
First, here’s an outline of the plot. Actually, more a sketch than an outline. A package is tossed into the harbor from a ship just in from China. Recall, this is 1939, a time when the Japanese are ravaging China, so the background is dicey, to say the least. Anyhow, somebody in a small boat picks up the package, and presently “wealthy gem-collector Brandon Edwards” (Morgan Wallace) arrives at his palatial estate with the package.
We observe the package contains a very large gem stone. Mr Edwards has added to his collection. Another of his collection is the comely Valerie Edwards, Mrs. Edwards (Dorothy Tree). Enchanting Valerie is not his alone. She is shared by his equally unfaithful employee Peter Harrison (Craig Reynolds). Here we see the charming triangle.
Mr. Edwards receives an ominous warning. The recently acquired gemstone is The Eye of the Daughter of the Moon, the largest star sapphire in existence. It has disappeared from Nanking (Nanjing) during the Japanese looting.
That night a gala dripping with swank is held at the Edwards hut. Sumptuous hostess Valerie Edwards directs the guests in a game of charades. There are three sketches, and the winner of each will receive a pricey bottle of champagne. The second sketch does not go well.
Mr. Edwards participates by playing the part of a husband murdered by his wife’s lover. Ouch! After being “shot” in the plot, he fails to get up. He is, indeed dead.
Fortunately, ace crime investigator James Lee Wong is in attendance, and he begins working immediately to resolve the mystery.
The plot deepens. Drina, the maid (Lotus Long) has come over from China and has hired on at the Edwards house with the aim of lifting the stone and returning it to China. Why back to China during those perilous times, one can only guess. Anyhow, she filches the stone from the Edwards safe and prepares to forward a secret note from the deceased on to Mr. Wong. But first she must smoke a poisoned cigarette and die.
Never fear. Even absent the dead man’s letter, Mr. Wong figures out who the culprit is, and everything gets resolved in the usual fashion of getting all the suspects together in one room and eliminated each in turn by remarkable deduction until only the guilty party is left standing (sitting).
My analysis: the plot is long on lame, and the dialog has enough wood to do a basketball court. Karloff is not his creepy Frankenstein character, but he is no Spencer Tracy, one of the few quality male actors of the period. The rest of the delivery is just short of dead pan.
No sex, except for a smidgen of hugging and kissing. Nobody gets naked. Could have perked this one up a bit. Truth be known, during this time and for years to follow the train wreck that was the Hays Commission cast a shadow over American entertainment, lifted only about 1968.