DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN (director: Phil Rosen; screenwriters: story by Ralph Gilbert Bettison/Hugh Wiley; cinematographer: Fred Jackman Jr.; editor: Jack Ogilvie; music: Edward Kay; cast: Keye Luke (James Lee 'Jimmy' Wong), Grant Withers (Police Captain Street), Lotus Long (Win Lee, Benton's Secretary), Charles F. Miller (Dr. John Benton/Cyrus Benton in Newspaper), Huntley Gordon (Dr. Norman Wilkes), Virginia Carpenter (Louise Benton), Paul McVey (Detective Grady), Robert Kellard (Pilot Tommy Dean), William Castello (Jonas, Benton's Butler), Lee Tung Foo (Foo, Jimmy's Cook), John Holland (Mason, co-pilot), Victor Wong (Charley One), John H. Dilson (Charles Fraser); Runtime: 61; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Malvern; Monogram Pictures; 1940)

 
"Typical story in the series."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Phil Rosen ("The Scarlet Clue"/"I Killed That Man") directs the sixth and final installment of the Mr. Wong series. Writer Ralph Gilbert Bettison bases it on the serial by Hugh Wiley run in Collier's magazine. Keye Luke takes over from Boris Karloff as the Chinese detective Jimmy Lee Wong, and plays him as a student and as an amateur sleuth. The film doesn't miss a beat with the change, coming up with an exciting and typical story in the series.

After returning from an archaeological expedition to the Mongolian desert, Dr. Benton (Charles F. Miller) gives a lecture on his findings and a showing of his film on the expedition taken by Charles Fraser (John H. Dilson). Benton entitles the lecture as the Temple of Eternal Fire and gives it at Southern University in San Francisco. In the middle of the lecture he collapses. It's soon determined he was poisoned to death from the drinking water. The lead investigator, the dense Captain Street (Grant Withers), is puzzled by the unknown Chinese poison used, the contents of the mysterious scroll that makes it so important, and the daggers used as murder weapons as the body count mounts. The captain's helped in the investigation by Jimmy Lee Wong (Keye Luke), a former student of Dr. Benson, who came late to the lecture. Also helping is Win Lee (Lotus Long), Benton's Chinese secretary, whom we soon learn has been placed in that position by the Chinese authorities to make sure the powerful scroll doesn't get into the wrong hands. We learn that the scroll taken from the tomb is so important because it contains a vital secret of the Temple of Eternal Fire: it reveals where an enormous untapped reserve of oil can be located. Attending the lecture were the lecturer's daughter Louise Benton (Virginia Carpenter) and her pilot on the expedition boyfriend Tommy Dean (Robert Kellard), the projectionist Fraser and the university president Dr. Norman Wilkes (Huntley Gordon) and later reappearing is someone who was supposed to have died during the expedition.

By the final reel the young Jimmy Lee Wong winds things up as well as the other older Wong portrayers, and the world is safe again.

REVIEWED ON 6/11/2008        GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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