The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)    1 Stars

“A gay party is interrupted by murder and the world’s most costly jewel stolen!”

The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)
The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)

Director: William Nigh

Cast: Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, Dorothy Tree

Synopsis: Detective tries to solve the murder of antiques collector who was in possession of a famous jewel known as “The Eye of the Daughter of The Moon.”






The lack of imagination devoted to the writing of The Mystery of Mr Wong even extends to its clumsy title, which suggests there is something about Mr. Wong himself that is mysterious when, in fact, there’s very little mystery about him at all. He was Monogram’s typically ultra-low budget answer to Charlie Chan, and was the second in a series of six. Even this early in the series, Monogram couldn’t be bothered coming up with a fresh story and simply rehashed the plot to the 1931 potboiler Murder at Midnight.

The plot sees wealthy businessman (Morgan Wallace – The Maltese Falcon (1931), Grand Hotel) dying shortly after coming into possession of The Eye of the Daughter of the Moon, a cursed sapphire. He was shot in front of a party of guests, but it was during a game in which the supposedly empty gun contained real bullets, so the identity of the real murderer is unknown. It’s a reasonably clever way of getting someone else to commit your murder for you, but considering the fact that there are not one, but two, eminent criminologists present at the party, you have to conclude that the culprit severely underestimates the detective skills of Wong and his colleague – or is simply in possession of a dangerously oversized ego.

With infinite patience and politeness, Wong asks his questions and rubs his chin thoughtfully before eventually gathering all the suspects into one room in order to unmask the villain. We’re never in any doubt that he will succeed in doing so, although we’re slightly cheated out of admiring him completely as it transpires that he solved the mystery after coming into possession of information of which we, the audience, were unaware. It’s a routine programmer, enhanced by Karloff’s gracious performance, but pulled down by the over-acting of Dorothy Tree (The Bridge of Sighs) as the victim’s cheating wife.

(Reviewed 10th April 2015)

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