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Shadow of Chinatown (I) (1936)

Passed  -  Crime | Horror | Sci-Fi  -  10 October 1936 (USA)
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Ratings: 4.5/10 from 134 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 5 critic

A madman sets out to destroy a group of Chinatown merchants.


(as Bob Hill)


(original story), (continuity), 2 more credits »
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Title: Shadow of Chinatown (1936)

Shadow of Chinatown (1936) on IMDb 4.5/10

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Cast overview:
Martin Andrews (as Herman Brix)
Joan Barclay ...
Luana Walters ...
Maurice Liu ...
Charles King ...
Henchman Grogan [Chs. 1-13]
William Buchanan ...
Forrest Taylor ...
John Cowell ...
White Chinaman [Ch. 1] (as Jack Cowell)
James B. Leong ...
Wong [Chs. 5-13]
Henry T. Tung ...
Dr. Wu [Chs. 1-5, 12-15]
Paul Fung ...
Tom Chu [Chs. 1,2]
George Chan ...
Old Luce [Chs. 1,2,7]
Moy Ming ...
Wong's Brother Charlie [Chs. 10-11]


Released both as a 15-chapter serial and as a condensed feature version (for theaters that didn't use serials) which means that all of the cast and crew would one day be credited in some sources with a misleading extra film appearance added to their filmographies even though they only worked on (and got paid) for one performance or job. The story (serial and/or feature) deals with the plotting of a European importing firm to put Chinese trade competition in a west coast Chinatown - city unnamed, but it's by the bay and it isn't Oakland - out of business. Their representative, Sonya Rokoff/The Dragon Lady, a beautiful Eurasian girl, hires Victor Poten, a mad Eurasian chemist and inventor and an equal-opportunity racist who hates both Chinese and White races, to aid her. Poten, by means of his infernal inventions and underworld henchmen, conducts successful raids on the Chinese merchants and also successfully eludes the people hunting and investigating him. Those include newspaper ... Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


15 Episodes of Flaming Action... Dynamic Thrills and Eerie Mystery! See more »


Crime | Horror | Sci-Fi


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

10 October 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Shadow of Chinatown  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(15 chapters)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


15 chapter serial with two feature versions, one under original title, the other called "Yellow Phantom," issued in 1942. See more »


At the end of chapter 14 (repeated at the beginning of 15) you can clearly hear the director cuing Luana Walters to begin running. See more »


Willy Fu: I accede to honorable request of thugs.
See more »

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User Reviews

Thin plot -- thick accents.
10 April 2006 | by (Easley, South Carolina) – See all my reviews

As long as Bela Lugosi was not playing the part of "Bela Lugosi" he was great. In Shadow of Chinatown he plays Victor Poten, the Eurasian scientist intent on destroying the Chinese people in Chinatown. Poten is hired by Sonya Rokoff, another Eurasian, to put an end to the tourist trade in San Francisco's Chinatown so that a new business cartel can take over the businesses there. Over the fifteen chapters Lugosi went through a few disguises and was given a chance to show his talent for playing different types of characters. His acting still appeared as if he were performing on stage rather than in front of a camera. Serials rarely had perfect lighting or camera angles, but Lugosi was able to look good in Shadow of Chinatown.

Herman Brix was excellent as Martin Andrews. He was always good in the serials that he made. Joan Barclay was not good as Joan Whiting. She overacted in almost every scene. In addition to bad acting, her character was more a nuisance than anything else. As Sonya Rokoff, Luana Walters was much better, though her character should have been stronger. The oddity among the cast was Charles King as Grogan. As many times as King played a tough character he rarely showed a mortal fear. Grogan's weakness when he was around the evil Poten was something unusual for a character played by Charles King.

I have read that heavy accents worked against some actors in the early days of sound film, but I also think that people in North America were more willing to accept certain accents at the same time. Vaudevillians had performed using dialects and brought them to radio and movies. In Shadow of Chinatown, the accents are integral to the characters. The strong Chinese accents of some of the actors may be authentic, but it is also obvious that some of the dialogue and accents are overplayed to the Chinese stereotype. The character Willy Fu always speaks in parables and proverbs, even in emergencies. Willy Fu seemed long winded at all the wrong times.

At a time when white actors would don costumes and wear makeup to appear as another race, Shadow of Chinatown used real Chinese actors. The credits undoubtedly prove this. Victor Poten's gang of thugs dresses in Chinese clothing as they commit their crimes in Chinatown. Whether or not it was an intentional swipe at the practice of using non-Asians as Chinese, there was an early scene in which Willy Fu discovers the fake Chinese and tells Martin Andrews about them. Either way, it is a nice plot element as it strips away a layer of Poten's cover.

The story in Shadow of Chinatown is weak, and the action and suspense are not as good as what was seen in other serials. The best reason to watch this serial is to see Bela Lugosi in a strong role. He is the saving grace of Shadow of Chinatown.

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