A pretty Chinese woman, seeking help from San Francisco detective James Lee Wong, is killed by a poisoned dart in his front hall, having time only to scrawl "Captain J" on a sheet of paper.... See full summary »
A pretty Chinese woman, seeking help from San Francisco detective James Lee Wong, is killed by a poisoned dart in his front hall, having time only to scrawl "Captain J" on a sheet of paper. She proves to be Princess Lin Hwa, on a secret military mission for Chinese forces fighting the Japanese invasion. Mr. Wong finds two captains with the intial J in the case, neither being quite what he seems; there's fog on the waterfront and someone still has that poison-dart gun... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
"Well this is a payoff, murder in the house of Mr. Wong, now we've seen everything."
A distressed Oriental woman comes knocking on the door of James Lee Wong seeking his help. Before we get to learn her request, she is murdered by a poisoned dart, fired through the open window of Wong's study. She is Princess Lin Hwa, a woman of high degree from the Wang-Ki family, as evidenced by a ring displaying her family crest.
As in prior Mr. Wong films, James Lee Wong (Boris Karloff) is accompanied in his investigation by Police Captain Bill Street (Grant Withers), though he needn't bother, as the detective is mostly ineffective in getting any real police work done. It's Wong himself who develops his leads and is more effectively helped by Herald newspaper reporter Roberta Logan (Marjorie Reynolds), a somewhat romantic interest for Street, though she's pretty much pushed around by the Captain for most of the film, while maintaining a wry smile and quick wit to counteract the blustering bully.
In her last minutes before dying, Lin Hwa manages to scribble a curiously worded "Captain J" on a piece of paper, pointing Wong to not one but two different but connected leads - Captain James of the steamship "Maid of the Orient", and Captain Guy Jackson (everybody's a Captain!) of the Phelps Aviation Company. It's revealed that the Princess was arranging for the sale of airplanes to her brother in China, but the two Captain J's were conspiring to rid her of her money without fulfilling their end of the bargain.
The real villain behind the murders though is the outwardly helpful bank president Davidson (Huntley Gordon), having had access to Lin Hwa's bank account and freely forging checks to relieve her account of a million dollars. The giveaway - Davidson claimed to have had a vicious dog buried with an expensive headstone, but Wong correctly surmises that the grave actually conceals the body of a mute dwarf that was a friend of the Princess.
Monogram Pictures released this movie in 1939, and later remade the film in 1947 with another Oriental Detective in the lead role, casting Roland Winters in his first screen appearance as Charlie Chan. "The Chinese Ring" is virtually a carbon copy of the Wong movie, with the "Captain J" clue changed by one letter to "Captain K". From there it moves along at pretty much the same pace until Chan's revelation of the killer. Both films are passable, but if you've seen one, you've seen both.
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