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Panama Patrol (1939)

Approved | | Action, Drama, Mystery | 20 March 1939 (USA)
THe head of the cipher bureau, Phillip Waring, is about to marry his secretary, Helen Lane, when he is informed that the state department has discovered a message that must be decoded. With... See full summary »



(original screenplay), (based on characters by) | 1 more credit »


Complete credited cast:
Maj. Phillip Waring
Charlotte Wynters ...
Helen Lane
Lia Maing
Lt. Murdock
Arlie Johnson
Jimmy, Office Boy
Lt. Loring (as Donald Barry)
Lt. Everett
Eli Maing (as John Smart)
Frank Darien ...
Sam, the Watchman
Marlin (as William von Brincken)
Tommy Young


THe head of the cipher bureau, Phillip Waring, is about to marry his secretary, Helen Lane, when he is informed that the state department has discovered a message that must be decoded. With the information given, Waring and his assistant, Lieutenant Murdock, investigate but their every move seems to be known to their alien adversaries. Helen discovers that Arlie Johnson, interpreter for the bureau is the real leader of the spy ring but, before she can relay the information, she falls into the hands of Johnson and his spy-ring henchmen. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Foreign Spies Exposed! Canal Defense Saved!


Action | Drama | Mystery


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

20 March 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La patrouille de Panama  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film received its first telecast Saturday 11 May 1940 on New York City's pioneer, and still experimental television station W2XBS. See more »


Follows Cipher Bureau (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

The Yellow Peril circa 1939
19 September 2006 | by See all my reviews

**SPOILERS** Pre-Pearl Harbor depiction of the danger from the east that threatened America represented as a very militaristic Chinese regime that also seems to be allied at the time with Hitler's Germany. With one of the bad guys being a very German looking, with a thick German accent, Wihelm Von Brickner playing one of the Chinese espionage rings henchmen Marlin.

In just two years after "Panama Patrol" was released the roles of the bad guys from the Orient were completely reversed with the Chinese being our friends and comrades in arms instead of our deadly enemies. There's also the fact that Chinese-American actor Richard Loo is in the movie portraying for once in a film a Chinese, who he is, instead of a Japanese, who he isn't.

Going down to the Marriage Licenses Bureau to get hitched Maj.Leon Waring,Leon Ames,gets an emergency phone call to report to the State Department's Cipher Bureau. Waring leaving his bride Helen Lane, Charlotte Wynters,who's also a government decoding specialist, making her very angry to say the least on both her future husband and his boss.

The D.C police Picking up this Chinese embassy worker Tommy Young, Richard Loo, who's been seen handing papers that he snuck out of the State Department. The D.C police have trouble getting him to talk about his covert activities. Young refuses to cooperate with his American captors by not speaking any English or handing over to them his passport. Chinese-speaking and also encrypted specialist Arlie Johnson, Abner Biberman, is then called in to get the closed-mouth Young to open up. As Johnson finally starts getting something out of the Chinese embassy worker in Chinese he's shot from behind from a hidden peephole in the wall by Marlin a German thug working for the Chinese government.

Later we see Johnson as well as Marlin together at this New York Curiso Shop run by one of the heads of the Chinese spy-ring the half American half Chinese Eli Ming, John Smart! Johnson it turns out is a spy who infiltrated the US Government Chipher Bureau and has been handing over sensitive information to the Chinese Government concerning the Panama Canal. The Chinese are planning, possibly with their future German allies, to blow up the canal locks and bottle up the US Pacific Fleet keeping it from being reinforced after a Pearl Harbor-like attack! this is two years before such an event did in fact happen, on America!

Lame action sequences with Maj. Waring getting captured at least twice by the fumbling and butterfingered Chinese spies and all but walking away from them to freedom. There's a really insane scene later in the movie with Maj. Waring having it out with his kidnappers in a plane at 6,000 feet and after quickly dispatching the bad guys. It's then that the Major takes the controls and lands the aircraft as easy as Charles Linberg did in landing the St.Louis in Paris back in 1927.

The film is very interesting when it come to the art of decoding secret massages without the help of super computers, which weren't invented at the time, that shows how much brain power and hard work coupled with old fashion luck it took to break then Chinese secret code.

Helen also gets into the act by getting herself kidnapped by Johnson as his spy girlfriend Lia, Adrenne Ames, the exotically beautiful daughter of Chinese spy-master Eli Ming. In the end Helen saves the day by leaving a trail of clues that leads her boyfriend Maj. Waring together with the local police and FBI to the Chinese spy's secret headquarters. It's then that the spy ring that included Johnson Lia and the big boss of the whole operation Suri, Philip Ahn, end up getting arrested after a brief struggle and shootout.

In the end both Maj. Warnig and his finance Helen Lang drive down to Elton Md. where they'll be in the middle of nowhere and not be disturbed, like at the beginning of the movie, to finally get married.

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