Detective James Lee Wong is on the scene as archaeologist Dr. John Benton, recently returned from an expedition in China where a valuable ancient scroll was recovered, is murdered while giving a lecture on the expedition.
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Fred C. Newmeyer
J. Farrell MacDonald
In the middle of a pictorial lecture on his recent expedition to the Mongolian Desert, Dr. John Benton the famous explorer, drinks from the water bottle on his lecture table, collapses and dies. His last words "Eternal Fire" are the only clue Chinese detective Jimmy Wong and Captain Street of the police department have to work on. Win Lee, Benton's secretary, reveals the doctor's dying words refer to a scroll which tells the location of rich oil deposits. Wong and Street then begin the search for the killer among Benton's associates. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
No offense to Boris Karloff, who had previously played Mr. Wong, but this film shows how an "oriental" action-thriller can be improved by casting a gifted Chinese actor in the role. Keye Luke is handsome, charming, dashing, brave, clever, and just downright sexy as James Lee Wong, and he meets his perfect match in Lotus Long, the mysterious Chinese secretary of a famous Anglo-American archaeologist. The ending, which would have featured some romance between Luke and Long had they both been Caucasians, is still satisfying, as Luke shows his feelings for Long with his eyes and smile. Lee Tung Foo also deserves mention in a fun turn as Wong's servant. Of the many oriental-exploitation films of the era, this is perhaps the best, featuring some fine Asian art objects, superb set decoration, social commentary about Westerm archaeological appropriation of cultural treasures, unusual documentary footage of an expedition to Mongolia, and real Chinese people playing Chinese people. It's by no means an "A" picture, and seeing the star-god Shou depicted as a "god of vengeance" is silly, but "Phantom of Chinatown" deserves a better reputation than others of its ilk.
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