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.
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>
The biggest novelty of this rather dull little mystery is that for once during this era, a person of Chinese ancestry actually plays a Chinese-American amateur detective!! That's right, unlike Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto and the previous Mr. Wong films, this one does not feature some Western guy with his eyes taped so that he looks Chinese-ish. And, also interesting is that this actor is none other than Keye Luke--the guy who played Number One Son in the Chan films. In some ways, this was very culturally sensitive and forward-thinking and Luke's character was bright and articulate--using definite articles in conversation and seeming less like a walking stereotype. At the same time, the writers were still in the 1940s mindset, as some of the remarks of the incredibly imbecilic chief of detectives are awfully crude stereotypes. An example of this was when he asked all the people what they had for dinner. When he came to the Chinese lady, he said "I assume you just had Chop Suey". Uggh!!!
Now as for the film itself, it seems like a lower than usual quality B-movie--with most of the usual clichés but with none of the energy or excitement of films from the Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan, Falcon or Sherlock Holmes series. While there were some interesting story elements (such as the whole oil angle), the film was so low energy and dull that it rarely engages the viewer. I think most of this is due to the painfully low budget--making productions by second-rate poverty row studios (like rival Monogram Films) seem vastly superior to this one. It is obvious in this film that the end of the Wong series was in sight and there wasn't much more when it comes to innovation other than the casting of the ever-capable Luke in the lead.
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