6.1/10
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Phantom of Chinatown (1940)

Approved | | Action, Crime, Drama | 18 November 1940 (USA)
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.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay) (as Joseph West), (original story) (as Ralph Bettinson) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Win Len
...
Charles Miller ...
Dr. John Benton / Cyrus Benton in Newspaper (as Charles Miller)
Huntley Gordon ...
Dr. Norman Wilkes
Virginia Carpenter ...
Louise Benton
...
Charlie Frasier (as John H. Dilson)
Paul McVey ...
Detective Grady
John Holland ...
Mason
Richard Terry ...
Toreno (as Dick Terry)
Robert Kellard ...
Tommy Dean
Willy Castello ...
Jonas (as William Castello)
Lee Tung Foo ...
Foo
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Storyline

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 <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A thousand suspects... 20 fingerprints... a Chinese temple... Mr. Wong solves a murder! See more »


Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Het spook van Chinatown  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the only Hollywood film of the period in which an Asian detective was played by, and top billing was given to, an actor (Keye Luke) who was actually Asian. See more »

Quotes

James Lee Wong: Greetings. Only the eyebrows of youth would have the temerity to call the beard of age at such an hour.
See more »

Connections

Edited into Who Dunit Theater: Phantom of Chinatown (2015) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Worthwhile Poverty Row mystery
26 October 2002 | by (Oakland CA) – See all my reviews

Smilin' Leonard Maltin rates this one a bomb, but he couldn't be more wrong. It's a real forgotten gem and the best of the Mr. Wong detective series. Why? For whatever reason, the producers decided to cast Keye Luke--an Asian actor--in the role of the cinematic sleuth. Many similar films were made throughout the 30s and 40s, with Warner Oland and Sidney Toler cast as Charlie Chan and Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto. Luke was preceded by Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff as Wong. This seems to be the only example of an Asian detective being played by an Asian actor, and I'd love to know how Luke's casting came about. He's merely adequate as an actor, but his work gives the film an appealing realism (albeit as much as a film about an eternal flame and a lost scroll can be realistic). There are also reasonably good supporting roles for Asian actors, including Lotus Long as the leading lady, Lee Tung Foo in a comic role, and other uncredited actors. Series regular Grant Withers is on hand, wearing a rather unattractive and ill-fitting hat, as the bumbling police detective who needs Wong's help to crack the case. The film actually seems to take place in a somewhat realistic world, San Francisco's Chinatown, where Asian-Americans miraculously man and operate the telephone exchange! At 61 minutes the film is brisk entertainment that will keep your attention. It also manages to feel fresher than better acted and better budgeted genre films of the same period. Strongly recommended to sleuthing fans.


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