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>
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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