IMDb > Phantom of Chinatown (1940)

Phantom of Chinatown (1940) More at IMDbPro »

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Down 24% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
George Waggner (screenplay)
Ralph Gilbert Bettison (original story)
View company contact information for Phantom of Chinatown on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
18 November 1940 (USA) See more »
A thousand suspects... 20 fingerprints... a Chinese temple... Mr. Wong solves a murder! See more »
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. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
Not bad but not particularly inspired either See more (18 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Keye Luke ... James Lee 'Jimmy' Wong
Grant Withers ... Capt. Street

Lotus Long ... Win Len
Charles Miller ... Dr. John Benton / Cyrus Benton in Newspaper (as Charles Miller)
Huntley Gordon ... Dr. Norman Wilkes
Virginia Carpenter ... Louise Benton
John Dilson ... 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
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lynton Brent ... Radio News Broadcaster (uncredited)
Jack Cheatham ... Stakeout Cop (uncredited)
Heinie Conklin ... Detective in Refrigerator (uncredited)
William Gould ... Policeman (uncredited)
Bruce Mitchell ... Police Officer Stationed at Front Door (uncredited)
William J. O'Brien ... Extra in Audience at Benton's Lecture (uncredited)
Victor Wong ... Charley Won (uncredited)

Directed by
Phil Rosen 
Writing credits
George Waggner (screenplay) (as Joseph West)

Ralph Gilbert Bettison (original story) (as Ralph Bettinson)

Hugh Wiley (characters from "James Lee Wong" series in Collier's Magazine)

Produced by
Paul Malvern .... producer
Original Music by
Edward J. Kay  (as Edward Kay)
Cinematography by
Fred Jackman Jr. (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Jack Ogilvie 
Art Direction by
Charles Clague 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Mack V. Wright .... assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Dave Milton .... interior decorator (as David Milton)
Sound Department
William R. Fox .... sound director (as William Fox)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsSpecial Effects

Additional Details

Also Known As:
62 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
USA:Approved (PCA #6779)

Did You Know?

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 »
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 »
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What is notable about this film?
Is this available on DVD?
See more »
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
Not bad but not particularly inspired either, 20 July 2007
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida

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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