Movie night and a lovely evening for another stroll through Poverty Row; the low-budget side of Hollywood.
Asian detectives were plentiful and standard fare for movie-goers in the 30’s and 40’s. They remain so today for me. Charlie Chan (either Warner Oland or Sidney Toler), Peter Lorre’s Mr. Moto, and Boris Karloff as Mr. Wong are all welcome to solve my homicidal conundrums. All of those actors are improbable, occasionally silly, and delightful. None of them of course are actually Asian…go figure. But then, the last Pad Thai we ordered was of dubious ethnicity now that I think of it.
The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939) offers us all that foolishness in big servings;
- Our Asian detective is played by an Englishman with a Russian-sounding name. Oh yeah…I’m buyin’ that.
- Thrilling quote #1; “Then it was deliberate murder.” (Is there really any other kind?)
- Thrilling quote #2; “He’s absolutely trustworthy, completely devoted to me.” (I’d be slappin’ the cuffs on him pronto.)
- Boris Karloff’s make-up looks more like it’s from Madame Tussaud’s than Nanking.
- Thrilling quote #3; “You know something, but you hold your tongue in more than one language.” (I know there’s wisdom in there somewhere but it plumb evades me.)
- The clock strikes three a.m. in the film, but when Mr. Wong emerges from his bedroom at the police detective’s summons, he’s wearing his dressing gown and a perfectly knotted tie. Classy. Of questionable sleeping hygiene, but definitely classy.
- The McGuffin in this flick is “The Eye of the Daughter of the Moon” – not quite as catchy as “The Maltese Falcon”.
I loved it.