Mr. Wong, Detective (October 5, 1938)
Released on October 5, 1938: Detective James Lee Wong must solve the murders of men who all die while locked alone in their office.
Produced by William T. Lackey
Directed by William Nigh
Written by Houston Branch based on characters by Hugh Wiley
The Actors: Boris Karloff (Mr. James Lee Wong), Grant Withers (Police Captain Sam Street), Maxine Jennings (Myra Ross, Dayton's secretary), Evelyn Brent (Olga Petroff, Countess Dubois and Sophie Dome), George Lloyd (Police Detective Lieutenant Devlin), Lucien Prival (Anton Mohl, aka Baron Von Krantz), John St. Polis (Carl Roemer the poison gas inventor), William Gould (Theodore Meisel, Dayton's partner), Hooper Atchley (Christian Wilk, Dayton's partner), John Hamilton (Simon Dayton), Wilbur Mack (Russell, Dayton's office manager), Lee Tung Foo (Tchin, Wong's servant), Lynton Brent (Detective Tommy), Grace Wood (Mrs. Carl Roemer), Frank Bruno (Lescardi Hohl's henchman), Ed Cassidy (Ambulance doctor), Wheaton Chambers (the chemistry lab director), Clancy Cooper (warehouse man), Lester Dorr (the coroner), Herbert Evans (Mr. Wilk's butler), Dick Reinhart (dock worker)
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Bavarian Poison Gas Glass Balls
Back in 1938 when this movie was filmed, there were no smart watches, smart phones, or even television. Entertainment consisted of going to the movie theater one night a week, listening to the local radio stations, or reading. Folk read books, newspapers, and magazines.
Many magazines published serial mystery stories, spreading one story over several issues. This guaranteed that if you read the first part, you would certainly buy that magazine again and again to find out how the story ended. Collier’s magazine was published weekly between 1888 and 1957, and promised the readers fiction, fact, sensation, wit, humor and current news.
For many years it was the most popular magazine in America, and between 1934 and 1938 the magazine published twelve fiction stories about a Chinese private detective called Mr. Wong. The final Mr. Wong story was published on June 25, 1938, and the first Mr. Wong movie . . . . This one . . . . Was released a few months later.
A total of six Mr. Wong movies were produced, five of them starring Boris Karloff as the Chinese detective, and the final movie starring Keye Luke, released in 1940.
In this first Mr. Wong mystery three business partners are producing and selling a new secret formula for a death gas. One of the partners visits Mr. Wong and tells him that he believes someone is trying to kill him. Mr. Wong has agreed to meet the businessman at ten o’clock the next morning to discuss the case, but that meeting will never happen.
When Mr. Wong arrives at the businessman’s office he discovers that the man has locked himself inside his office because the inventor of the secret formula is trying to kill him. When the police arrive and force open the office door they discover that the businessman is dead.
Without any bullet wounds or any other sign of violence the police assume that the man died from natural causes. Mr. Wong discovers small shards of glass on the floor, and later determines that the room contained a small glass bulb filled with poison gas.
Somehow the glass bulb exploded while the businessman was in his locked office and the poison gas killed the man. The mystery is . . . . Who put the glass bulb in the office, and with no one in the room except the victim, how did the creator of the glass bulb filled with poison gas manage to have it explode at the precise time that the businessman was alone in his locked office.
We will have two more deaths by the same means, and the vital clue is present in all instances, but none of us will figure it out until Mr. Wong explains it . . . . . . Well . . . . . I couldn’t figure it out, but I’m confident that you will. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Boris Karloff as Mr. Wong
Boris Karloff and Grant Withers
Boris Karloff and John Hamilton
Boris Karloff and Lucien Prival
Boris Karloff and Wilbur Mack
Evelyn Brent and Boris Karloff
Evelyn Brent and William Gould
Frank Bruno, Lucien Prival and Evelyn Brent
Frank Bruno and Lucien Prival
George Lloyd and Grant Withers
Grant Withers and Ed Cassidy
Grant Withers, Grace Wood and Boris Karloff
Grant Withers and Maxine Jennings
Herbert Evans and Boris Karloff
Herbert Evans and George Lloyd
John Hamilton, Hooper Atchley and William Gould
John St. Polis and Grant Withers
John St. Polis and Maxine Jennings
John St. Polis
Lee Tung Foo
Lucien Prival and Evelyn Brent
Lucien Prival and Evelyn Brent
Maxine Jennings, Boris Karloff and Grant Withers
Maxine Jennings and Grant Withers
Wheaton Chambers and Boris Karloff