When Captain Street\'s best friend Dan O\'Grady is murdered, Street enlists the help of Chinese detective James Lee Wong. Mr. Wong uncovers a smuggling ring on the waterfront of San Francisco and unmasks the killer, though not until several more murders occur.
Boris Karloff ... James Lee Wong
Grant Withers ... Capt. Bill Street
Marjorie Reynolds ... Roberta \'Bobbie\' Logan
Charles Trowbridge ... John T. Forbes
Frank Puglia ... Harry \'Hardway\' Lockett
Craig Reynolds ... Frank Belden, Jr.
Lita Chevret ... Tanya Serova
Harry Strang ... Det. Ballard
Hooper Atchley ... Frank Belden Sr.
Jason Robards Sr. ... Griswold (as Jason Robards)
Richard Loo ... Jeweler
Jack Kennedy ... Mike, Police Sergeant
A trio of familiar faces reunites in this engaging Mr. Wong mystery - Boris Karloff as the Chinese Detective, Grant Withers as San Francisco Police Captain Bill Street (though he was \"Sam\" Street in the first two Wong films), and Marjorie Reynolds as feisty Herald newspaper reporter Bobbie Logan. Street \"unofficially\" seeks Wong\'s help in solving the murder of friend and fellow detective Dan Grady, who was working on a smuggling detail - \"Smuggling and San Francisco mean the Orient\".
Besides Grady, the bodies pile up rather quickly in this whodunit; by the time the film is over there are a total of four corpses. The action moves back and forth between Frank Belden Sr.\'s jewelry shop, the Neptune Club owned by a shady \"Hardway\" Harry Lockett (Frank Puglia), and the apartment of Belden\'s financier John Forbes (Charles Trowbridge). Thrown in for good measure are Belden\'s son Frank Jr. (Craig Reynolds), who has a thing for mysterious vamp Tanya Serova (Lita Chevret). Except for the young Frank Belden, who\'s acting is a bit forced and over the top, the rest of the cast are all mixed up in the smuggling scheme that Wong rather handily solves by piecing together details involving radio control technology and a rigged telephone call.
As we\'ve seen before, Captain Street comes across as a brash blow-hard, but he gets his comeuppance rather nicely at the hands of reporter Logan at the end of the film. With both Wong and Street at the mercy of Forbes\' gun, Bobbie uses an ashtray to fake her own weapon and trick the villain into submission, after which Mr. Wong dials up the Herald with the news - \"Oh yes, this is a scoop.\"
What will you find in and around an oceanside watering hole called The Neptune Club? A little jewel smuggling, a little multiple murder and a whole lot of red herrings. San Francisco policeman Bill Street (Grant Withers) teams up with Chinese super sleuth James Lee Wong (Boris Karloff) to get to the bottom of things. This involves weeding through an almost never-ending parade of suspects to find out which one is going around murdering those who threaten to expose a back room crime operation. And there may, or may not, be more to it than meets the eye. And you may, or may not, even be interested in even viewing this creaky old chestnut. The first ten/fifteen minutes don\'t exactly do an adequate job of reeling the viewer in, but the film does pick up speed and becomes more interesting (and entertaining) after awhile.
Though listed as a horror-mystery, this is more of a mystery with a slightly higher body count than usual, a few shadowy horror movie-like touches (particularly a hand brandishing a pistol emerging from a dark corner of the bar) and, of course, the presence of horror legend Karloff. It\'s entirely set bound; I don\'t recall a single scene taking place outdoors, though there is frequent mention of a harbor, shipping docks and a secret passageway we never get to see. It\'s also incredibly talky, with very little on-screen action. There\'s no style, no visual flourishes and the camera-work itself is strictly of the point-and-shoot variety. However, the dialogue isn\'t too bad and neither are the characters. The film also has a sense of humor; namely Marjorie Reynolds as a plucky reporter who annoys the heck out of the fuzz by showing up at every crime scene unannounced but still manages to uncover many of the important clues.
Withers\' aggressive, reactionary, often-screaming policeman is almost perfectly balanced out by Karloff\'s smooth, observant and very patient oriental detective. The supporting cast is mostly decent; particularly Frank Puglia as the shady owner of the Neptune Club. Still, I wouldn\'t go out of my way to see this unless you\'re a Karloff completist or enjoy creaky lightweight rainy day murder mysteries. There are worse ways to pass an hour or your time. This was either the fourth or fifth entry in the Wong series; Karloff played the same character in MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938), MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN (1939), THE MYSTERIOUS MR. WONG (1939) and DOOMED TO DIE (1940).
Let me start by saying that I love these good ol\' mystery flicks from the 40\'s. They\'re usually nice a short, filled with decent acting and predictable plot lines. While this did only run a mere 68 minutes, and the actors were as good as usual, I must say I was rather surprised at the outcome. Great twist in what I had pegged as a predictable film. The characters were all great, though I can\'t quite buy Karloff as a Chinaman. Grant Withers was great as the typical hard-boiled cop, though I must say this particular cop was more flustered than most, providing some fun comic relief. The trademark female reporter was pretty good here as well, played by the beautiful Marjorie Reynolds. If you\'re a fan of this kind of movie, I highly recommend it. Better than most!
This film was including in a horror box set, and the Internet Movie Database considers it to be in the genre of horror, but I will tell you right now: there is no horror in this. None. It is a straight detective story. Yes, Boris Karloff is in it, but that does not make it horror.
What happens is a series of murders, and two detectives (Boris Karloff and Grant Withers) try to solve the case. Karloff plays the smart cop (like a Sherlock Holmes), while Grant Withers is more like Russell Crowe in \"LA Confidential\" (violent).
I was confused by the casting of Karloff as the Chinese Mr. Wong. He plays Wong in six films, but as far as I can tell Karloff is not Chinese and does not look or sound even vaguely Chinese. So why wouldn\'t they cast someone else or change the nationality of Karloff\'s character? I really enjoyed Marjorie Reynolds as the pushy reporter, who was possibly Grant Withers\' girlfriend (it is never made clear). She seems to show up at all the critical moments, adding a humorous element to the otherwise straight film. The other great character is Frank Puglia as \"Hardway\", the career criminal who hangs out around the police station. He was the most interesting character, providing a great red herring (actually this film is full of red herrings).
If you like mysteries and old films, this is one you\'ll want to give a fair chance to. If old movies bore you, never mind... you\'ll fall asleep. But I liked it.