Phantom of Chinatown (1940)

62 mins | Drama | 18 November 1940

Director:

Phil Rosen

Writer:

George Waggner

Producer:

Paul Malvern

Cinematographer:

Fred Jackman Jr.

Editor:

Jack Ogilvie

Production Designer:

Charles Clague

Production Company:

Monogram Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

This was the first and only of the Wong pictures in which Keye Luke replaced Boris Karloff in the role of Wong, and was the first feature in which Luke had the leading role. This picture was the last in the Wong series. For more information on the series, see the entry for Mr. Wong, Detective above and consult the Series Index. ...

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This was the first and only of the Wong pictures in which Keye Luke replaced Boris Karloff in the role of Wong, and was the first feature in which Luke had the leading role. This picture was the last in the Wong series. For more information on the series, see the entry for Mr. Wong, Detective above and consult the Series Index.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1940
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1940
p. 3
Motion Picture Daily
19 Nov 1940
p. 3
Motion Picture Herald
23 Nov 1940
p. 49
The Exhibitor
27 Nov 1940
p. 644
Variety
1 Jan 1941
p. 14
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Mack Wright
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Joseph West
Scr
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Fred Jackman [Jr.]
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Int dec
MUSIC
Edward Kay
Mus score
SOUND
Sd dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Hugh Wiley in the "James Lee Wong" short stories in Collier's .
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
18 November 1940
Production Date:

Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Monogram Pictures Corp.
18 November 1940
LP10160
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
62
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
PCA No:
6779
SYNOPSIS

Dr. John Benton, in San Francisco following an archaeological expedition in the Mongolian desert, gives a film presentation for his colleagues. The film shows his discovery of the precious ancient tomb of a Ming emperor, for which archaeologists have been searching for centuries. The tomb contains a scroll that tells the secret of the Temple of Eternal Fire, which is of great financial importance to China as it could reveal an enormous untapped reserve of oil. The film of the trip shows a violent windstorm that erupted when the tomb was opened, in keeping with an ancient curse. Mason, the co-pilot on the trip, was lost during the storm, and the expedition party was forced to continue on without him. During the presentation, as Benton is about to reveal the exact contents of the scroll, he chokes and dies. Captain Street of Chinatown Homocide tells Benton's daughter Louise, who was also on the expedition, that her father was poisoned. Win Len, Benton's secretary, who works for the Chinese government, denies any knowledge of the contents of the scroll, which is missing from Benton's safe. Meanwhile, James Lee Wong, a student of Benton's, investigates the case himself and finds the glass cup and pitcher that contained the poison, and Street identifies it as an oriental vegetable poison. While Jimmy and Street view a film of Benton's lecture, Charles Fraser, the expedition's cameraman, receives an anonymous call that lures him away from Benton's house. Win then arrives to search the house, but on a hunch, Fraser returns and is attacked. When Jimmy and Street arrive, they find Win locked in a closet and ...

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Dr. John Benton, in San Francisco following an archaeological expedition in the Mongolian desert, gives a film presentation for his colleagues. The film shows his discovery of the precious ancient tomb of a Ming emperor, for which archaeologists have been searching for centuries. The tomb contains a scroll that tells the secret of the Temple of Eternal Fire, which is of great financial importance to China as it could reveal an enormous untapped reserve of oil. The film of the trip shows a violent windstorm that erupted when the tomb was opened, in keeping with an ancient curse. Mason, the co-pilot on the trip, was lost during the storm, and the expedition party was forced to continue on without him. During the presentation, as Benton is about to reveal the exact contents of the scroll, he chokes and dies. Captain Street of Chinatown Homocide tells Benton's daughter Louise, who was also on the expedition, that her father was poisoned. Win Len, Benton's secretary, who works for the Chinese government, denies any knowledge of the contents of the scroll, which is missing from Benton's safe. Meanwhile, James Lee Wong, a student of Benton's, investigates the case himself and finds the glass cup and pitcher that contained the poison, and Street identifies it as an oriental vegetable poison. While Jimmy and Street view a film of Benton's lecture, Charles Fraser, the expedition's cameraman, receives an anonymous call that lures him away from Benton's house. Win then arrives to search the house, but on a hunch, Fraser returns and is attacked. When Jimmy and Street arrive, they find Win locked in a closet and Fraser injured. Jonas, Benton's butler, is scheming with Mason, who faked his death and now possesses the sacred sarchophagus of the emperor. Street then traces Fraser's phone call to a Chinese restaurant on the waterfront that has a secret room in which Jonas and Mason hide. Mason escapes through a trap door, but Street and Wong find a trinket that Win reveals is a statuette of the "God of Vengeance" and is from the same district as the tomb. Street and Jimmy then find Jonas dead in a coffin, knifed in the chest, but actually killed by poison. Jimmy has headlines printed that claim Jonas lies in St. Christopher's Hospital suffering from tropical fever in order to lure the killer to Mason. Jimmy, wearing a hidden microphone, poses as Mason as the police stake out the hospital. Mason eventually cuts the microphone's wires and enters the room through the window and finds Frazier, who tried to double-cross Mason and broke into Benton's home to find the scroll. Jimmy fights Mason as Street enters with policeman Grady. It is then revealed that Frazier edited out the part of the expedition film that showed the scroll and killed Benton in order to possess the secret of the oil himself. Frazier then killed Jonas because he and Mason were also after the scroll. Although Frazier destroyed the original scroll, Street finds Frazier's photograph of it and returns it to Win so that she may restore it to the Chinese people.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.