Retrospektive 2018

Phantom of Chinatown

Phil Rosen
USA 1941
61min
V'18

In response to 20th-Century Fox’s eminently popular Charlie Chan, Monogram invented the depreciatory Chinese master sleuth Mr. Wong, played for five films by the versatile Boris Karloff. The last of the Mr. Wong series broke radically from the formula by replacing Karloff with the talented Keye Luke, the Chinese-American actor locked into the role of Chan’s “Number Two” son but now freed to solve an enigmatic crime of his own—the murder of his college mentor, a prominent archaeologist killed while lecturing about his controversial discovery of a legendary ancient Chinese tomb. Arguably the most progressive of the many Asian detective films popular throughout the B-era, PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN begins with a remarkable critique of the ethnographic gaze shown in the expedition footage presented by the professor just before his death, as if to underscore the film’s refreshing casting of Asian-American actors as protagonists. Joining forces with Luke is Japanese-American actress Lotus Long as a patriotic secret Chinese agent assigned to recover the precious scroll pillaged from the sacred tomb. Eccentric comic accents liven the pace and sharpen the film’s sly parody of racial stereotyping, best expressed in the ludicrous fortune cookie dialogue deadpanned by Luke as he weaves his way through the Chinatown underworld. (Haden Guest)

With DAUGHTHER OF SHANGHAI

Credits
  • Keye Luke
  • Lotus Long
  • Huntley Gordon
  • Virginia Carpenter
  • John Dilson
  • Grant Withers
  • Charles Miller
  • George Waggner
  • Ralph Gilbert Bettison
  • Hugh Wiley
  • Fred Jackman Jr.
  • Edward J. Kay
Monogram Pictures
16 mm
bw
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