Sunday, 27 June 2010

Wongs Upon A Time In America

The Fatal Hour (Mr. Wong At Headquarters)
1940 US Directed by William Nigh
Monogram/VCI Home Entertainment DVD Region 1

Ok... this is more like it. This is Mr. Wong at his very best... with my only grumble being that he doesn’t do much (or anything at all) in the way of using his trademark knowledge of scientific investigation to do any actual detecting within this movie. Here it’s all following standard “clues and leads” to get to the final solution to the problem.

In this one the problem involves smuggling precious Chinese artefacts through an imitation jewellery store and, of course, the murders that ensue from this powder keg situation.

Equally aided and abetted by series regulars Captain Street and his regular headache, reporter Roberta “Bobby” Logan... this film is on fire when it comes to the enjoyable, quickfire dialogue threeways between Wong, Street and Bobby. In this film they got all the Wong elements right and it makes for some good, past paced (for a Monogram picture) onscreen shenanigans which will really not outstay its welcome (at barely over an hour in length, these kinds of 30s and 40s B-movies rarely do).

And what’s this? Not one but two uncredited appearances by serial legends. This Wong movie sees the return (since the last one) of Donald Kerr (Happy from Flash Gordons Trip To Mars), this time playing a nameless drunk as opposed to a taxi driver. And then... let me get a close look at that small hotel lobby check-in guy... well blow me down if it isn’t an early role for the inimitable Tristram Coffin! Yes, the lead actor of King of the Rocket Men and regular generic villain/friendly on such TV shows as The Lone Ranger and The Adventures of Superman is on show here, before he ever got it into his head to put on a grubby leather coat, metal hood and take to the sky’s in his rocket pack! Woohoo!

All in all, the fourth Mr. Wong is the best I’ve seen in this series so far. Karloff seems to be taking the role much less seriously in this one and it’s much to the betterment of the series. Lets hope the fifth one lives up to the promise of this one.

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