When business magnate Simon Dayton is found dead inside his locked office moments after police detective Sam Street (Withers) saw him standing at the window, reknowned private James Lee Wong (Karloff) joins forces with the homicide squad to interpert the only clues found at the scene--tiny fragments of delicate glass. When Dayton's business partners start dying under equally mysterious circumstances, and sinister agents of foreign powers start appearing in the shadows, Wong and Street have to race against time to prevent more murders, including, possibly, their own.
"Mr. Wong, Detective" is a fast-paced, well-scripted complex mystery with lots of twists, turns, and misdirections. The array of suspects and the way suspicion moves on and off them, the way motives come into focus and blur again, the clever way the murder weapon is triggered, and the way Wong ultimately unmasks the very clever murderer, all add up to a mystery movie that deserves more attention than it gets.
Another element that adds to the film's quality is the acting. Boris Karloff is excellent as Wong, playing a more subdued and refined character than in just about any other role he played before or after, with Wong's sarcastic, stereortypical "oriental politeness" in the face of the bad guys adding flavor to the character and comedy to the film. Grant Withers as Street is likewise excellent in his part, shining particularly brightly in the scenes with Maxine Jennings, who brings effective comic relief to the picture as his feisty girlfriend, Myra. The supporting cast and co-stars also all turn in top-quality performances.
"Mr. Wong, Detective" is a film well worth the time a fan of 1930s mysteries should devote to watching it. It's a great kick-off for an excellent series.
Mr. Wong, Detective
Starring: Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, John St. Polis, Maxine Jennings, Lucien Prival, and Evelyn Brent
Director: William Nigh