Captain Bill Street (Grant Withers) is sparring with reporter and sometimes girlfriend Roberta “Bobby” Logan (Marjorie Reynolds) when word comes in to the precinct that Street’s best friend and fellow cop Dan Grady has been murdered. He had been shot and thrown into the water with weights tied to him. According to the chief, Dan was undercover posing as a seaman on a smuggling case. Bill vows to find his killer.
When private detective James Lee Wong (Boris Karloff) finds out about the murder he visits Street at the police station to offer his condolences and his assistance. While going through Dan’s desk they find a piece of carved Oriental Jade from the Ming Dynasty. One of Wong’s sources in Chinatown suggests he check a store called Belden’s. Belden’s is run by Frank Belden Sr. (Hooper Atchley). He tells Wong that they only deal in reproductions. Wong knows something is not right but bides his time.
In the meantime Bobby puts a notice in the paper looking anyone with information to come forward. Street gets inundated with cranks. Street is pissed. When Bobby shows up Street lets her know he’s pissed. When the next person that comes in saying he saw Grady walks in, Street foists him on Bobby. It turns out that the guy did see Dan. He was at the Club Neptune on the waterfront and he was dressed as a seaman.
The club is owned by Harry “Hardway” Lockett (Frank Puglia). Hardway is known for dabbling in the smuggling racket as well as other illegal things. When Street and Wong visit the club Wong sees Frank Belden Jr. (Craig Reynolds) and a woman named Tanya Serova (Lita Chevret) leaving the club. Now Wong knows for sure that Belden’s is somehow connected with The Club Neptune and smuggling.
Wong and Street piece together clues that connect not only The Club Neptune and Belden’s Jewelry Store but another powerful character that keeps himself on the fringes of the smuggling business. It’s not until a couple more murders and the attempted murder of Wong himself that Wong is able to make all the pieces fit.
“The Fatal Hour” AKA “Mr. Wong at Headquarters” in the United Kingdom was released in 1940 and was directed by William Nigh. It is a crime drama and is the fourth of six films based on the character Mr. Wong by Hugh Wiley for Collier’s Magazine. It is also the fourth of five movies with Boris Karloff as Mr. Wong. The series of Wong mystery “B” films were produced by Monogram Pictures.
Like the other Mr. Wong films this was entertaining and fun to watch. All the Mr. Wong films were done on a shoestring budget so they were all pretty much all talk and very little action.
The highlight of the film is the remote controlled radio. Called the “Mystery Control”. Produced by Philco, it was developed in 1939 and sold until 1942. It was a hand held remote, depending on your definition of hand held. The remote had a dial on it that operated similarly to the old rotary dial telephones. With it you could select several stations, adjust the volume, work the phonograph and turn the radio off. Through the years the radios themselves were still easy to find but not so the remotes.
Mystery Control demo