Brandon Edwards (Morgan Wallace) is a rich businessman who collects mostly stolen Oriental art and valuables. His latest conquest, The Eye of the Daughter of the Moon. The giant sapphire is worth a fortune and is a precious Chinese treasure. The huge gem was smuggled out of China and now resides in Brandon’s safe. The gem is said to be cursed. It carries the curse of Emperor Hong Chong Tu. It is said Tu was jealous of his wife and when he buried her, he placed the jewel in her heart. It is also said that if the jewel ever leaves China, whoever owns it will die.
The Edwards household is a tense one. Brandon believes his wife Valerie (Dorothy Tree) is unfaithful with every man she meets. His secretary Peter Harrison (Craig Reynolds) for one. An Italian singer named Michael Strogonoff (Ivan Lebedeff) for another. Peter is in love with Valerie but she has not been faithful despite the fact that Brandon is cruel. That night the Edwards’ are having a party. There are a variety of guests invited. Besides the house guests Brandon invites Criminologist Professor Ed Janney (Holmes Herbert) and he invites Mr. Wong (Boris Karloff) so he can show him the sapphire. He confides to Wong that his life is in danger and shows him a threatening note he received.
That night during a game of Charades Edwards is shot. Since just about everybody hated Edwards there is no lack of suspects. Besides his wife Valerie and his secretary Peter there are Michael Strogonoff and the new maid Drina (Lotus Long) who are both acting quite suspiciously. Then there are unsavory characters in the Chinese underworld that provide Edwards with all his smuggled artifacts.
Police Captain Sam Street (Grant Withers) arrives and realizes he is pretty much out of his league when it comes to Chinese treasures. When the precious gem goes missing Mr. Wong is tapped for, not only his expertise as a Chinese culture expert but as a first rate detective as well.
When another murder happens there is one less suspect, but no less motives.
“The Mystery of Mr. Wong” was released in 1939 and was directed by William Nigh. It is the second of six low budget Mr. Wong mystery movies done by Monogram Pictures and the second of five with Boris Karloff as the lead. Mr. Wong is based on stories written by Hugh Wiley.
Karloff playing a Chinese detective may be thought of a strange today, or even offensive, but in the thirties and forties whites played all leading characters. That’s just the way it was. Boris Karloff may appear to be an even stranger choice to play an Oriental than Peter Lorre as the Japanese Mr. Moto or Warner Oland and Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan but the character of Mr. Wong, in the movies at least, was educated in England at Oxford. I believe the stories had him at Yale but Ivy league is Ivy league when you are referring to the best schools, whether in the US or Britain. Since Wong, in the films, was educated at Oxford than having a British manner and sophistication is not out of the question.
In the movie the guests play a game called charades. The characters act out a scene for a movie called “Murder at Midnight”. “Murder at Midnight” was a film released in 1931. The plot of that film is basically the same as the plot for this film. Referring to the original film in this quasi re-make was a nice touch. A little déjà vu so to speak.
I like all the Mr. Wong films. Karloff is wonderful as usual. Grant Withers as Sam Street is a little calmer in this film than in the other Mr. Wong films. Dorothy Tree as Mrs. Valerie Edwards, on the other hand, is mostly annoying. Other than that the movie is another enjoyable little mystery.