Genres:Mystery & Suspense Sub-Genres:Mystery & Suspense Studio:ROAN Format:DVD - Black and White DVD Release Date: 10/26/1999 Original Release Date: 01/01/1938 Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1938 Release Year: 1999 Run Time: 6hr 43min Screens: Black and White Number of Discs: 2 SwapaDVD Credits: 2 Total Copies: 0 Members Wishing: 1 MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated) Languages:English
"20th Century Fox's Charlie Chan series was a gold mine for the studio, which produced dozens of films starring first Warner Oland and then Sidney Toler as the Hawaiian-based but globe-trotting Chinese detective. Extremely popular throughout the 1930s and well into the 1940s, the Chan series spawned two imitators: Mr. Moto, starring Peter Lorre, and Mr. Wong, starring Boris Karloff. Neither series had the staying power of Chan, and after a few films both were discontinued, faded into obscurity, and were soon forgotten.Only a small number of Chan films and one Mr. Moto film--all on VHS--are available to the home market today. But this double DVD collects all six of the Mr. Wong films, and presents them in near-pristine condition: there are occasional scratches, blips, and one or two breaks in the films, but for the most part these transfers are as good as they get, and although not as sharp as the visuals the sound quality is quite good too. The entertainment value of the individual films, however, varies a great deal from title to title. The best of the collection are the first two titles, MR. WONG DETECTIVE and THE MYSTERY OF MR. WONG; the third title, MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN, is also quite good. But the second disk titles are increasingly uninteresting--and PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN can scarcely be called a Mr. Wong film at all, for the film (which is arguably the least interesting in the series) features Keye Luke instead of Boris Karloff in the title role.Like the Charlie Chan series, Mr. Wong films have several disabilities. From a modern standpoint, the idea of a white European or American using stereotypes and heavy make-up to play an Asian might be considered distasteful by some--but in defense of this I note that such was standard practice at the time, and the stereotypes involved are never mean spirited and the detective is always shown in a positive light. The films are also cheaply made, the direction is at best so-so, and the cinematography extremely static. But for the most part, the Chan films generally manage to rise above these issues; they are essentially "B" movies that attain an "A" level through a clever mixture of mystery, comedy, expert performances from the entire cast, witty scripts, and a rapid pace. The Mr. Wong films, however, are "B" movies that stay "B" movies. Boris Karloff is extremely entertaining as Mr. Wong, but the plots (even in comparison with Chan, which was no paragon on this point) are extremely transparent and gimmicky, there is little humor, the supporting casts are weak, and the scripts are ho-hum. And they run at a much slower pace.Although the quality transfers are to be applauded, the entertainment value of the films are such that I consider the set over priced. I myself have enjoyed them quite a bit, but I suspect the Mr. Wong collection will appeal almost exclusively to film buffs and fans of Karloff and 1930s B mysteries--most casual viewers are likely to be disappointed. Recommended, but to serious collectors of the genre only."
Excellent-Should appeal to all Charlie Chan fans.
Gary F. Taylor | 11/05/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent set of six movies made in the late 30's and early 40's starring Karloff as detective Mr. Wong (except in the last movie which stars Keye Luke as Mr. Wong). The first movie was actually remade as the Charlie Chan film "Docks of New Orleans". The quiality is very good and I would recommend this series to any Charlie Chan or Mr. Moto fan. Very entertaining."
The Complete Adventures of James Lee Wong!
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 05/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""I wonder if I might ask you a question...," asks the kindly and reserved James Lee Wong, as he coaxes a vital clue to a murder from a hesitant witness. Boris Karloff starred in five films as Mr James Lee Wong, a gentleman of Chinese decent living in San Francisco. Educated at Oxford, an expert on Oriental art and culture, Wong offers his services as a Special Investigator to the SFPD.Though some PC types will complain that Karloff is not Chinese and therefore should not have been cast, the truth is that Karloff delivers a marvelous performance as Wong, creating an indelible character.The Mr.Wong movies were meant to be Monogram's answer to the Charlie Chan films, and to a lesser extent, Mr. Moto. The result was a stylish and likable character that was different from both other detectives.Reserved, polite, and brilliant, Karloff's Wong is treated extremely well for a minority character of the day. Always shown as intellegent, compassionate, and respected by all those around him (the closest thing to a slur is a crook calling Wong a "Chinese copper"), any critisicm of the Wong character by the PC crowd simply will not hold water.The Roan set is nicly packaged. It does not have any extras, booklets, or inserts, but it does put the six Wong films into one DVD box.The first four films are the best, especially once Marjorie Reynolds joins the cast. The love/hate relationship between her go-getting, scoop-happy star reporter Bobbie Logan, and Grant Wither's role of irritated and frustrated police Captain Bill Street, is played nicely.The fifth film ("Doomed to Die"), is the weakest of the Karloff entries, and after watching it there can be little doubt why Karloff tired of playing Wong. Several segments are directly lifted from the fourth film ("The Fatal Hour"). The worst part is in one scene, where Wong goes to visit the secret tong group he met in the fourth picture. The same scenes are re-edited from the fourth film, with another actor in different make-up used for the new shots with Karloff!The sixth Wong picture with Keye Luke is the worst of the lot, not that the mystery is all that badly written. The Roan write-up on the back of the DVD case begs the question, "It this a prequel to the later films, with a younger Wong meeting Street, or is this Wong's son...?"Best to look at it in the latter light, rather than the former. While this Wong meets Captain Street for the first time, it's tough to see Street calling Wong "Jimmy", as he does in one scene. The youthful exhuberence Luke brings to the character is also a far cry from the quiet, reserved, Karloff protrayal of Wong.For fans of Mr. Wong, this set is a real treat. If you like Mr. Moto, you'll probably like Mr. Wong as well. For those horror buffs who would like to see Karloff in a non-horror role, Mr. Wong is a sure bet for entertainment!"
tzefirah | Media, PA United States | 06/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's exciting to have the entire Mr. Wong series on one DVD. They're all very good movies. Boris Karloff, although not convincing as a Chinese detective, is a graceful performer as always. The real star of 3 of the movies is Marjorie Reynolds as reporter Roberta Logan. She shows style and great wit. She was known later as the wife in the television series The Life of Riley. Keye Luke in the 6th and last film as Mr. Wong is a great treat, as well.If you're a fan of the old detective movies such as Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto, these are knock-off versions, but entertaining in their own right. I highly recommend this DVD set."
A Must For All Karloff Fans and 'B' Movie Lovers
Edward Garea | Branchville, New Jersey United States | 11/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most positive things to come out of the VHS/DVD explosion is the unearthing of previously forgotten movies. These films were the entertainment fodder for my generation each Saturday afternoon and night on our local television stations and we accepted them unfailingly for what they were: watchable movies with watchable plots, in the sense that we were sitting around watching them.Now that the infomercial has replaced the B-movie as a dependable, low-cost form of entertainment, many, if not all, of these black and white treasures have disappeared from our cathode tube. The cable takeover has given us more channels, granted, but the chosen fodder for these is the 60s and 70s television series, if only because color beats black and white for a whole new generation raised in color and unwilling to watch anything in black and white. Hence, if a serious movie fan wants to watch an old creaky favorite, we must set the VCR timer to either AMC or Turner classic for the ungodly hour of 4:30 am so that we may once again see a movie that tickled our imagination as children. And we all know how those VCR timers work, especially with cable.The Roan Group has done all movie lovers a service by releasing the complete Mr. Wong set on DVD. The Mr. Wong series was Monogram Studio's answer to the sucessful exploits of Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto for 20th Century Fox. When we see them today, we now notice them warts and all. For instance, why doesn't Karloff even attempt a Chinese accent, instead playing Wong as if he were a British detective? Why does San Francisco police headquarters look like the back office in a warehouse? The plots are negligible (several of the plots were later recycled as Charlie Chan films when Monogram took over the series), the direction by William Nigh is adequate at best, and the photography static.So why does it work and work so well at that? First is the charisma of Karloff, for even without a Chinese accent he fits the bill. His byplay with co-stars Grant Withers as S.F. Police Captain Street and Marjorie Reynolds as the nosy reporter gets us through the bumpy parts in the scripts. Nigh also keeps the action rolling and the films come in at around a tidy 60 minutes each. Most of all we are watching an earnest effort at making a moive; no tongue-in-cheek nonsense or senseless action to take up minutes. Roan does an excellent job with the transfer, giving us a quality product.One note: Karloff quit the series after the fifth film and was replaced in the title role by Keye Luke, the first time an Asian-American actor has played an Asian-American detective. Unfortunately, this last in the series did not even measure up to the previous five and the series was dropped, depriving us of a rare chance in film history - seeing a stereotype shattered.In the final analysis, if a film does not have charm, no amount of acting, direction or writing can save it. The Mr. Wong films have that charm -- in abundance and in spite of themselves as 'B' movies."