Phantom of Chinatown
Directed by Phil Rosen
Keye Luke (Charlie Chan, Kung Fu, Gremlins) stars as Detective James Lee Wong in this noir-esque murder mystery.
While lecturing about his recent expedition to the Mongolian Desert, explorer Dr. John Benton suddenly collapses and dies. His last words “Eternal Fire” are the only clue Detective Wong and Captain Street of the police department have. Win Lee (Lotus Long), Benton’s secretary, reveals the doctor’s dying words refer to a scroll that divulges the location of rich oil deposits. Wong and Street must search for the killer among Benton’s associates before someone else dies.
Known for his role as “Number One Son” in the Charlie Chan Detective series, this role was Keye Luke’s only chance to play leading man in a Chinese detective film, something usually reserved for white actors in yellowface makeup. An actress of mixed Japanese and Native Hawaiian descent, co-star Lotus Long (Tokyo Rose, Mysterious Mr. Moto) enjoyed a brief but popular career in Hollywood during the 1930s-40s. Remarkably, on account of her ethnic ambiguity and Chinese-sounding surname, Long avoided incarceration as a Japanese American in WWII.