Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mr. Wong became Mr. Right

Steve Banes, using the name “Karswell,” is a blogger with one of the Internet's finest comics blogs, The Horrors Of It All. Steve was the art director for East West DVD. That company is now out of business and Steve has moved on to another field of endeavor, but East West seems to have created fannish interest. When I went online to search for it I found lists that people have put up of DVDs issued by the company.

I recently found one of their DVDs at a thrift store. It's a double bill, The Mysterious Mr. Wong starring Bela Lugosi, and Mr. Wong, Detective, with Boris Karloff. The first was made in 1934, and the second in 1938. In between something happened to Mr. Wong. In the Lugosi version he's a sinister, evil Fu Manchu-type of Chinese villain, an old and offensive stereotype. In the latter movie, Karloff is “James Lee Wong,” who is much more a hero than a villain.

Maybe someone can explain it to me.

In the meantime, I made some screen captures from the first Mr. Wong to show how “wong” he weally — er, really — was.

Bela as a Chinese is so bad, and his accent is so atrocious it looks like it's hard for the hero, Jay Barton (played by Wallace Ford), and even Lugosi, not to laugh.

Things get a bit kinky when the heroine, Peg, is chained up. Bondage precedes torture...

Movies of this era usually featured a dumb policeman. Here the dullard cop is reading a detective pulp magazine whilst unbeknownst to him, in the chamber on the other side of the wall Mr. Wong is heating up the bamboo to fit under the heroine’s fingernails.

Mr. Wong gets the bamboo hot while Lugosi tries his damnedest to look sinister.

Mr. Wong is just starting his bamboo manicure on pretty Peg when the good guys rush in. Thank goodness for plots like this, where the damsel in distress is rescued in the nick of time.

In the interest of disclosure, I watched about three minutes of the Karloff Mr. Wong, Detective, before my attention was diverted by something else. After seeing Mr. Wong attend to the girl’s nails I noticed my fingernails looked ragged. I turned off the DVD and went about the business of trimming my nails.


Karswell said...

Ooo, you found one of the releases that I actually did the cover art for too! I never knew that people were actually looking for these, I mean, one of the reasons we went under (aside from the ability to download or stream these same films for FREE online) was because the dollar DVD market was so flooded with other fly by night companies releasing the same old public domain films, it literally just killed all of us. In the half decade we were around though we managed to release a couple thousand films and cartoon collections... it was a fun job while it lasted, and I made a lot of great friends, especially with the artists I hired to assist us, they worked for peanuts but still cranked out some super top notch cover art that made East West stand above and beyond all the other bargain DVD companies at the time.

Postino said...

There you go, Steve, you were in a business that now provides obsessive collectors something to look for. I've seen at least one list of East West animation titles. Whenever someone starts making lists you know that someone is collecting.

I wouldn't be surprised if you were contacted sometime by someone who saw your résumé online, that you were art director at East West.

As for me, I went back to the store where I bought this out of a stack of dollar store DVDs (I don't know how many were East West) to see if there were more from your company, but all of them were gone, snapped up! The ones I saw weren't in the outer packages anymore, but someone had put them in the white CD/DVD sleeves.

DEMiller said...

Thanks. You just gave me something new to collect.

Postino said...

Dave, I'm looking for these, too. I found one in my own collection from East West, bought some time ago before I knew what it was: One Step Beyond Vol. 2, from the old TV series.