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.