Good news: no one says Ah So.

 

 

Is this the mysterious Mr. Wong, or the double of some character actor from the 80s who was always irritated in a comic, impotent fashion common to short men with grizzled beards? You know who I mean. And not Robert Reich.

Is this Wong?

 

 

Yes! But in disguise as Ly Sol, or something. Dead ringer for my grandpa as a young man. Me too, for that matter. Here he is in full Wong form:

 

 

Bela looks as Chinese as F. Murray Abraham playing Idi Amin.

Wong is looking for the 12 coins of Confucious. Legend say he who bring all coins together have great power. Legends are always saying things like that. No legend ever says “Man who reunites the coins of Buddha will have the power to make songbirds feel as though they have just eaten.” It’s always power over the world.

Lugosi is generally bad – he’s malevolent enough, but the accent is all wrong. Here’s a brief example. (Flash vid; mouse over for controls.)

 

 

If you say so, boss.

 

Much has been made of Lugosi’s sad career, his descent into dope-fiend hell, his typecasting, his bad breath, his morbid dread of drug-store scales that gave your fortune, etc. It was self-inflicted. You can understand a fellow making a movie like this ten years after his big hit picture, and the inevitable Sad Decline. But he made this one four years after Dracula, and made it for Monogram, a studio so cheap you’re surprised the movies don’t start running backwards with different dialogue halfway through the picture.

How cheap? Well, everything was done in one take, I suspect. This fellow has been poisoned, and he’s dying hard.

 

 

He falls down, stone dead  . . .

 

 

 . . . but he manages to get one hand up to stop himself. 

 

 

See it? I can watch this clip over and over.

 

 

For all its cheapness and hokey Confucious-say view of Chinese culture, it’s not bad. Thank this guy:

 

Wallace Ford. He strolls through the picture with weightless nonchalance – a remarkable accomplishment given the dire circumstances of his early life. He’s wearing a dead man’s name, for heaven’s sake.  Ford plays a newspaper reporter who writes breezy dismissals of all this Tong hooey:

 

He also has a classic 30s dame by his side – a newspaper switchboard operator who’s single, cynical, mercenary, but really all sweetness and goo on the inside. Well, maybe just goo, of varying densities.

 

That’s Arlene Judge, who had about 38 husbands, once of who was co-owner of the Yankees.

Worth it? At the time, sure – it had that Dracula guy, a room with a secret passage, a dungeon, a girl tied up in ropes, some snappy patter, a loveable Oirish Policeman who shorr is annoyed by them there Choinaman mahrders.

Racial sensitivity? Well, when the reporter hails a cab in Chinatown, the cabbie asks where he wants to go.

“America!” says the reporter.