The Fatal Hour Review
“Murders Galore, Solved By The "Chinese Copper"”
October 22nd, 2012
The Fatal Hour is part of a six series serial made by Monogram Pictures some time in 1939. It was tough keeping up since I was jumping in mid-series, but the story was interesting and some parts were unintentionally funny.
The plucky female reporter, the grouchy Police Captain Street, and the suave and smooth detective Wong (Karloff, with a striking Oriental look thanks to some Hollywood magic make-up).
The characters were somewhat stereotyped and Karloff played his part well. I loved the fact that the events occur in San Francisco, apparently part of a jade smuggling ring! A jeweler down on his luck involves himself secretly in smuggling jade stones, worth several thousand a piece (quite a lot in 1939 money!).
The jeweler's son wants the business but is naive and knows nothing of his dad's nefarious smuggling to keep the business afloat. To complicate matters, the son is in love with the woman who is also part of the smuggler's ring!
The way Detective Wong figures it all out and comes to his conclusions and faces the murderer is quite well done, though not as smooth as Philo Vance or The Thin Man, still an entertaining bit of pre-war mystery.
Jeweler's son, accused of murder, being yelled at by the police captain.
Mr. Forbes, a friend of the now-dead jeweler says to give the boy his constitutional rights.
Captain: "Yeah, I'll give him his constitutional rights! This is a murder investigation!"
This film was well before the Miranda decision ("you have the right to remain silent...etc."), and so was quite funny.
Bottom Line: I can't wait to watch more of this series. I'm especially interested in how the Asian ("Oriental" in the film) actors are treated. Fatal Hour did pretty well for itself. Interesting seeing Jason Robards, Sr., father of the more famous Jason Robards, Jr. in a bit part.
Boris Karloff ... James Lee Wong
Marjorie Reynolds Roberta 'Bobbie' Logan
Grant Withers Capt. Bill Street
Charles Trowbridge John T. Forbes
Frank Puglia Harry 'Hardway' Lockett
Craig Reynolds Frank Belden, Jr.
Harry Strang Det. Ballard
Griswold (as Jason Robards)