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  • SHADOW OF CHINATOWN is hardly the zenith of serials, but time has lent it a certain amount of charm as a period piece, showing a romanticized vision of a 1930s city and Chinatown, both of which would have been equally exotic to most of the serial's viewers at the time. It possesses a certain wisecracking humour, especially from Lugosi's henchman, lacking in all the later serials. The cast rise above the material, and some of the portrayals verge upon endearing; Lugosi is always a pleasure to watch, and you get a glimpse of his acting ability, his adeptness with nuances and subtleties, even when dealing with one-dimensional characters with over-the-top declarations. Say what you want about this serial, but it's on my view-annually list.
  • kairingler27 December 2013
    First off the main character in this movie is Chinatown of course,, what a magnificent area to visit if you ever get the chance like I did in 1994. 2nd Bela Lugosi's performance was immpecible, I love all of his little disguises. he specializes in hypnotizing people into deep trances and he is usually the only one who can bring them out of it,, he is hired by a local pretty Asian girl who wants to bring down the Chinese merchants in san Francisco,, he has a very strong distant for Eurasian,, and Chinese, and will stop and nothing to destroy all of them.. there is a young lady reporter, who is so annoying,, and get's into all sorts of trouble in this movie,, and constantly has to be saved the whole movie long from her being nosy,, and not following orders. excellent movie,, for the most part.
  • As long as Bela Lugosi was not playing the part of "Bela Lugosi" he was great. In Shadow of Chinatown he plays Victor Poten, the Eurasian scientist intent on destroying the Chinese people in Chinatown. Poten is hired by Sonya Rokoff, another Eurasian, to put an end to the tourist trade in San Francisco's Chinatown so that a new business cartel can take over the businesses there. Over the fifteen chapters Lugosi went through a few disguises and was given a chance to show his talent for playing different types of characters. His acting still appeared as if he were performing on stage rather than in front of a camera. Serials rarely had perfect lighting or camera angles, but Lugosi was able to look good in Shadow of Chinatown.

    Herman Brix was excellent as Martin Andrews. He was always good in the serials that he made. Joan Barclay was not good as Joan Whiting. She overacted in almost every scene. In addition to bad acting, her character was more a nuisance than anything else. As Sonya Rokoff, Luana Walters was much better, though her character should have been stronger. The oddity among the cast was Charles King as Grogan. As many times as King played a tough character he rarely showed a mortal fear. Grogan's weakness when he was around the evil Poten was something unusual for a character played by Charles King.

    I have read that heavy accents worked against some actors in the early days of sound film, but I also think that people in North America were more willing to accept certain accents at the same time. Vaudevillians had performed using dialects and brought them to radio and movies. In Shadow of Chinatown, the accents are integral to the characters. The strong Chinese accents of some of the actors may be authentic, but it is also obvious that some of the dialogue and accents are overplayed to the Chinese stereotype. The character Willy Fu always speaks in parables and proverbs, even in emergencies. Willy Fu seemed long winded at all the wrong times.

    At a time when white actors would don costumes and wear makeup to appear as another race, Shadow of Chinatown used real Chinese actors. The credits undoubtedly prove this. Victor Poten's gang of thugs dresses in Chinese clothing as they commit their crimes in Chinatown. Whether or not it was an intentional swipe at the practice of using non-Asians as Chinese, there was an early scene in which Willy Fu discovers the fake Chinese and tells Martin Andrews about them. Either way, it is a nice plot element as it strips away a layer of Poten's cover.

    The story in Shadow of Chinatown is weak, and the action and suspense are not as good as what was seen in other serials. The best reason to watch this serial is to see Bela Lugosi in a strong role. He is the saving grace of Shadow of Chinatown.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The protagonists of this rather nice old serial are Lugosi as a diabolical mastermind (--a not unimportant addition in his movie career of awe—inspiring villain--), his female associate Sonya Rokoff played by Luana Walters, and a couple of amateur investigators (a female journalist and a writer).

    SHADOW OF CHINATOWN has Lugosi as Poten, Brix as Andrews, Joan Barclay as Joan Whiting and the quite hot Luana Walters as Sonya Rokoff.

    The competition made by the large Asian importations has to be eliminated. Sonya Rokoff contacts Poten to help her take over Chinatown's affairs.

    Now those perverted by too much newer cinema might even find the storytelling and topography of this serial a bit muddled.

    In the first installment, THE ARMS OF THE GOD, 'Willy Fu' is kidnapped by the villains.
  • As I often say, I enjoy watching the master, Lugosi, in just about anything. The problem with this is he doesn't have much to do. In order to create a serial, it's necessary for the bad guy to continue to goof up, leaving his adversaries alive to continue the pursuit. The episodes are an endless trapezing of zombie like lackeys and air headed reporters. There's enough sexism to go around for a long time. The conclusion will make some gag. Chinatown businesses are the target of Lugosi who is "Eurasian" and very angry about something, I guess being Eurasian. He tries to destroy the town just for spite. It's an endless parade of pratfalls and silly hypnotism. The one young Asian woman is very beautiful. She is the honorable one in the film, but has been used by Lugosi and he has a hypnotic control over her. It all comes out in the wash, as if we cared.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Late 30's independent serial that feels like Poverty Row feature from several years earlier. This is a "yellow peril" tale of a half Chinese half western woman looking to take over Chinatown by destroying the Chinese merchants. Bela Lugosi stars as the scientific genius and main operative who uses his scientific skill to create havoc and to try and stop a detective played by Herman Brix from putting an end to the criminal endeavor. I'm of mixed emotions about this serial. To be certain it has all of the things you associate with a serial in spades, a great villain, great traps, and plot that just keeps going. However the serial is so poorly and evenly made and acted that you'll be sitting staring at the screen in utter disbelief. Not to put too fine a point on it this serial is a mess.

    First off the serial is constructed like one of the annoying horror mystery films from a few years earlier when sound was just coming in. Everyone talks and talks and talks as if sound was still a novelty. More often then not when that happens the motion of the film just stops as we watch the dialog scenes. (Yes its fine when the action happens but those dialog scenes are deadly). It doesn't help that much of the film is poorly shot. The sets often look cheap and as though they have been thrown together randomly, or worse as if they are just walls with nothing behind them.

    The cast is awful. Lugosi gives what is more often then not a nonperformance. Even in his drug addled later days he at least seemed to be connected to the action, here he seems to be in another film entirely. Its at its worst when Lugosi is alone on screen and he seems to be completely lost as if waiting for the director to tell him what to do. At times its probably his worst performance. The rest of the cast is a mixed bag but most of them seem to be either phoning it in or incapable of acting on screen. (The reporter comes off as an annoying chipmunk) When I watched the featurized version of this a few months back I stated that the only thing worse then that was the full version. Seeing the serial again for the first time in maybe two decades I have to revise that, the feature is worse. Granted this isn't a four star winner by an stretch of the imagination and maybe is only a 3 out of 10. However this scores over the feature simply because it has more chapter endings and serial like adventures then the feature.

    For Lugosi fanatics and serial nuts only
  • woodfan9 July 2007
    The version I just saw was almost unwatchable. It came as part of a pack of 50 sci-fi movies. I suspected, but did not know, it had been a serial until reading the reviews here.

    Pacing was terrible, jumps were made that made no sense, and the overall quality of acting and sets was deplorable. Also, the copy of the print I saw was in terrible shape. But considering it's vintage, better may not be possible.

    The high-point for me was Luana Walters. Wow, was she beautiful! It's a shame she didn't play the bad part up more instead of having a conscious. Oh well.

    Bela Lugosi was such an enjoyable

    All-in-all, an almost passable and interesting time-waster on a Sunday night.
  • I'm a big fan of the movie serials. I never watch even the best of them with the same critical eye as I do "real" movies. But even by those lowered standards, this film is a big bore-fest. People commenting on this list seem eager to use "worst movie of all time" to describe anything they happen to dislike, but I hesitate to use the phrase here, even though I am sorely tempted. I'm certain that there are other films that are worse than this, but I'm just as certain that I don't want to see them.

    The movie is clunky and stereotypical, rather demeaning of Asians and women. That's actually par for the course for an action film of this vintage and is understandable even if not really forgivable. What is not really understandable is why an action thriller has only sporadic, stilted action, a cliffhanger has no real cliffhangers and something designed to bring you back to the theater week after week only makes you want to hurry ahead to the comedy. The plot--trying to keep the tourists out of Chinatown--is a ludicrous as the Monty-Pythonesque spike in the telephone gag used in the film. I saw the film on two DVDs; I bought the second part by accident and was confused a bit by it. I figured that starting at the beginning would help.

    It didn't.

    Try not to watch the film alone. It screams for MST3 treatment!
  • Wiki says the feature ran 71 minutes. The verson I saw was labelled Chapter One, which, according to IMDB runs 26 minutes. BUT the version I saw ran 44 minutes.

    But then I see that it's really just the first two chapters. What's the point?

    It also resembles an Ed Wood picture. The acting is horrible and half teh Chinese are White people.

    Just a waste of celluloid.
  • Eurasian Victor Poten decides to drive the Chinese merchants from their district in order to start his new race and eliminating any Asians or whites that stand in his way. Its up to Martin Andrews, author and expert on Chinese cultures (only thanks to his manservant Willy Fu) and reporter Joan Whiting to stop Poten's nefarious plot. This serial is absolutely forgettable with absolutely nothing to keep the viewer in any suspense to watch the next week's chapter or the serial throughout. The entire cast tries their best to make something out of this, but are overcome by the ineptness of the production crew. The only saving grace for this travesty is the banter between Herman Brix and Joan Barclay does make for some funny scenes. Rating, based on serials, 2.