Created by Guy Morton
“You’re a white girl — what are you doing in a place like this?”
Dapper Vancouver, B.C. private eye DONEGAL DAWN is called in by the police commissioner, and reluctantly asked to look into the recent rash of “mysterious deaths” in Vancouver’s Chinatown after one of the commissioner’s own detectives is murdered in Secrets of Chinatown, a cheapie 1935 cheesie filmed on location.
Meanwhile, Dawn’s young partner Robert “Bob” Rand has it bad for Zenobia, a blonde-haired clerk working at Chan Tow Ling’s curio shop, despite Dawn’s warnings. But when both Robert and Zenobia disappear, Dawn suspects there’s more going on than a few tong killings.
Don’t expect a lost Canadian classic. This is strictly Grade B: a shaky plot, dubious acting and mostly meandering direction, capped off with enough Yellow Peril and B-movie clichés to make your eyes water. There are opium dens, a damsel in distress, drug dealers, curio shops, chop suey joints and Chinese restaurants, smugglers, secret passages, a sinister cult (the “Order of the Black Robe”), hypnotism, lots of stuffy white folks and scads of skulking, suspicious looking “Orientals.” Hell, the rampant racism and xenophobia is so over the top it hurts.
Serious cheese, for sure. But not to be taken seriously. And some of the camera work is impressive, some of the location shots of old Vancouver simply amazing. And for those of you who like dancing on the head of a pin, it might even be considered proto-noir.
- SECRETS OF CHINATOWN | Buy the DVD | Watch it on YouTube
(aka “The Black Robe”)
(1935, Northern Films/Commonwealth Productions)
Based on the 1927 novel The Black Robe by Guy Morton
Screenplay and continuity by Guy Morton
Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer
Produced by Kenneth J. Bishop
Starring Raymond Lawrence as DONEGAL DAWN
Also starring Nick Stuart, Lucile Browne, James Flavin, Harry Hewitson, James McGrath, Reginald Hincks
- Vancouver & Beautiful British Columbia
Private Eyes of the West Coast