Mask of the Dragon

December 17, 2013 at 3:01 am (3 Heads, Mask of the Dragon) (, , , , , , , )

Mask of the Dragon – 1951 – United States

A handsome P.I. runs afoul of a smuggling ring while investigating his buddy’s murder. With help from his spunky girlfriend (a forensic scientist), the P.I. thwarts crooks selling uranium inside Chinese curios.

Based on this generic plot, you probably guessed that Mask of the Dragon is cheap and uninspired. What do you expect from director Sam Newfield, also director of The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)? Lacking suspense, Mask of the Dragon is more of a comedy. Its intentionally zany characters include the buffoonish Chinese-impersonating gangster Manchu Murphy (played by Sid Melton), and Mr. Moto, the “judo” torturer with painted nails. In the film’s finale, the P.I. even breaks the fourth wall to utter, “Confucius say: When hero catch crook, time for picture to end.”

Mask of the Dragon’s most interesting part is its score. The droning piano and organ occasionally imitate Chinese motifs to discordant effect. It could also work as the soundtrack to a melodrama or a horror flick, and I would not be surprised to find it was recycled from another film. The country music interlude by The Trailsmen is nice though.

There is little reason to watch this unimaginative flick. It is short and tightly paced, but leaves no impression. In fact, I feel myself forgetting it already.

Rating: 3/10 Shrunken Heads. Radio personality and honorary mayor of Hollywood Johnny Grant cameos as a TV host. His jokes are bad.

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