*. There are two, and only two, things worth remarking about The Chinese Ring.
*. First, after Sidney Toler barely made it through the filming of The Trap and died soon after, this marks the debut of Roland Winters as Charlie Chan. Winters was an American of German descent (born Roland Winternitz) who was no great shakes as an actor. His turn as Charlie Chan is what’s best known for today, which tells you something. He also bears no resemblance whatsoever to an Asian man.
*. His nose gives the game away. As noted by author Yunte Huang, Winters’s “tall nose simply could not be made to look Chinese.” One gets the sense Monogram wasn’t even trying, as they didn’t bother much in the way of make-up either, or get Winters to speak with much of an accent.
*. In short, despite the low bar set by Warner Oland and Sidney Toler, who did at least grow on me a bit, Winters marks another big step down. But he would go on to star as Chan in five more films before Monogram finally threw in the towel.
*. Perhaps in the hope of providing audiences some continuity, Winters received back-up from Victor Sen Yung (who had previously played Jimmy Chan but who is now called Tommy), and Mantan Moreland as Birmingham Brown. Neither player is given much screen time though, which doesn’t help things.
*. The other point worth remarking has to do with another point of continuity, albeit not to the Chan franchise. The script here, by W. Scott Darling. is basically the same as was used in Mr. Wong in Chinatown, which Darling had written eight years earlier. Only the names have changed, so that “Captain J” in Mr. Wong in Chinatown has been cleverly changed to “Captain K” here.
*. You know you’ve dragged the bottom of the barrel when you have to remake Mr. Wong movies. What’s worse is the fact that Mr. Wong in Chinatown is a much better movie. To take just a couple of examples: the feisty lady reporter in the Mr. Wong movies is played by Marjorie Reynolds, and she was great. Louise Currie has the role here and she’s instantly forgettable. Second: in the Mr. Wong movie a dwarf witness is killed and buried, which gives the villain away when he claims he is burying one of his dogs. In this movie the witness who is killed is a small child, which is distasteful.
*. In short, a lousy movie that gives ample evidence no one cared about this franchise anymore. Winters should have been one and done and an immediate replacement sought, but that would have required a level of interest Monogram couldn’t muster. So things would continue for another couple of years before the series would be put out of its misery.