(director: Robert Stevenson; screenwriter: Jay Richard Kennedy; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: William Lyon; cast: Dick Powell (Commissioner Michael Barrows), Signe Hasso (Ann Grant), Ludwig Donath (Nicholas Sokim), Vladimir Sokoloff (Commissioner Lum Chi Chow), Edgar Barrier (Grieg), Harry J. Anslinger (Himself), Vernon Steele (Commissioner Hadley), Lou Krugman (Commissioner Amar Hassam), Eddie Lee (Chian Soo), Maylia (Shu Pan Wu), Fritz Leiber (Vranstadter); Runtime: 109; Columbia; 1948)

“A top-notch adventure yarn that criss-crosses the globe in the mid-1930s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A top-notch adventure yarn that criss-crosses the globe in the mid-1930s. The film is told in a semi-documentary style. A Treasury Department narcotic head of its San Francisco bureau, Michael Barrows (Dick Powell), stumbles across a Japanese tramp freighter which is acting as a slave cargo tub. He observes them overthrowing the illegal passengers when they thought that the Coast Guard boat would stop them.

In a cameo, the real Treasury director Harry J. Anslinger has a non-speaking role as Barrows’s boss. Barrows is presented as a dry-witted, contented married man, who is first seen caring for his rose garden.

This international crime on the freighter leads Barrows to Shanghai, where he discovers he’s after a sinister narcotics ring. They are a highly organized worldwide opium smuggling gang, with poppy fields in Egypt. Barrows learns this from the drug czar of Shanghai, Commissioner Lum Chi Chow (Sokoloff), and also learns that their intentions are also political. They wish to transport the opium into the West because the drug induces a weakness in its users and would make it easier for Japan to dominate its enemies.

When Barrows agrees to work with Lum he poses as a rug dealer and is steered to a shady former American drug smuggler Sokim (Donath), who pretends to be helping him catch the drug smugglers.

Barrows also keeps running into the blonde American widow of an engineer, Ann Grant (Signe Hasso), and the sweet 20-year-old, orphaned ward she’s in charge of, Shu Pan Wu (Maylia).

When Barrows goes to Egypt, he finds the secret poppy fields and learns that Ann’s husband, an engineer, built the irrigation system for the smugglers.

The finale takes place on a boat that has the smuggled opium aboard, as the suspicious passenger Vranstadter (Leiber), and Ann Grant and Shu Pan are also aboard. The action intensifies when a grease fire is set in the galley and the dope stored in the kitchen is tossed overboard just off the Eastern Coast of America, as Barrows tries to figure out who is the head of the ring.

A solid film that’s high on entertainment value.