January 7th EDIT: Thanks to doctor kiss for emailing me the following shots of Lyle Talbot from JAIL BAIT, confirming for me that this was the source for Screen Gems publicity photo.)
Probably the only saving grace here for Universal horror-movie lovers is Valerie Hobson as Janet Baker, the black-clad mystery woman. Hobson was supposed to be all of 18 years-old in 1935; immediately previous to CHINATOWN SQUAD, Hobson had appeared in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and WEREWOLF OF LONDON.
After its syndicated release through SHOCK! and right up until 1979, CHINATOWN SQUAD appeared on television mostly in the morning and late afternoon time-slots. When it did show up at night, it was often as just a late show movie rather than part of a named "Shock Theater" or "Creature Feature" program. But it did make it into those showcases every once in a while. In an essay called "'Shock Theater' Memories," writer Rich Scrivani (I recommend his 2006 book Goodnight, Whatever You Are! My Journey with Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul) recalls: "Occasionally the supernatural aura of 1958 would be dispelled when some questionable entries would run. Titles like CHINATOWN SQUAD […] padded out the series. While we can enjoy them for their place in Universal history now, they were unwanted intruders at the time, tepid 'B' mysteries, holding no interest whatsoever for kids who wanted monsters."
For fans of zippy B-movie mysteries of the 1930s, there are worse ways to spend an hour than CHINATOWN SQUAD. But, as Scrivani says, for monster-crazy kids who waited all week to stay up late for SHOCK!, this movie must have been an aggravating and unsatisfactory viewing experience.
NEXT: "Two fiends clash in a death struggle while THE BLACK CAT creeps on Shock on this channel! Who will be the loser when Karloff and Lugosi meet! It's anyone's guess. Be sure to see the full-length feature THE BLACK CAT on this channel."