Shipping magnate Cyrus Wentworth, downcast over a disaster to his ocean liner 'Wentworth Castle' (carrying, oddly enough, an illicit shipment of Chinese bonds) is shot in his office...at the very moment of kicking out his daughter's fiance Dick Fleming. Of course, Captain Street arrests Dick, but reporter Bobbie Logan, the attractive thorn in Street's side, is so convinced he's wrong that she enlists the help of detective James Lee Wong to find the real killer. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
In the Tong room scene with Wong, it's obvious that all of the scene, except the "Wentworth Castle" dialogue, was re-used from a previous Wong movie. The most notable clue is the Tong leader changing appearance between shots. See more »
Some light comedy, some Karloff, some dark night stuff...a passable whodunnit!
Doomed to Die (1940)
Oh boy, poor Boris Karloff. He's the star, and the one great presence, in this cobbled together movie, the last of Karloff's Mr. Wong movies. Someone edited the heck out of this one, and the complex plot gets hard to follow (and hard to believe!) in the hour it takes from start to finish.
That's not to say it's a bad movie. It's kind of fun, actually, and because so much is going on, you really have to pay attention, as the scenes keep changing and changing, and more and more characters appear and reappear. The plot itself is forced on things, with red herrings that are absurd and a huge disaster in the opening scenes that ultimately means little to the rest of it, or so it seems to me. There is deliberate comedy which is sometimes funny, and gives the movie an airiness that works pretty well.
Karloff, amazingly, plays a Chinese detective, and they do something to his eyes to make him more Asian, but otherwise he's very Karloff, which is good. There are some brief scenes in a so-called Chinatown, but nothing so colorful as, say, the end of "Lady from Shanghai." No, this is from a thoroughly B-movie series of six Mr. Wong films, all but one, with Karloff as Wong. There are at least two other series of films with Asian detectives, an interesting sub-genre, for sure. There are eight Mr. Moto films (with Peter Lorre) around the same time (late 1930s), and there are the almost countless Charlie Chan films (first in the earlier 30s with Warner Oland, and then the late 30s into the 40s starring Sidney Toler). All of these stars were not Asian, but that's the way Hollywood compromised its bigotry with its sense of what the mainstream American audiences wanted.
The thing that makes these Karloff films still watchable is their gritty urban settings, and the whodunnit quality that can hold even a mediocre movie together on a Sunday afternoon. "Doomed to Die" has some very dark night scenes (a third of the movie) and if they did that to save money on set design, that's fine with me because it makes them moody and inky. Nice.