Once you get past the notion of Boris Karloff as a Chinese detective, "Doomed to Die" offers a fair amount of fun. The famed James Lee Wong (Karloff) is hot on the trail of whoever pulled the trigger on shipping magnate Cyrus P. Wentworth (Melvin Lang). What initially looks like an open-and-shut case soon proves much more complex as Wong endures bullets, dead bodies and a constant questioning of his competence to get to the elusive (and completely unpredictable) truth.
Adding some welcome comic relief are hard-nosed policeman Bill Street (Grant Withers) and the ultimate thorn in his side, eager reporter Bobbie Logan (Marjorie Reynolds). Though they've been copied a hundred times in the more than 65 years since this picture was released, their antics are enjoyable and occasionally quite funny due to the duo's strong chemistry.
Overall, it's a little clichéd, confusing and at times slow, but "Doomed to Die" is perfect for a rainy night. It has a certain old movie/Scooby Doo charm even viewers who don't go for black-and-whiters can appreciate.
The threesome of Mr. Wong, Det. Street and reporter Barbara Logan all return in this installment of the Mr. Wong series. All are wonderful and work well in this murder mystery. A shooting murder of a father by the unwanted son-in-law because the father has rejected him as his daughter's choice as husband. Both were heard shouting in the same room by two witnesses. Det. Street believes it is an open and shut case but Mr. Wong disagrees as well as reporter Logan. Many suspects with a score to settle make this whodunit a mystery to the end.
As far as mystery B-movies go, you cant go "Wong" with this one. Karloff returns once again as the famous Chinese detective James Lee Wong to solve the murder of a shipping tycoon. What seems like an open and shut case to Capt. Street (Grant Withers) quickly becomes a web of deceit, lies and murder! I've only seen two Wong films, this and "The Fatal Hour", but I really enjoyed them both, largely due to Capt. Street and his "sidekick" reporter Bobbie Logan. The banter between them is cliché, but often pretty funny anyway. They have great chemistry together on screen. Karloff is, of course, great as Wong. I loved his entrances from the most unlikely places, such as windows or fire escapes. The plot was pretty straight forward, though it was full of red-herrings and false suspects that made the conclusion a bit hard to guess. Not that that's a bad thing mind you, I quite enjoyed the ending. To sum up, I recommend this as well as the slightly better "Fatal Hour" as two of the best mystery B-movies you'll find out there.
I'm working my way through the Horror Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection and DOOMED TO DIE is one of the movies in the set.
Why DOOMED TO DIE is included in a collection of Horror Classics is a mystery. But having seen THE FATAL HOUR, I have to say that Boris Karloff cast is more convincing in DOOMED TO DIE as the Chinese detective, Mr. Wong. The makeup was certainly better.
Marjorie Reynolds, as the pushy reporter Bobbie Logan is an absolute hoot -- she is brash, bossy, feminine; and, smart. She alone is reason enough for me to run out and buy the whole Wong collection!
Mr. Wong is investigating the murder of a shipping magnate. The son of a rival, who was last seen with the deceased stands accused of the murder. After tracking down leads at the waterfront bar, another murder victim surfaces! With, of course, the ultimate conclusion (which I won't spoil for you.)
The movie was entertaining; and, well-paced. The acting was fine, as I knew all the characters. The plot was plausible; but, a bit convoluted.
For the fifth and last time, the great Boris Karloff portrays the oriental super-detective James Lee Wong who effortlessly solves the murder cases for which his police colleague Capt. Street (Grant Withers) always manages to arrest the wrong guy. Cyrus Wentworth, the magnate of a giant shipping company has been shot in his office and the obvious suspect is the young Dick Fleming, who's both the son of Cyrus' biggest business rival AND the forbidden lover of his daughter. The always-meddling reporter Miss Logan asks Wong to investigate the case and he naturally discovers that Wentworth had a lot more enemies who wanted him death, like relatives of victims who were recently killed in a shipping accident or former employees who attempted to blackmail him. The story opens downright terrific, with a great characterization of Cyrus Wentworth and his possible assassins. After about 15 minutes, Boris Karloff walks in and from that moment on he monopolizes all the attention! Of course Wong foresees the killer's every possible move and of course he always is several steps ahead of Capt. Street's investigation. Normally this exaggerated amount of 'cleverness' would annoy me tremendously; but Karloff's performance is so good and the script is so light-headed that you easily forgive all the illogicalness. The dialogues are wit and often humorous (the constant arguments of reporter Logan and police Capt. Street) and the sequences set in Chinatown are atmospheric, as usual. "Doomed to Die" is a very cheap but worthwhile thriller, especially recommended to fans of well-structured detective films and admirers of the almighty Boris Karloff. One more Wong-movie got released after this, made by a different director and not starring Karloff.
The routine plot unfolds in so obvious a manner that one loses interest in the outcome. The production values are on the same level as they were in the other Wong pictures in the...series, and the performances are on a par with the material. Most of the comedy is provoked by the bickering between a detective and a young girl who tires to outwit him.. Boris Karloff saves this picture and makes it into another great classic series.
Monogram murder mystery with Boris Karloff starring as Oriental investigator Mr. Wong, called on by a newspaper reporter, Bobbie Logan(the unflappable Marjorie Reynolds, representative of the wisecracking dame known to populate these kinds of films at this time) to solve the case of the killing of her best friend's father, a shipping magnate, Cyrus Wentworth(Melvin Lang). Cynthia Wentworth(Catherine Craig)is in love with her father's business rival's son, Dick Fleming(William Stelling). Paul Fleming(Guy Usher), also a shipping magnate, wanted to consolidate companies with Cyrus, who would have none of it. Wentworth's shipping enterprise was under water in the stock market due to, among other things, a disaster on the high seas in regards to a fire on board an illustrious ocean liner which killed 400 people. Cyrus had just finished his will and was embroiled in a smuggling operation involving Chinese bonds from a group called the Tongs. When Dick went to Cyrus to ask his permission to marry Cynthia, the result was a heated argument. Someone shoots Cyrus not long after his discussion with Dick and Mr. Wong must determine who is responsible.
Captain William Street(Grant Withers)believes it's an open and shut case and that Dick is the man behind the murder because he was in the room not long before Cyrus' demise. Other suspects emerge such as a fired chauffeur, Ludlow(Kenneth Harlan), caught a couple times on the fire escape snooping(not to mention he sneaks into Cyrus' office to burn a letter found in the safe for which Wong must use an infrared technique in an attempt to read the contents from its ashes), a Chinese servant, and Matthews(Wilbur Mack), an associate of Wentworth's. Attorney Victor Martin(Henry Brandon)also knew the contents of Cyrus' will, had prior knowledge of the smuggling operation, and the combination to the safe so he can not be ruled out as a suspect either, no matter how kind and innocent he seems.
Boris Karloff incorporates Wong with a sophistication, manners, confidence(in his abilities to get innocents off the hook for a murder they didn't commit), and dependability, you just know that he will catch the criminal(s) and see that justice is served. DOOMED TO DIE is actually my first in the Karloff-Wong Monogram series and I certainly plan to see the previous entries. If you enjoy 60+ minute murder mysteries where you get plenty of red herrings with multiple suspects then you could do a lot worse than DOOMED TO DIE. Reynolds and Withers bounce insults off each other as cop and reporter respectively..Bobbie loves to rub it in that Street's certainty of Dick's guilt is wrong, utilizing Mr. Wong's detective skills to get the better of him. Meanwhile Street tries to keep Bobbie in the dark so she will not report the news before the case is completely solved. There's an attempted murder of Wong, a car chase resulting in a crash, blackmail, and ulterior motives behind Wentworth's murder pointing towards greed. The key to it all is the letter Ludlow almost gets rid of..this evidence could hold the answer which rescues Dick from jail or the death penalty. Decent Asian make-up for Karloff; a direct polar opposite to his Fu-Manchu character, Mr. Wong is polite, trustworthy, and of substantial importance thanks in part to his astute talents at uncovering what the police can not.
Doomed To Die is the last film that Boris Karloff made for Monogram's Mr. Wong series. One more film was made with an actual person of Oriental descent playing Wong and that was Keye Luke.
The criticism of Mr. Wong is somewhat interesting. The criticism in fact of Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto was that these two clever detectives were constantly speaking in fortune cookie aphorisms which led to stereotyping of Oriental characters. James Lee Wong was only of partial oriental ancestry and it's made clear that he went to both Oxford and Heidelberg universities. Obviously the Oxford speech pattern is what took and we get the clear diction of Boris Karloff instead.
Wong's every bit as smart as Moto and Chan and he has to be here. It's your typical locked room mystery. Shipping magnate Guy Usher is concerned over both the shipboard fire of his vessel the Wentworth Castle and the romance between his daughter Catherine Craig and the son of rival shipper Melvin Lang. Usher is shot to death after a meeting with William Stelling, the fiancé of Craig and he's the only one in the room with the deceased.
Some Chinese government bonds were stolen during the fire and remember this film is made during the Chinese-Japanese War that predated the beginning of World War II. Those Kuomintang bonds are valuable and they're reason enough for arson and murder. A Tong leader, Richard Loo, is also killed before the case is solved.
Doomed To Die marked the farewell appearance of Marjorie Reynolds as well as Lois Lane snoop and scoop reporter girlfriend of police captain Grant Withers of the San Francisco Homicide Squad. A man never to proud to ask for the help of Mr. Wong. But in this case it turns out that Reynolds is a friend of Craig's and she brings Karloff and his super sleuthing skills to this case.
Doomed To Die is a bit more complex than the usual run of films from Monogram Pictures which didn't exactly invest to many production values in the Wong series. Not that they had much to invest. I do enjoy seeing Karloff in the role though, pity he didn't do more of them.
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.
Cyrus P. Wentworth(Melvin Lang)is logically despondent after his flagship The Wentworth Castle tragically catches fire causing numerous deaths. The tycoon is also hiding the fact the ship was smuggling a group of Chinese and their small fortune. Following an argument with his daughter's fiancé, Wentworth is murdered in his office. Miss Wentworth(Catherine Craig)calls on the renown Oriental sleuth Mr. Wong(Boris Karloff)to investigate and take suspicion off of her boyfriend(William Sterling). Police Captain Street(Grant Withers) isn't really happy taking a backseat to Mr. Wong, but knows he needs the help. A cub reporter(Marjorie Reynolds)is a thorn in Street's side and provides the film some light comical banter. Mr. Wong is no Charlie Chan, but makes for an interesting crime drama. Other players: Kenneth Harlan, Guy Usher and Wilbur Mack.
By now, the formula has pretty much run it's course, Detective James Lee Wong (Boris Karloff) is called upon to help solve the murder of a shipping magnate whose signature steamship, the "Wentworth Castle" has burned at sea with four hundred lives lost. This time though, it's Herald newspaper reporter Bobbie Logan (Marjorie Reynolds) who contacts Wong, playing her hunch that Homicide Captain Bill Street has once again arrested the wrong man. In this case, the suspect Dick Fleming (William Stelling) was in the same room with Cyrus Wentworth (Melvin Lang) when he died, as the fatal shot that killed him was heard in the next room by young Fleming's father (Guy Usher), and Wentworth's assistant Matthews (Wilbur Mack).
As in the famed Charlie Chan series of films, things are never as they appear when Oriental Detectives are involved. James Lee Wong's investigation takes him to the address of Wentworth servant Lem How who's disappeared; as agent Kai Ling, he's been on a secret mission for the Tong Society to return to the U.S. from China with one and a half million dollars worth of gold bonds for safekeeping. Bobbie, Street and Wong find Lem How murdered, and Wong goes on to discover that Lem How and Kai Ling of the Tong are one and the same person.
Before it's all over, Wong takes a bullet to the arm, and the elder Fleming takes a near fatal shot while trying to take the rap for his son; it was young Fleming's stolen gun that fired the fatal Wentworth bullet. It would be a misnomer to say the butler did it, in this case it was the chauffeur, specifically Wentworth's chauffeur who was fired for drinking and took revenge on his former employer. He was in league with Wentworth's attorney, who had his own objective - the gold bonds aboard the Wentworth Castle that never made it to the Tong.
This would be the fifth and final film that Boris Karloff would portray writer Hugh Wiley's character James Lee Wong. Funny, for some reason he looked more "Chinese" to me in this film than in his prior outings. Fellow horror icon Bela Lugosi appeared in 1934's "The Mysterious Mr. Wong" as Fu Wong, a totally different character, and the series ended with Asian actor Keye Luke in 1940's "Phantom of Chinatown".
Yes, it's the standard 1940's mystery potboiler with borrowed clips from other 'Wong' films, and it's a bit tough following just who did what to who when...but the opening sequences depicting the burned ship 'Wentworth Castle' are actually newsreel sequences of the burned 'Morro Castle', which caught fire on September 9, 1934. She was truly a ship of mystery for her last cruise -- her captain died of a heart attack in his bathtub aboard ship the previous evening. Early the next morning, a fire spread quickly out of control as the first mate tried to move the ship to ease the effects of the wind -- yet no orders were given to send an SOS. The radio operator sent out one on his own initiative, just a few minutes before the ship lost power. She drifted and beached herself at Asbury Park NJ, where the gutted hulk came to rest only a few feet from the famed Boardwalk, making a gruesome tourist attraction. Heavy rumors of cowardice were laid on the crew -- of the first 98 people in lifeboats, 92 of them were crew members. 137 passengers and crew died in the tragedy.
This is a pretty amusing, if slightly racist movie here. Boris Karloff plays a supposedly famous detective here, A Mr. Wong, who is asked to look into a murder of a shipping magnate. Was it done by the spurned lover of the magnate's daughter? Wong doesn't think so and goes into a tireless search for clues to the killing. Amusingly, Wong magically appears everywhere he's supposed to (check your fire escapes!) and uses until-now unknown methods of detective work (Papers that are burned to a crisp can be examined by infra-red light!). This is more than slightly ridiculous, and the fact that Karloff is playing an Asian character makes it even MORE so, so all in all, this turned out to be a lot of goofy fun :)
I've just recently watched, in chronological order of release, all five of the Boris Karloff episodes of the Mr. Wong series. The fifth entry in the series, *Doomed to Die*, is definitely the worst of the bunch, by a big margin.
The film starts out reasonably well, with a good character conflict between two business rivals setting up an apparent murder in which no one is sure quite how the killing was accomplished, but the obvious suspect is the son of the murdered man. But within a short time the film spirals into mediocrity, and at points approaches the abominable.
First of all, the journalist girlfriend of Captain Street, "Bobbie" Logan, though supposedly played again by Marjorie Reynolds, whose combination of perkiness, sweetness, and feistiness did so much to lift the two previous entries in the series, doesn't sound at all like the same actress. Her voice is different -- lower and harsher in tone, and less delicate and more lower-class in speaking style. It's almost as if another actress's voice has been dubbed in; one wonders if Reynolds had laryngitis or something, necessitating a substitute. But it's not just her voice. In many scenes, especially as the film progresses, she even *looks* different from the way she looked in the earlier two films. Her hair is darker; her hairdo is different; her facial expressions are very much unlike those in the earlier films. Again, one suspects that in some scenes the actress had to be replaced due to illness or for some other reason.
Even the expected humorous banter between the girl reporter and the detective doesn't seem as good. Sometime it is not bad, but other times it seems harsher, less witty than in the previous two outings. It's as if the writing staff changed, or the regular writer dashed off the screenplay in a hurry.
The direction of the film is poor. It is almost as if the nominal director William Nigh passed off the job to some uncredited assistant director on his first assignment. The scene where Wong goes to his Tong friends for advice is particularly badly done. The head Tong man at the table is at first the same guy who spoke for the group in an earlier Wong film; but then, when it goes into close-up, one can see that they have switched actors! The guy Wong speaks to has a much longer moustache, and his cap is differently shaped. It's as if they used stock footage for the opening, and then shot a new scene with a different actor. More generally, the Tong consultation is lamer and weaker than in the previous film.
The print I watched (and I have the six-film set put out by VCI) is extremely dark. I don't know if the film was shot that way deliberately, or whether it is just a defective print. The darkness works out not too badly in the scenes in the old warehouse district, but other times it is irritating. However, the music in the film is atmospheric, and in many scenes fits in with the dark film atmosphere. But it's pretty sad when in order to find something good to say about a detective mystery one has to cite the music rather than the plot, script, or acting.
From the perspective of the viewer, the exposition is flawed. Whereas in the previous Wong movies, the information released is sufficient that the viewer has at least a reasonable chance of guessing who the culprits are, in this one important information (including the existence of an important household member) seems to be deliberately withheld until late in the film, and even in the wrap-up the motivation of some of the folks involved is never tidily explained.
Mr. Wong also acts out of character at one point, arrogantly bypassing Capt. Street by withholding information from him -- something never before seen in the series. Further, whereas in earlier films Wong tried to maintain a neutral, bemused stance toward the bickering between Bobbie Logan and Street, in this one he seems to lower himself in dignity by abandoning neutrality and deliberately teaming up with Bobbie against Street. When you combine this new partisan and superior attitude of Wong with the generally less pleasant execution of the female reporter's role, the overall effect is negative. Indeed, this is the first Wong movie where I was actually more sympathetic with the bellicose Street than with either Wong or "Bobbie"!
Most of the earlier Wong films had several good supporting actors beyond the three leads. (E.g., *The Fatal Hour* had Charles Trowbridge and Frank Puglia.) The supporting actors in this one are mostly weak and unimpressive.
The IMDb voters have given this one an average of 5.6. Normally I find IMDb voters stingy, but in this case they may be too generous. I'm giving this one a 5 out of 10. (By comparison, I give most of the Motos and Torchy Blanes 7s, and some of the Charlie Chans 8s.)
Clearly the director, the writers, and Karloff were walking through this one on autopilot. I suspect that Karloff was bored with the series by this point, because he left the series after this one and Keye Luke played Wong in the final film. I haven't seen the Keye Luke film yet, but it's hard to imagine that it could be worse than this one.
If you want to sample the Mr. Wong series, do yourself a favour and don't watch this one first. It will turn you off the whole series. Any of the first four films would be a better introduction.
Mr. Wong (Boris Karloff) investigates the murder of a shipping tycoon and a plot about contraband bonds. Returning are supporting players Grant Withers as Police Captain Bill Street and Marjorie Reynolds as reporter Bobbie Logan. The character of Bobbie Logan and her dynamic with Bill Street are pretty much ripped-off from the Torchy Blane movie series, which was generally superior to Mr. Wong. This is the last of the Mr. Wong movies Boris Karloff would be in. It suffers from typically cheap Monogram production values and a predictable story. But it does have the always-brilliant Boris Karloff, which is nothing to shrug at. Karloff's Wong films were watchable but forgettable. If you haven't seen a lot of other (better) B detective series, you might enjoy the Wong films more. But I've seen pretty much all of the them, certainly all of the major ones, and Mr. Wong sadly does not stand up well. That's not the fault of Boris Karloff, however, so if you're a fan of his I would certainly recommend you check this series out.
Sly, suave Oriental sleuth James Lee Wong (the always excellent Boris Karloff) investigates the murder of fierce shipping tycoon Cyrus P. Wenthworth (a brief, but memorable turn by Melvin Lang) and uncovers a plot to smuggle contraband bonds into the country. He's assisted by gruff, hard-nosed cop captain William "Bill" Street (a perfectly huffy portrayal by Grant Withers) and perky reporter Roberta "Bobbie" Logan (the delightfully spunky Marjorie Reynolds). Competently directed by William Nigh, with a tight, clever script by Michael Jacoby, a flavorsome score, acceptable cinematography by Harry Neumann, a constant snappy pace, plenty of sharp, witty dialogue (the sarcastic rat-a-tat banter between Street and Logan is often quite funny), a couple of rousing well-staged action scenes, and a pleasingly trim 67 minute running time, this film makes for a hugely enjoyable diversion. The sound acting by the supporting cast helps a lot: Gary Usher as Wentworth's laid-back rival Paul Flemming, William Stelling as Fleming's affable son Dick, Catherine Craig as Wentworth's sweet daughter Cynthia, Wilbur Mack as sleazy blackmailer Matthews, and Kenneth Harlan as shady chauffeur Ludlow. Moreover, it's a real treat to see Karloff in a juicy change-of-pace non-horror lead role. An entertaining romp.
Another routine Poverty Row potboiler enlivened by a few moments of unintentional(?) humour - just how IS one supposed to keep a straight face when our copper hero rushes off to "pick up" a character from "Queen Street" on the San Francisco waterfront? - and a classic bad lighting moment when, as two people enter a dimly lit room at night, the lights "outside" the window go off before the lights inside the room are switched on. Presumably if both sets of lights were on at the same time the camera would have seen the studio wall where there should have been empty space.
It strains the credibility somewhat that our Ace "Chinese Copper" Mr Wong can enter a darkened room through a fire escape window and not notice either the gun wielding bad guy standing next to him or the burning paper in the fireplace.
Shortly after a fire at sea that lead to the death of over four hundred passengers Cyrus Wentworth, the owner of the shipping line, is murdered. The police are convinced that the killer is Dick Fleming, the son of a rival shipping magnate, who was engaged to Cynthia, the dead man's daughter, against his will... he had also been head arguing moments before the fatal shot was heard. Cynthia is friends with reporter Roberta 'Bobbie' Logan and she calls in the detective Mr Wong to prove Dick's innocence. He soon finds another potential motive for murder; the ship was carrying a large number of Chinese bonds which have disappeared along with the passenger who was carrying them. There is also a disgruntled, recently sacked chauffeur and a Chinese servant who has disappeared to consider.
With these films one has to accept having a Chinese character being played by an actor who clearly isn't Chinese... this isn't too difficult as apart from his name it is easy to forget where Mr Wong is meant to be from! The mystery is intriguing enough and there are a decent number of suspects to keep the viewer guessing right up until the final reveal. There is also a fair amount of humour; mostly due to policeman Capt. William Street being exasperated by Bobbie Logan; in a running gag the feather in her hat keeps poking him... silly but amusing. The cast are solid enough with Boris Karloff being reliable as Wong and Marjorie Reynolds putting in a spirited performance as Bobbie. Overall this is far from a classic but it is fun if you enjoy films of the era.
A great opening sets up Boris Karloff's last appearance as the Chinese detective who isn't a thorn in the side of police investigator Grant Withers. That would be reporter Marjorie Reynolds who continues to taunt Withers for her abilities (and his apparent disabilities) in crime solving. In this case, it's the murder of a wealthy businessmen with the main suspect being young Guy Usher who wanted to marry the man's daughter (Catherine Craig) which her father violently opposed. Of course, there's other suspects, of the business rival variety, and those aren't as interesting as the family aspect of the case. This is the one time in the series where Wong gets a bit too close for someone's comfort, resulting in a few close calls for him, the only real notable element in this film. The Reynolds/Withers antagonism here goes a bit too far, with Reynolds becoming so obnoxiously annoying at one point that it wouldn't be beyond reason for Withers to stuff something in her mouth and lock her in a closet, or dispatch her himself and gladly turn himself in for the crime. Karloff ends his participation in the series seemingly relieved, and never worked at Monogram studios again.
A shipping tycoon has just lost a ship with four hundred people on it but he's more worried about the ship other than the people. Soon the jerk turns into a bigger jerk when his daughter's boyfriend comes to visit and ask for her hand in marriage. He refuses and moments later he's shot dead with the boyfriend being the only person in the room. Captain Street (Grant Withers) thinks he has an open and shut case but Mr. Wong (Boris Karloff) thinks there's something more going on.
DOOMED TO DIE would turn out to be the fifth and final film where Karloff would play the Mr. Wong character. Monogram would continue the series for one more picture but Karloff wouldn't be in that one. As far as this film goes, it's pretty much a routine mystery picture with a couple decent performances but there's no question that there's nothing here that makes this stand out from the countless other detective movies out there.
As I said with the previous four films, the cast are pretty good for the most part with Karloff once again doing fine in the role of Mr. Wong. I always liked the laid-back nature he brought to the character but, again, there's no doubt he didn't really try to make the character Asian. Withers is good in his role as the detective and Marjorie Reynolds brings some needed energy to the picture.
The "B" nature is obvious throughout the film and it really appears as if Monogram cut the budget down even more. The first four movies were cheaply produced but this here seems like it had even less of a budget to work with. The story itself is just too routine and lacks any real drama to make the film better than it is.
This about sums up what there is of a plot. "Mr. Wong and a girl reporter investigate a shipping magnate's murder. " BUT there is more. It's got lots of atmosphere... foggy nights and dimly lit buildings. It's got Karloff as University educated Mr. Wong. It's got a collection of stereo-typically Hollywood variety Chinese. It's got a funny girl reporter and a rather clueless cop who banter back and forth in really snappy dialogue. She wears an astonishing variety of hats including one with a particularly annoying feather. It's got plot holes galore and things get rather confusing here and there but in the end it doesn't matter one iota .. it was a fun movie and it has the voice of the Grinch .. who can ask for anything more ?
"Doomed to Die" is a fun Karloff 'Mr. Wong' detective mystery-thriller. It's got a fair amount of suspense and a couple of twists that will keep you guessing who the murderer is.
There is a comical duo in this movie that quite hilarious at times; they are Roberta 'Bobbie' Logan and Capt. William "Bill" Street. These two really help bring some light into an otherwise dark film.
The Boris Karloff 'Mr. Wong' film series are worth watching if you are into crime mystery-thrillers similar to Sherlock Holmes. And "Doomed to Die" is definitely a good movie.
A little fun trivia fact: According to the US Inflation Calculator, those two martini's in the film costing $4.00 total would cost you $67.60 for both today (2015) - that is $33.80 for each martini or $2.00 each in 1940.
Wong was dependable, soft-spoken but reasonably strong, one time he is saved by 'Logan', another time he gets shot, these are stories in which the wrongdoers strike back on the detective, and there is a trio of searchers (Wong, the girl, the cop, who treats rudely the girl), there is plot and atmosphere, suspense, offered more by actions, by the steps taken, by the storyline, than by the settings; very unlike Chan. The plots are trite, but somehow realistic, convoluted like in the later noir movies, businesspeople and smuggling, and (this like in a Chan movie ) scheming young villains. These Wong movies are quiet and had quite complex plots about businesspeople, sometimes there's also a ship, as in this movie or in 'Mr. Wong in Chinatown', Karloff gives them an enjoyable, subtle eerie semitone, and there's a cool car chase, 'Logan' isn't as much fun as Birmingham Brown from the Chan movies (she is treated harshly by the policeman, it might have seemed funny, but as a matter of fact it's rude), but the Wong outings' plots are closer to what was the genre to become in the next decade, there's a feel also that these story lines, such as they are, were meant to look crafty and perhaps intriguing, the chauffeur gives a powerhouse style performance, the wrongdoers in this movie are relatively easy to guess. Some moments are atmospheric, or suspenseful. We are shown the chauffeur, yet never Kai Ling. The young guy, innocent though accused of the murder, was intensely annoying.
If compared to the Chan or Moto movies, the Wong are the more realist, with a lower body count, usually two murders; they are also less funny.
The Mr Wong series with Boris Karloff are not exactly great films(none are bad though) but they still make for decent entertainment, and Doomed to Die is no exception to that. In personal opinion it is one of the weaker entries in the series, the weakest being Mr Wong in Chinatown and the best being The Mystery of Mr Wong, but that is not knocking it really. It does get convoluted in places and plods a little towards the end, while the editing could have been smoother and Grant Withers seems to think that shouting equals good acting, in my book it's overkill and it's distracting. However, the sets and lighting do provide some good atmosphere, and as ever the music is eerie and jaunty. The story is routine and has convoluted moments in the second half around when Wong narrowly escapes being shot(the most suspenseful Doomed to Die gets), but on the most part it goes along at a snappy pace and you are kept guessing, the final reveal is unexpected and the perpetrator is fairly calculating, one you don't want to mess with. I also found much pleasure in the script, the banter between Marjorie Reynolds and Withers is deliciously witty and the police interrogations here are just as funny. The acting is fairly good, the support cast are more than competent but never really rise above being solid support. Marjorie Reynolds delights once again as the sassy reporter, her rapport with Withers does manage to gel. But the film belongs to Boris Karloff(the best make-up also of the series is in Doomed to Die), even if he doesn't exactly convince as a Chinese and Mr Wong is not one of his best roles admittedly he is still enigmatic and seems to be enjoying himself. Mr Wong has a fair sprinkle of fun moments that despite his late entrance ensures that his presence is a long way from a waste. All in all, unexceptional but still entertaining. 6/10 Bethany Cox