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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, May 5, 2023

Doomed to Die (1940)

This is the fifth movie in the Mr. Wong franchise and the last starring Boris Karloff in the role. The movie opens with news footage of a horrible accident at sea where the ocean liner Wentworth Castle catches fire and sinks, killing many passengers and crew. Then we see the owner of the ship, Cyrus Wentworth, in his office. A few different folks show up to visit him including a competitor, his lawyer, and the man that wants to marry his daughter. Unfortunately, that man is also the son of the competitor, Fleming, whom Wentworth wants nothing to do with. Then a shot rings out and he is dead. The last person in the office with him was the young Dick Fleming, so it is assumed he is the killer.

After sixteen minutes of the sixty-two minute Mr. Wong shows up at the behest of the lady reporter who also happens to be the fiancĂ©’s friend. They don’t think that Dick is the murderer, so Wong starts to investigate the passenger list to see if there is maybe another reason for the murder. Why? Well folks I’m sad to say that this isn’t the kind of movie that is going to share the clues. Wong goes to visit the Tong who let him know that they were sneaking in some bonds to get them out of China and into the states safely and that those bonds are missing. That ends up being the key to the crime. Though we sit thru a bunch of nonsense before finding that out.

I like these movies but at this point it feels like they weren’t trying anymore. The mystery is a nonstarter with the murderer committing the crime from across the hall and then tossing the gun into the room before running away. No nifty gimmick or hard to figure out sequence of events. Hell this feels like a crime that Wong’s sidekick Captain Street of the San Francisco police should be able to sort out himself. Though what really annoyed me is the fact that the most important clue that explains all of Wong’s actions is kept from us until he reveals the killer’s identity. Come on guys we are supposed to play along with you in solving the crime and you just dump the vital clue with a minute left after all has been solved! That sucks.

Doomed to Die also feels very padded with lots of walking around and way too many characters. It isn’t like they are suspects or more victims either. They are just sort of there. That includes Captain Street who pops in here and there to be a buffoon but plays no real part in the story. He is a reoccurring character from the previous five movies so that was surprising. I also noticed that they used or should I say reused footage from previous Wong movies in odd ways. Characters clearly are different in the closeups from those that were there in the longer shots. This feels like a movie that they just tossed together as quickly and cheaply as possible.

This is the first time in the Wong franchise that I can’t recommend it. I’m annoyed that this was the last outing of Karloff in the role and that they made such a mess of it. There is one more movie which I will cover but it stars Keye Luke. I know that the studio tried to make a go of it with an actual Asian actor playing the detective so I’m hoping that it is a better flick. That said skip Doomed to Die. There is nothing worth watching here.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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