Amazon Prime Video to the rescue again. This week’s Bad Movie comes from the ever reliable Monogram Pictures, and it’s another Boris Karloff feature, Doomed to Die, with the British actor reprising his role of master Chinese crime detective James Lee Wong. Details are from Wikipedia.
The title is threatening on the surface, and the opening scenes show a ship on fire at sea. Next, newspaper headlines blare the tragedy of the Wentworth Castle fire with many lives lost. Suddenly it all falls in place. The sea disaster is actual news footage of the Morro Castle, which made news with horrendous loss of life in 1934. The movie, which came out in 1940, is playing of the real time event, still fresh in the public mind at the time. The image below is from Wikipedia and not from the movie.
In the end the threat of being doomed to die never materializes.
We next see a stricken Cyrus P. Wentworth (Melvin Lang), owner of the shipping company. He is straightening out his affairs, including finalizing his will, even though he has been absolved of blame in the disaster.
Minutes later Cyrus Wentworth is dead of a gunshot wound, and his prospective son-in-law, Dick Fleming (William Stelling) is charged with the crime. Wentworth had been violently opposed to the marriage. However, Wentworth’s daughter, Cynthia Wentworth (Catherine Craig) is a close friend of girl reporter Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Logan (Marjorie Reynolds), and she, in turn, is a close friend of the amazing Mr. Wong. Also, Logan is sweet on Homicide Squad Captain William ‘Bill’ Street (Grant Withers), and she drags Mr. Wong into the case. Wong will demonstrate that young Fleming is not the killer.
Take a look at the above image. It’s almost a re-stage of an opening scene from The Fatal Hour, which came out just prior to this production and has been previously reviewed. See the following two screen shots from that flick:
Anyhow, Wong uses his connections with local Chinese Tongs to gather intelligence and solve the case.
And that’s all I’m going to tell about the movie. Remember, I watch these so you don’t have to. Having said that, I must remark the mystery plot is intriguing, though far fetched.
It all centers around young Fleming’s being in the office, supposedly alone, with Mr. Wentworth at the time of the shooting. Wong jumps through a series of hoops and demonstrates others were involved, all connected with a scheme by a Chinese smuggler to move a passel of bonds out of his country to escape the conflict (World War Two).
The matter of the bonds turns out to be the point on which the plot rotates. The story line attempts to connect the burning of the ship with the bonds, and this reasoning borders on absurdity. This and other transparent contrivances strip the plot bare of credibility.
Additional detractions include stiff dialog and wooden acting. But scintillating performances was not what was driving Americans to the theaters in those days.