Doomed To Die 1940 US
Directed by Hugh Wiley
Monogram/VCI Home Entertainment
DVD Region 1
This was the fifth in the series of six Mr. Wong movies put out by Monogram but the last one to star Boris Karloff as Mr. Wong.
I was a little disappointed at first with this movie because the credits showed a steam cruiser and I was expecting this to be one of those 1940s detective movies where a murder happens on a ship and the detective has to gather up clues as all the suspects sight-see at different destinations around the world (I especially like those ones ;-) but it turns out that the only time you will actually see a ship in this movie is when you see a picture of it in somebody’s office as set dressing.
The background of the characters are from the shipping industry but this is definitely a landlocked Mr. Wong adventure. Still, it's actually pretty entertaining. Especially if you’re into 1930s and 1940s character actor spotting. King of the Rocketmen himself, Tristram Coffin, turns up for a minute or two in an uncredited part so that was fun. And one of the main suspects in the movie is played by Henry Brandon... who never seems to have stopped doing supporting roles in his long career. He had a significant onscreen role as Captain Laska in the 1939 serial Buck Rogers and modern genre fans might recognise the name, if not the face, from his small role in John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. Which means, this film has not one, but two Doctor Fu Manchus in it. Karloff had already played that role in the 1932 movie The Mask of Fu Manchu and Brandon played him the same year that this movie was made, 1940, in the Republic serial Drums of Fu Manchu.
The plot is very thin in this one and the main thrust of the story comes from the dumb police captain and plucky, screwball reporter heroine who were regulars in the series. A nod to the “science” of detection is again made, this time by Mr. Wong using an infra-red camera to expose the message on a burnt up piece of paper. Karloff seems to just breeze along again in this one without really trying and it’s a pleasant enough watch. One thing which amazed me is that they’d spliced a dialogue scene in from an earlier Mr. Wong movie to save cost and just changed and replaced some of the lines with close up inserts so they didn't have to spend money on a new scene. I’d pull up Monogram for this if I hadn’t already witnessed Fox doing the same thing in their Mr. Moto series.
All in all, an enjoyable diversion of a movie and I’m really looking forward to the next one where the considerably younger Keye Luke tried out the role.