Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Doomed to Die (1940)
This is another of the Mr Wong films to star Boris Karloff, who looks and acts no more Chinese-American than he did in The Fatal Hour. Also like that film, this movie has no business being in a "Horror" collection. But such are the ways of the Mill Creek boxed set.
Structurally this pretty similar to The Fatal Hour, with Mr Wong being called in to investigate a murder - in this case to exonerate the young man who has been accused of the crime - and then ambling around looking pleased with himself while narrowly avoiding being murdered as well.
As in that earlier film, most of the entertainment value in the movie comes from the supporting cast, especially the bickering between Police Captain Bill Street and Intrepid Girl Reporter 'Bobbie' Logan. This pair probably actually spend more time on screen than Mr Wong himself, which frankly is okay by me. There's nothing wrong with Karloff's performance (other than his ethnicity, obviously), but Mr Wong doesn't really have any character traits other than "solves crimes", so he's not terribly interesting, especially when the central mystery is as lazily written as in this film.
And it's the weakness of the central mystery that leads me to be less generous with this film than with my previous Mr Wong review. The plot only works because (a) Mr Wong lucks into two major clues, (b) the real culprits are painfully stupid and inept and (c) things are kept from the audience to obscure what's going on. With access to the same information as Mr Wong, you could probably solve the crime in half the time.
The Logan/Street repartee lifts this film above the average for a 1940s cheapie, but that's a low average to clear. The average episode of Castle will give you a more interesting case with more amusing banter. Heck, so might the average episode of Magnum PI, for that matter. You can safely pass.