Doomed to Die (1940)

Karloff_Doomed to Die_Full SheetThis Monogram crime mystery is not a monster film, but it does feature the great Boris Karloff in his last depiction of Mr. Wong, Detective.  This is a public domain film and I have included a link to YouTube, below, if you would like to watch it. It takes a while before Wong enters the story, but when he does Karloff takes control and makes Doomed to Die (1940) an enjoyable and lightweight passing of an hour or so.

To me, Karloff’s Wong is less interesting compared to Warner Oland and Sydney Toler’s Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan, or Peter Lorre’s Japanese, international cop Mr. Moto.  The Monogram films were a notch below the production quality found in the earlier Chan and Moto films, but the Wong films are still worth checking out primarily due to Karloff’s presence.

San Francisco’s Chinese sleuth James Lee Wong appeared in Collier’s magazine in the late 30’s. They were penned by Hugh Wiley (1884-1968) and usually involved murder and nefarious schemes pertaining to opium and other contraband from the Orient.  The popularity of the Collier’s stories invariably led to the appearance of Wong on the silver screen. A total of six films were produced at Monogram:

  • Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)
  • The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)
  • Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939)
  • The Fatal Hour (1940)
  • Doomed to Die (1940)
  • Phantom of Chinatown (1940), with Keye Luke taking over the role as Wong.

The first 5 films were all helmed by William Nigh (The Ape, 1940; Black Dragons, 1942). He seems to be an unremarkable director who effectively cranked out low-budget films on time and under budget, which is really saying a lot. Nigh also directed an earlier film The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934), starring Bela Lugosi, which has nothing to do with Wong the detective.  In this film Lugosi is a Fu Manchu-type villain hellbent on world domination. Sounds like my kind of movie.

Doomed to Die is a who-done-it that centers around the homicide of shipping magnate Cyrus Wentworth (Melvin Lang), the nefarious Tong organization and a million and a half dollars worth of missing bonds. Thankfully, Wong understands infra-red photography and solves the case…

Karloff_Doomed to Die

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