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Doomed to Die
Doomed to Die
Actors: Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds, Grant Withers, William Stelling, Catherine Craig
Director: William Nigh
Genres: Horror, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2002     1hr 8min


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Movie Details

Actors: Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds, Grant Withers, William Stelling, Catherine Craig
Director: William Nigh
Genres: Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Alpha Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 11/19/2002
Original Release Date: 08/12/1940
Theatrical Release Date: 08/12/1940
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 8min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Whodunit In the Spirit of Sherlock Holmes
Lonnie E. Holder | Columbus, Indiana, United States | 09/30/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I must admit that in spite of seeing Boris Karloff playing a person of Chinese heritage, I enjoyed this movie. Karloff played Chinese-American detective James Lee Wong in the sixth of seven films featuring the James Lee Wong character, though this film was Karloff's last appearance as this character - Keye Luke played James Lee Wong in the final film in this series.

Cyrus P. Wentworth is despondent over a fire and loss of life on his ship Wentworth Castle. The film footage of the ship on fire is actually that of the Morro Castle, which caught fire in 1934 and led to the loss of 137 passengers and crew. Overlaid on Wentworth's despondency is his ire that Dick Fleming, son of a rival, wants to marry his daughter. Wentworth essentially tells Fleming that he can marry his daughter over his dead body. You know the old saying that you should be careful what you ask for...

Since Dick Fleming was visiting Wentworth moments before his death, police Captain Bill Fleming decides that Fleming must be the killer. However, detective James Lee Wong is not so sure, and methodically follows the clues to track down his man.

I mostly liked this movie with the exception of obnoxious reporter Bobbie Logan and police Captain Bill Fleming. Both characters were, as often was the case in movies from this era, stereotypical and poorly developed. If either character had totally disappeared from the film I am not sure the plot would have suffered much. The rest of the movie was interesting though far from being politically correct.

The mystery was developed satisfactorily and would probably have been a greater shock to audiences of the era. I doubt the solution to the mystery would surprise many modern mystery fans. However, I still thought this movie was fun to watch and once I accepted Karloff as Wong I enjoyed Wong making fools of everyone who thought they knew how Wentworth died.

The sound and picture were reasonably good in this edition. Neither has been restored, that I can tell, but both were quite acceptable.

This movie will likely appeal to fans of films featuring Mr. Moto or Charlie Chan. I think the Charlie Chan films were better from the viewpoint of being detective stories. However, having a Caucasian portray an Asian is difficult to get around, though this movie was made in an era when such substitutions were considered acceptable. I thought it was interesting that Wong was clearly superior to the Caucasian investigators in the movie, who were either bumbling or incompetent. However, if you are very sensitive to issues of race you should probably avoid this film.

Good luck!
Detective Wong is right again
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 01/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Looking and sounding about as Chinese as I do, Boris Karloff is once again on the case as the irrepressible Detective Wong in 1940's Doomed to Die. I know a lot of people love these Detective Wong movies for Boris Karloff, but I'm actually more partial to Grant Withers' performance as Captain Bill Street, the blustering homicide captain who keeps having his open and shut cases proven quite wrong thanks to the nosy interference of journalist Bobbie Logan (Marjorie Reynolds), with whom Street banters throughout the entire film. Street and Logan are like cinematic professors of sharp and witty repartee, giving the film more than a few moments of humor.

You can hardly blame Captain Street for thinking this particular case basically solved itself. At least three people, including the boy's father, heard Dick Fleming (William Stelling) arguing with shipping magnate Cyrus P. Wentworth (Melvin Lang) in the man's office just seconds before hearing a gunshot and rushing in to see Wentworth fatally wounded - and no sign of Dick Fleming, who obviously fled out the back entrance to the office. The motive for the murder was plain to see as well - Dick had gone to tell Wentworth that he was marrying his daughter Cynthia with or without his blessing, a blessing that Wentworth would never give due to his personal and professional enmity with his main competitor Paul Fleming (Guy Usher). As Street's luck would have it, though, reporter Bobbie Logan just happens to be best friends with Cynthia, and she asks Detective Wong to take a look at the case in hopes of proving Dick's innocence. Wong, of course, quickly discovers that the case is much more complex than it would first appear. He thinks the murder has to be related in some way to the recent loss of Wentworth's flag ship, which burned at sea, especially when he learns that a fortune in bonds was being smuggled into the country on that very ship.

I love Boris Karloff as much as the next guy, and I enjoy watching these Detective Wong mysteries, but they just never seem to rise to the occasion in more than a four-star manner. Without the verbal jousting match between Captain Street and thorn-in-his-side reporter Bobbie Logan, Doomed to Die would probably tend to drag from time to time, especially since Wong tends to keep certain bits of information to himself until the time comes to reveal the identity of the murderer at the very end. Still, this is certainly an enjoyable little crime caper. Even if you buy it strictly for Karloff, you're bound to be entertained by the antics of Grant Withers and Marjorie Reynolds."