John Harwood (Edmund Lowe) is an American detective on vacation in France, enjoying a Carnival celebration at his hotel. Pretty drunk and dressed up in a devil costume, he meets a fellow party-goer wearing a grotesque mask.
Later than evening, John is beginning to sober up and returns to his room… where he finds the mysterious masked stranger, dead. He immediately sets out to alert the authorities, running into insurance agent Caryl (Constance Cummings) on the way. The two are supposed to be leaving the hotel soon, to head to England.
When Caryl and John return to the room with hotel staff, the body is gone, leading everyone to dismiss John as a hallucinating drunkard. John and Caryl board a train, giving up the investigation and continuing on to their next destination.
But John really did see that dead body, and will be forced to get to the bottom of the mystery when he sees it again on the train.
Albert de Courville directs 1936’s Doomed Cargo, also known as Seven Sinners.
Wild Carnival costumes, a surreal nightmare sequence, train wrecks, missing bodies… Doomed Cargo has all of that and more, adding up to a fun mystery flick that packs a few surprises now and then.
This film does a great job of leaving the viewer guessing who the final-reveal villain will be. The outcome isn’t totally unexpected once revealed, but the script offers plenty of plausible suspects, and the ending is great.
The story is very nicely paced — not super quick-moving, but it jogs along very steadily, with a few higher-impact scenes to keep the viewer hooked. I was, in particular, wowed by the train crash sequences, which are very realistic and gripping. TCM’s article on the film, by Lorraine LoBianco, notes that some footage was reused from a 1929 film called The Wrecker — a silent German adaptation of the same play.
Speaking of TCM, they aired this flick for Constance Cummings day during Summer Under the Stars, and I’m glad they did. I’ve only seen a handful of her films, Haunted Honeymoon most recently prior to this film. That one was nowhere near a favorite; I rated it just 1/5 when I reviewed it in 2015! But this film redeemed her for me. She’s a lot of fun to watch as sidekick to the detective. Her character is snarky and witty, sharing plenty of banter with Edmund Lowe, which is a nice complement to the more mysterious and suspenseful side of the film.
Doomed Cargo is sure to please fans of mystery flicks, and British mysteries in particular. If you can’t get enough of these not-too-dark, easy-viewing whodunits, you’ll want to track this one down!