Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Overlooked Films: Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)

At one time or another I acquired, read and enjoyed all six of John P. Marquand’s Mr. Moto novels. And I believe I saw most, if not all, of Peter Lorre’s eight Moto films. Heck, I think I even saw the ninth Moto movie, starring Henry Silva. But I honestly can’t remember much about any of them, so this film - the first in the series - was almost like a new introduction to the character. And it's a good one.

This is not the quirky Peter Lorre I remember from The Maltese Falcon, All Through the Night, Casablanca or Passage to Marseille. Or the offbeat Lorre from films like Arsenic and Old Lace and My Favorite Brunette. And he's a far cry from the over-the-tip Lorre of Hammer films like The Raven, Tales of Terror and A Comedy of Terrors.

Pulling a knife on Moto is a sure way to get thrown overboard.

This is Peter Lorre in the hero’s role - with all the fighting, sleuthing and romancing that goes with it. It was a shock to see him dive into a fight, displaying all the acrobatic skill of Douglas Fairbanks, and kick his opponent’s butt. (The featurette on the DVD reveals that the action scenes were handled by his longtime stuntman Harvey Parry, but it looked to me like Lorre was doing it himself).

Moto foils a gang of would-be assassins.

It’s hard to resist comparing Lorre’s Moto with his chief film rival, the Charlie Chan portrayed by Warner Oland and Sidney Toler. So I won’t try. While Chan is always self-deprecating and sometimes polite beyond endurance, Moto is a take-charge and take-no-shit kind of guy.  As a result - judging solely by this movie - Moto is a far more intriguing and compelling character. I look forward to rediscovering the second film the series, Thank You, Mr. Moto, and if I can find one of my Marquand books, I'll probably reread that too.

Moto undercover, doing his John Rhys-Davies impression.

More Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom.


Shay said...

Can only find two of the Mr Moto films on YouTube...I may have to look a bit further.

Peter Lorre as a no=nonsense bare-knuckles cop is an interesting concept.

Evan Lewis said...

A short James Bond with granny glasses and a Japanese accent.

Cap'n Bob said...

We saw this at Tankon recently and liked it. I recall Moto using judo, and his tossing the stewart overboard was a neat and unexpected turn. Was that the same stewart who played Cedric on OH, SUSANNAH!?

Cap'n Bob said...
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Cap'n Bob said...
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David Cranmer said...

I've always enjoyed Peter Lorre but not these films. I'm in the minority I'm sure.