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MOTO ADVENTURE ONE: THINK FAST, MR. MOTO

year: 1937 cast: Peter Lorre, Virginia Field, Thomas Beck rating: ***1/2
Peter Lorre is Mr. Moto, a Japanese secret agent who's both underrated and unappreciated... But he'll surprise you with a karate kick sending non-believers flying across the room.

Here we begin with Moto in street peddler disguise, including a pointy beard and ragged clothing. He clumsily meanders into a store to sell a rug, and then a diamond, to an impatient proprietor who’s got a dead body semi-hidden in a wicker basket. This brings Moto on board a big ship where an important letter to a rich man’s son, Bob, has been stolen and replaced.

There’s a plot hidden somewhere, having to do with smuggling diamonds to and from San Francisco. The best parts – when Moto’s not tailing and/or protecting the na├»ve square jawed Bob aboard the ocean liner – takes place in notorious Shanghai where our resilient hero turns tables at a fancy nightclub.
Mr. Moto investigates on sea or land
Peter Lorre is always fun to watch and this character is a real treat, hiding his Ace until each pivotal moment arises. But is this Motto guy a Charlie Chan rip-off? Perhaps so... yet there’s far more action in this series and, like many cinematic mysteries before and after, we’re never burdened with too many clues surrounding a convoluted maze.

Norman Foster, who later directed an Orson Welles Mercury production aboard a mysterious ship titled JOURNEY INTO FEAR, provides a suspenseful element at both land and sea, moving the camera around enough to make this more than a wordy melodrama but an adventure that continuously pays off.
BUY MR. MOTO COLLECTION AT AMAZON
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