Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937)

Not Rated  |   |  Adventure, Crime, Drama  |  27 July 1937 (USA)
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On a freighter going from San Francisco to Shanghai Mr. Moto solves mysteries caused by a gang of smugglers. First of the series.



(screen play), (screen play), 4 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Virginia Field ...
Thomas Beck ...
Bob Hitchings
Sig Ruman ...
Nicolas Marloff (as Sig Rumann)
Murray Kinnell ...
Joseph Wilkie
John Rogers ...
Lela Liu
George Cooper ...
Muggs Blake
Frederick Vogeding ...
Curio Dealer (as Fredrik Vogeding)


Mr Moto encounters mysterious goings-on on a ship bound for Shanghai. He recognises his steward as the murderer of a man in San Francisco, and catches him trying to steal an important letter from the stateroom of another passenger, Robert Hitchings. Hitchings, son of the owner of the shipping line, falls in love with Gloria, who refuses to tell him anything about her life and disappears when they arrive in Shanghai. In Shanghai, Mr Moto uncovers the secret which links the murder in San Francisco, the mysterious letter, and Gloria. Written by Daniel Frankham <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Meet.... MR. MOTO the foxiest detective of them all!


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

27 July 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Misterioso Mr. Moto  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


First of Fox's eight film series that starred Peter Lorre, followed by Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938). See more »


When Gloria is skeet shooting at the edge of the boat, she cocks the shotgun and the spent shell is seen flying through the air over the side of the boat into what should be the water down below. Instead of hearing a splash, the shell is heard bouncing on what sounds like concrete (stage). See more »


Bob Hitchings: Stanford, '34.
Kentaro Moto: Stanford, '21; honorary member.
Bob Hitchings: What do you know about that! Moto, '21, let's see... oh, I remember reading about you. You broke a pole-vault record, didn't you?
Kentaro Moto: Now I would only break the pole.
See more »


Followed by Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938) See more »


The Shy Violet
Music by Harry Akst
Lyrics by Sidney Clare
See more »

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User Reviews

Clunky storyline and dated attitudes, but surprisingly fun
29 January 2008 | by (Los Angeles, Ca.) – See all my reviews

Ah, the Thirties. What could be more elegant and enjoyable than an ocean liner to the Orient, with two heartbreakingly beautiful people having a shipboard romance while criminal intrigue sort-of-kind-of goes on around them and they are watched over by a genial Japanese man who may or may not be a good guy? And that's really about all there is to the slapdash plot of the first movie in the Mr. Moto series. Yes, there's something about diamond smuggling and murder, but the main point of this story seems to be to introduce the world to the polite but dangerous gentleman from Japan.

And that is something that surprised me about this little movie (it clocks in at under 70 minutes) -- just how dangerous Mr. Moto is. Throughout the first hour he is presented as someone who's more interested in making an allegiance with the smugglers than stopping them. The movie begins with him in disguise looking into the San Francisco end of the smugglers, seeing -- but not reporting -- a murdered body and getting away so he can quietly head for Shanghai. He shows he's a black belt in jiu-jitsu by tossing a few disrespectful drunks around, including the son of the man who owns the ocean liner he's traveling on. And he kills a killer in such a way that no one can find the body...then calmly, albeit a bit sadly, continues his secretive journey. It's not until the last few minutes of the movie that his real purpose and superior intelligence is revealed. To have a Japanese man out-thinking all the sneaky Caucasian minds around him is really quite startling for 1937, considering the casual xenophobia of the time.

"Think Fast, Mr. Moto" may be an obvious attempt to capitalize on the hugely popular (and usually much better) "Charlie Chan" series of mysteries, but it works very well in its own right. Peter Lorre does a fine job (of course) pretending to be Japanese, but something that I've never understood is why Thomas Beck never got to be big in Hollywood. He has such a natural grace in front of the camera, and he's extremely good-looking. The same holds for Virginia Field, though she did have more of a career than he. The production values are above average for a "B" movie and the pace is relatively brisk. If they'd just done a better job with the script, it could have been on the same level as "Charlie Chan in Shanghai." But as it is, it's still surprisingly fun.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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