Detective James Lee Wong is on the scene as archaeologist Dr. John Benton, recently returned from an expedition in China where a valuable ancient scroll was recovered, is murdered while giving a lecture on the expedition.
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 <danielf@my-Deja.com>
The first of the Lorre Moto's is also the best, and from under the opening titles to the snappy ending you do have some fast thinking to do. The production values were high, the script intelligent and the acting ... fairly good, all adding up to a non-condescending film. Moto's effortless jujitsu was always a laugh, though.
On the other hand it is chock full of the usual racial, sexual and social stereotypes that bother lots of serious people nowadays. But for it not to be present would be like meat without fat: pretty tasteless and indigestible. All present-day Austrians might be outraged by Peter Lorre's casting as a Japanese, and a warning should be given before every screening. I should have been warned that the ship's English steward would be Battling Burrows' son (see "Broken Blossoms" 1919)!
Dapper Moto is going after an international gang of smugglers operating out of Shanghai, where he seems to be up against the whole population much the same as Chan was 2 years earlier. Sig Rumann plays an ugly customer but Thomas Beck and Virginia Field never looked more handsome and lovelier playing the romantic leads. I don't know how many Moto's and Chan's in total they appeared in, but I tend to look out for Beck in every one just in case!
TFMM fills just over an hour pleasantly, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to the 21st century.
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