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>
This was the first of the eight Mr. Moto movies but not necessarily the best of the early group, although not bad. I thought the second and third ones were the best of the first grouping of four. This got bogged down a little too much early on with Thomas Beck's infatuation with Virginia Field ("Gloria Danton"). In subsequent Moto movies, the romance angle was lesser and Moto featured more, which is better. However, some of the sappy guy's lust for his girl turns out to tie in with the head crook, so all is not lost in having to sit through the dull romance spots. (Dull because the dialog was affected, especially Beck's as "Bob Hitchings," the son of the shipping magnate and the man pursuing Gloria.
When the script featured the crime angle (smuggling), as in the beginning and in the last 25 minutes, it's interesting and gets involving. The long break in the middle of the film makes it easy for the viewer to lose track what exactly is going on here: who is smuggling what. We have to piece things together again when the action re-gains in the last third of the film. There is an interesting twist near the end and we hear Mr. Moto sum everything up a la Charlie Chan.
The exotic setting is Shanghai and viewers can enjoy the hectic sets with lots of people running to and fro; obnoxious British and Americans making racist statements to the locals, treating them as insignificant young kids and, of course, all the Asians played by the Anglos. That was part of '30s Hollywood, and you just accept it.
The last 40 percent of this movie makes up for any shortcomings and makes the viewing worthwhile. Mr. Moto is definitely one cool guy, who seems to have it all - except height. Peter Lorre was just great playing this role and I hope I get the opportunity to see all eight feature films in the series. I always enjoy his disguises, too, even though they don't fool us for a minute!
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