In the late 1930s, eight Mr. Moto films were made of varying styles. In some (the best ones if you ask me), Moto was a rather amoral character and often killed bad guys instead of arresting them. In the lesser films, Moto was almost like a clone of Charlie Chan--very sedentary and the sort of guy who wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, this one is of the former type where Moto is a good guy but is more than willing to rub out his enemies to save the government the trouble of prosecuting them! What a guy, that Moto!
The film begins with Moto escaping with a prisoner from Devil's Island (Leon Ames). It seems that Moto is so intent on infiltrating a gang of international assassins that he went to a heck of a lot of trouble to get himself locked up, befriending one of the founding members of the group and then helping him escape! Back in London, Moto pretends to be an ignorant and VERY stereotypical Japanese houseboy for Ames. Many, I'm sure, will be annoyed or shocked with Peter Lorre's performance in this dual role, as the houseboy (and escaped prisoner) is 100% stereotype--complete with phrases such as "so solly"! Uggh. Well, while I don't condone this, this was the 1930s and have learned to ignore these scenes--otherwise all the Moto films will make you go crazy!
Moto's job is not just to discover who's the head of this mob and capture the entire gang, but he must also somehow protect a Czechoslovakian guy who is really, really stupid. First, he sounded about as Czechoslovakian as Winston Churchill. Second, he never takes the assassins' threats very seriously--even when they showed they really meant business. Even after they kill one of his friends right after they promise to demonstrate their power, this idiot insists he needs no help from Moto or the police!! Can anyone be that stupid? Apparently, in a B-film the answer is "yes".
So far, this film is about average for a Moto film. However, towards the end it really picks up its pace and delivers a very shocking finale that only Moto could engineer. See it for yourself and see what I mean. Oh, that Moto!
Overall, a bit better than average for the series despite having a really dumb character (if I were Moto, I would have let him die) and Lorre's rather obnoxious impersonation of a brain-dead Japanese servant.
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