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|Index||16 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like most of the Charlie Chan movies of the same era, it might help to
keep a score card here to keep track of all the players. Mr. Moto
(Peter Lorre), true to characterizations in earlier films in the
series, relies on his skills as an anthropologist as well as a
detective to solve this, his final case. He's on the trail of a
psychopathic criminal genius long presumed dead, coaxed out of hiding
by the discovery of the crown of the Queen of Sheba on an Arabian dig.
Not only does Moto don a disguise in the film, so does his adversary,
the evil Metaxas, before the case is put to rest.
The last couple of Moto films paired the Japanese detective with a comic sidekick, this time around it's G.P. Huntley as the Brit, Archibald Featherstone. His gimmick consists of outing Moto's undercover alias a number of times and taking numerous pratfalls. Someone like Reginald Denny might have been more effective in a less physical role, but hey, we take what we get in the Moto films, all of which are to be viewed for entertainment value and Lorre's understated portrayal. I got a kick out of the scene at the Fremont Museum in Professor Hildebrand's office when it's discovered the phone line has been cut. Instead of simply stating that, Moto offers - "Someone deprived this instrument of all utility". Couldn't have said it better myself.
It would have been cool to see Mantan Moreland show up in the Moto series, but instead Willie Best appears in this one as a driver with a few quick lines and a fender bender. He also had a few moments in the Moto adventure on Danger Island. The real surprise for this story is the appearance of one of the better known and respected veterans of the era, Lionel Atwill, usually cast as a villain or mad scientist. The finale almost has you hooked into believing him to be Moto's quarry, but of course that was just a red herring.
I'm still thinking about how Moto solved this case, explaining that the scoundrel Metaxas' footprints on the carpet changed from a walk to a limp when he entered the Professor's office. It sounds good, but how does one detect a limp in a footprint? It might have made more sense to have the cane as part of that set up.
Anyway, not to be too harsh, this film is just as much fun as any in the series, which in retrospect might have been all too brief. The Charlie Chan movies ran to forty two films, not counting a couple for which the prints seem to have been permanently lost. However three different actors portrayed the Oriental detective in most of those flicks, but one would probably agree that the only actor to own the Moto role would rightfully be the wonderful Peter Lorre.
It's hard to dislike a Mr Moto film, not only because of the
stylishness with which they were all made but because, of course, Peter
Lorre is so ingratiating in a role tailor-made for him. He is just
excellent in the part and it is a pity there were only eight entries in
this charming series. As for MR MOTO TAKES A VACATION, I can recommend
it quite highly.
Like others I will offer the one caveat: the rather irritating "comic relief" character. Hollywood had such marvelous actors available to play the typical "silly-ass" Englishman that it is a wonder why they allowed this gentleman to take the role and to overplay it so gratingly. The writing here could have been tightened up a bit, and the reliable Norman Foster could have toned him down a few pegs.
But much of this is balanced by other delights in the film, starting with dear, old Willie Best in a wonderfully funny (and beautifully directed) cameo. Bob Hope called Best one of the best actors he'd ever worked with. It's easy to see why here. He is as lovable as everyone's favorite bumbling Uncle, a sort of compendium of both Laurel and Hardy. Also distinguishing its interesting cast is the great Joesph Schildkraut, an actor incapable of giving a bad performance. He was one of the masters of his profession.
Charming, fun, and magnificently photographed in rich, lustrous black and white, I really don't think you could go wrong with this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A team of archaeologists uncover a real treasure the Crown of the
Queen of Sheeba. From Egypt, the crown is to be transferred via
steamship to San Francisco. But it won't be an easy journey. There are
plenty of would-be thieves who would love to get their hands on the
priceless jewels contained in the crown. Fortunately for all involved,
Mr. Moto is on hand to guard the crown on its journey. However, that
doesn't mean someone won't try to get their hands on the treasure.
After the disappointment of Mr. Moto's Gamble, I went into Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation hoping for the best, but, admittedly, fearing the worst. But within the first 10 seconds of the film, I knew I would find it more enjoyable. I'm a sucker for a 1930s style mystery that features anything to do with archaeological digs in Egypt. And seeing Moto disguised as a German archaeologist (Imagine that, Peter Lorre playing a German?), the beginning scenes really drew me in. While the movie may have quickly shifted to the less exotic San Francisco, it remained just as enjoyable. Dark, sinister characters lurking in the rainy night; gunshots fired from open windows that narrowly miss the hero's head; sophisticated and supposed foolproof alarm systems just begging for someone to test them; and master criminals believed to be dead these are the kind of elements found in a lot of the really good 1930s mysteries that I love. And Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation's got 'em all. A couple other bonuses for me included the always enjoyable Lionel Atwill in a nice little role, comic relief from G.P. Huntley that's actually funny, and a return to form for Mr. Moto. I've already mentioned his disguise in the movie's opening scenes, well the athletic Moto comes out near the film's finale. Moto is a like a Whirling Dervish of activity as he goes after his prey. All this and I haven't even mentioned the wonderful performance turned in by Lorre. Any way you look at it, Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation is a winner.
As much as I hate that the Mr. Moto series had to end after this installment, it's understandable when you think about it. WWII was just around the corner. And after Pearl Harbor, a movie with a Japanese hero wouldn't have gone over very well. At least the Mr. Moto series ended on a very positive note.
Mr. Moto takes on a mysterious jewel thief known as Metaxa out to steal
the recently-unearthed Crown of Sheba. This last Peter Lorre Mr. Moto
movie starts out fun but then unwanted comic relief George P. Huntley
shows up. Huntley as Archie Featherstone ranks among the worst examples
of forced comedy I've ever seen. Why they felt they needed to ruin an
otherwise enjoyable Mr. Moto movie with this idiot is beyond me. He
even appears in blackface at one point! To make matters worse, he teams
with racist caricaturist Willie Best not long after.
A good supporting cast including Lionel Atwill, Joseph Schildkraut, and pretty Virginia Field can only do so much. The writing is pretty thin, as well. They even reuse a bit from the previous Moto film, Mr. Moto in Danger Island. In that one, Moto (faking appendicitis) arrives by ship and is picked up by an ambulance. After the ambulance departs, two men come rushing up in a cab exclaiming that they are the real ambulance drivers and the two men with Moto are imposters. Well a very similar bit is used here, except instead of an ambulance it's an armored truck with two imposter drivers.
It's not surprising this is the end of the Moto series. The U.S. would be at war with Japan in a couple of years so it would have been impossible for Fox to continue making movies with a Japanese hero. Besides, if this is an example of where the series was headed it's better they stopped here. It was a decent series with Peter Lorre always giving a good performance even when the material didn't deserve it. This one's probably the worst of the lot but still watchable. When Huntley's not around, it's actually entertaining.
Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)
** (out of 4)
Eighth and final entry in Fox's original series once again finds Peter Lorre in the role of Mr. Moto. This time he must fight off countless bad guys who are trying to steal a priceless crowd previously owned by the Queen of Sheba. This final entry isn't the weakest of the series but it might be the most disappointing. I was highly disappointed in this one because it features a pretty good cast but there's really nothing that works overly well here. The movie certainly a long way from being bad but at the same time there's just not enough good stuff here to make the film worth viewing. The actual story is a fairly interesting set up but not enough is done with it as we pretty much get cardboard bad guys popping up at various spots and doing something bad. There's really no heart or soul behind any of the writing and in the end the movie just comes off as a low grade "B" movie rather than something unique like a lot of the films in this series. Lorre finds himself giving another good performance and we've also got decent work by Joseph Schildkraut, Virginia Field and Lionel Atwill. Atwill is pretty much wasted in the film but it's always nice seeing him. G.P. Huntley plays the comic relief here and his awful character really brings the film down several notches. I'm not sure who the director thought would find this performance funny. Black character actor Willie Best also appears briefly. Fans of the series will certainly want to check this one out but it's doubtful many others will find any type of entertainment here.
This is one of my favorite Mr. Motos, and I have seen them all. As
usual Lorre is his charming self as the debonair Mr. Moto. Lionel
Atwill plays a delightfully zany museum curator, the usual comic relief
is quite funny here, and there are lots of suspects on whom to cast an
eye. It's fast paced and fun.
The archaeologist doesn't have quite the same flair as Thomas Beck, the usual second lead in these programmers, but he's adequate. Stepin Fetchit is on board, and while he speaks in a stereotypical manner his lines are funny, not demeaning to his intelligence, and he actually saves the day in his brief time on screen.
Between 1937 and 1939, Twentieth Century-Fox made a ton of Mr. Moto
films. However, towards the end of the series, it was obvious that the
studio had "jumped the shark", so to speak. This phrase indicates that
a TV show has passed its prime and the executives in charge decided to
invigorate the show by fundamentally changing the formula. For example,
with "The Brady Bunch" they introduced the annoying 'Cousin Oliver' and
with "Family Ties" they introduced a freak baby who grew up six years
in only one season! With the Moto films, they'd jumped the shark by
introducing comic relief because they thought that these intelligent
films needed to be re-tooled. In the previous film, Warren Hymer played
an annoying wrestler. And, in this film the character Archibald
Featherstone appears. Featherstone might just be one of the most
annoying examples of comic relief ever, as you kept hoping someone
(preferably Moto) would kill him just to shut him up!! Although he's
supposed to work for the famed Scotland Yard, he shows all the
intelligence and acumen of a brain damaged turnip. Again and again, his
scenes were boorish and unnecessary and Peter Lorre just looks pained
as he stands there and watches this buffoon "act". It's so bad that it
truly destroys what COULD have been one of the better Moto films due to
its clever plot.
As for the plot, the crown of the Queen of Sheba is discovered in the opening scene. Moto, now more of an international policeman than the amoral character he originally was, is on hand to protect the precious item from being stolen. In a great twist, several thieves all try to steal the crown independently of each other.
Overall, the film is watchable but is also ample evidence that the Moto series should have ended here. With WWII approaching, the films couldn't have survived much longer anyway, as having a sympathetic Japanese leading character simply wouldn't have been accepted in the US or in allied countries.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An archaeological project ends up having mild-mannered sleuth Kantaro Moto(Peter Lorre)putting a vacation on hold. Young archaeologist Howard Stevens(John King)becomes notable after unearthing the priceless crown of The Queen of Sheba. Mr. Moto will take on the appearance of a German artifacts expert to help protect the crown as it makes the journey to be displayed at a San Francisco museum. A bumbling tourist named Featherstone(G.P. Huntley)all but blows the detective's charade. An international jewel thief joins forces with a few Frisco hoodlums to steal the much sought after artifact. It doesn't take Mr. Moto long to suspect that someone working with the museum may be an allusive master criminal. This is the last in the somewhat successful 20th Century Fox crime series. It has been said that Lorre was more than glad this role was coming to an end. This film is interesting enough, but Huntley's antics get old quick. Other players include: Virginia Field, Joseph Schildkraut, Iva Stewart, Victor Varconi, Anthony Warde and one of the best villains in the business Lionel Atwell.
After eight Moto films the series had run its course, as this last entry demonstrates. Peter Lorre was clearly weary of trying to pump some sort of human interest and entertainment value into the wispy character of Moto, and the dreadful idea of pairing him with a "funny" British sidekick utterly defeats all his efforts here.
I had never seen the Mr. Moto movies until recently. They really had potential when the first couple featured a kind of dark mysterious character. But then Hollywood got involved and created fluffy romances and silly plot elements and, if it weren't for Peter Lorre, almost ruined the series. The character of Featherstone, the British idiot who showed up in a previous episode, is not funny. He is pathetic as a drunken busybody. I agree with a previous reviewer that he could have been killed falling off the boat and it would have improved the story. He destroys all the flow to this episode. It is exciting enough, with two different criminal elements trying to steal the crown of the Queen of Sheba. Also, considering supposed seriousness of the efforts to protect this priceless artifact, the authorities are bumbling dunces. Lionel Atwell is tiresome and overstuffed. There is also the handsome, boring young guy who is in love with the obligatory attractive young woman. They contribute nothing. It's a shame that Peter Lorre's wonderful character has to shine in the face of all this. I know it's a B movie, but I guess they were trying to appease the Saturday afternoon crowds.
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