A Japanese man claiming to be Mr Moto, of the International Police, is abducted and murdered soon after disembarking from a ship at Port Said in Egypt. The real Mr Moto is already in Port Said, investigating a conspiracy against the British and French governments. The dead man was his colleague, impersonating him to throw the conspirators off his scent. Mr Moto recognises one of the conspirators as a British Secret Service agent, and together they discover that the gang have mined the harbour in preparation for the arrival of the French fleet. Their aim is to throw the blame onto the British, which may start a second World War. Written by
Daniel Frankham <danielf@my-Deja.com>
The reason this film is shown more often than any of the others is because it's in the public domain, and no longer under the legal control of 20th Century-Fox. See more »
When Fabian first suspects that Danforth is not what he seems, he uses a pen to scribble a beard on a photo of British Intelligence Agent Richard Burke in his notebook dossier. The beard he draws ends in a straight line under Burke's chin. In a later scene, when Fabian shows the photo to Norvel, the beard is thicker and descends with a point toward Burke's collar. See more »
The Mr. Moto films went out of circulation immediately after Pearl Harbor. As we can see in this film, they reflected a hope that circulated in John P. Marquand's England (and had some currency in the US) that a reasonably 'civilized' (in the European sense) Japan could be negotiated with over China and then used for political leverage against Russia and Germany. This film was released in early 1939; by September of that year, Germany was in Poland, and England and France were allied against it, so the basic premise of the film was made worthless. Shortly after, the Japanese kicked the British out of China, so the basic hope underlying the film became worthless. The film is thus best approached as a kind of fantasy.
It is, specifically, a spy thriller, not a mystery at all; it's more closely related to the James Bond films (which are also largely fantasies) than to the Charlie Chan style 'oriental detective' movies of its own day.
This is the only widely - and cheaply - available Moto film. I've only seen one other Mr. Moto film, a long time ago, and I don't remember it well. It was a fairly faithful adaptation from the original Marquand material, and seemed very complicated, much as the Marquand novels can be. This film, to the contrary, is an original story. It is streamlined and linear in plotting. It appears to have been made rather quickly on not a lot of money, but the film-making is strictly professional. The pacing avoids a lot of lags, and there are moments of real suspense and real surprise.
Thus we have a well-made, enjoyable genre film here; but the main delight of the film is undoubtedly the performance of Peter Lorre. Lorre achieved some respect in Germany and England before coming to Hollywood - where, alas, he was not treated well, as the type for which he was usually cast - 'suspicious foreigner' - was very narrow. Mr. Moto here allows Lorre a star-turn, a hero's part, and surprisingly considerable latitude in interpretation. He is obviously having a grand time here, and delivers a wonderful performance.
Overall, an excellent B-movie, very entertaining if taken on its own terms.
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