The Japanese character, Mr. Moto, disguises himself as a German as part of the plot when in fact a Germanic (actually Austro-Hungarian) actor, Peter Lorre, is portraying a Japanese detective. See more »
Quite enjoyable, and far less offensive than one might expect
Of all the yellowface performances I've ever seen from classic Hollywood, Peter Lorre's Mr. Moto strikes me as the least offensive. The only times the character comes off as too stereotypical are when Mr. Moto is trying to trick dumb white people into thinking he's an ignorant heathen. Most of the time he's exceedingly intelligent, a Japanese Sherlock Holmes. He even has a couple of action sequences (apparently the audiences at the time ate up the Judo stuff). Lorre's just great in the role. The rest of the cast here is fine, too (the most recognizable actors are Henry Wilcoxon and Erik Rhodes). The Asian detective character was extremely popular at the time, the most famous of them being Charlie Chan (there's also Boris Karloff's Mr. Wong). I'm planning to take in a Charlie Chan and Mr. Wong film (n.b. I did end up watching Mr. Wong, Detective afterward, and it was pretty good, too) just for comparison. I also plan on watching all the other Mr. Moto films available to me. I love Lorre and very much enjoyed this film.
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