Another entry in the late 1930's Mr. Moto series from Twentieth Century Fox, this one finds the Japanese sleuth in an adventure on the island of Puerto Rico. As in the first film, "Think Fast, Mr. Moto", the plot involves a diamond smuggling operation, and it too involves transport of the gems via cruise ships, however most of Mr. Moto's (Peter Lorre) investigation takes place on dry land.
One of the things I liked about the early Charlie Chan movies from Fox were the references often made to events in a prior picture. In this story, Moto allows himself to be mistaken for a Japanese outlaw named Shimura. When Commissioner Gordon (Richard Lane) converses with a government official in the U.S., he learns that Moto will use any ruse as part of his investigation, learning of the escape from a Devil's Island prison camp in the prior movie, "Mysterious Mr. Moto". It's those little insertions that make the Oriental Detective movies so much fun for me.
As in all the Moto films, this one features the sleuth in various martial arts scenes, but with a noticeable difference. In all the prior stories, the fights were almost always staged in very dim, even dark locations. The ones on display here are done in broad daylight, but even so, it's impossible to detect the stunt man (Harvey Parry) responsible for the flips and throws. Speaking of which, even Douglas Dumbrille's character La Costa manages to get a round house kick in on Moto's sidekick in the film, wrestler Twister McGurk (Warren Hymer). Twister becomes Moto's shadow for virtually the entire picture, thanks in part to Moto's distraction of opponent Sailor Sam in the film's opening sequence. Anyone else do a double take to see Ward Bond in that role?
Keep an eye on the scenes involving Moto's second trip into the swamp in the latter half of the film. The lower half of Mr. Moto's pants are alternately muddy and clean in scenes that take place at the villains' camp.
Some viewers may find the later pictures in the Moto series to be inferior to the early ones, but I have to say that this one was as entertaining to me as the ones that went before. By now one has a pretty good sense of how Moto operates, solving the crime via a series of masquerades, martial arts and clever analysis. The addition of some comic relief to this film by way of Twister's malapropisms was just the right touch to keep things moving along briskly.
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