Mr. Moto in Danger Island (1939) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
18 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
7/10
Bewilderin'!
Spondonman10 May 2007
Moto #7/8 finds us in "Porto Rico" with a great print, some nice sets and atmospheric photography and a sterling cast giving the flimsy plot all they had.

Moto played as ever by Peter Lorre is called in by the Government in cahoots with the Governor to root out an international gang of diamond smugglers, discovers straight away that one the Governor's confidantes must be one of the baddies, if not the top dirty dog. Just picture the high profile suspects: Leon Ames, Douglas Dumbrille, Richard Lane, Jean Hersholt, Charles Brown or even Robert Lowery, all shifty and at each others throats from the word go but which one is guilty? At least Moto's sidekick wrestler Warren Hymer has no doubts, even if he is paradoxically also continually bewildered. Mention ghosts and Willie Best makes an appearance! The dialogue was surprisingly witty, the production values high - from the delightful evening party to the beads of sweat on various foreheads. The running gag was supplied by McGurk's unstinting admiration for Moto always besting him at judo - he sure took some beating and shooting at in here!

Great non-heavy entertainment as usual, an excellent entry in the series.
13 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
you gotta love Peter Lorre
blanche-213 November 2011
Peter Lorre stars as Japanese investigator Mr. Moto in "Mr. Moto in Danger Island," a 1939 release also starring Jean Hersholt, Amanda Duff, Walter Hymer, Douglas Dumbrille, and Leon Ames. Originally written as a Charlie Chan script, Moto is asked to investigate the smuggling of inexpensive contraband diamonds from South America via Puerto Rico and into the U.S. that are driving down diamond prices. One investigator has already been murdered, so it's time to send in the big guns - Moto.

A professional wrestler named Twister McGurk (Hymer), whom Moto meets en route to Puerto Rico, attaches himself to the diminutive detective, which brings some comic relief.

Entertaining with a nice tropical atmosphere despite being made on a back lot, and it's always a joy to see Peter Lorre. Unfortunately for Mr. Moto, World War II ended his run.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
We know who done it, but the fun is how we do it
drystyx8 August 2011
This is a murder mystery, with Mr. Moto, for those of you who don't know, as the crafty man investigating the case. Like Charlie Chan, he's a private investigator.

Peter Lorre had a "cool" charisma about him, much like Basil Rathbone, Humphrey Bogart, and others who played such roles.

Films like this either take one or a combination of two of the following: 1. Mystery with clues that the audience can use. 2. Mystery with atmosphere and humor 3. Mystery with a twist.

Just about none have all three. One may cite "Chinatown" as a possibility, but the atmosphere isn't what I would call strong in that one. Atmosphere and humor come either without twists or without clues.

This film uses the first two elements. It would be far fetched to say there is a twist. There is an abundance of atmosphere and humor, and many clues.

We know very soon who the killer is. At first it isn't easy, because all of the suspects look alike, middle aged white men with mustaches, but once we tell them apart, and once the atmosphere is established, we do know which one it is.

That doesn't take away from the adventure, though. Lots of good elements make this an enjoyable film.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Another typical Moto film
MartinHafer21 March 2009
Calling this a typical Moto film is not a bad thing. After all, this series from Twentieth-Century Fox was about the equal in quality to their other series, Charlie Chan. The big difference being that Moto is more a "gun for hire"--a man who would play private detective or even mercenary in his films. Unlike the squeaky clean and rather sedate Chan, Moto is more physical and not above twisting the law or even killing someone. Sadly, he didn't kill anyone in this film--always a trademark of a great Moto film!

Moto is on his way to Puerto Rico to investigate a diamond smuggling ring. However, on the way, he is laid out due to an appendicitis and it looks like Moto might have to drop the case. However, being a very sneaky character, there's a lot more to the story than this.

Along for the ride is Warren Hymer, who plays Moto's new friend who tags along during the investigation. Having Hymer in the film makes sense, however, as the film was originally planned another Chan film. But, since Warner Oland had recently died, the script was adapted for Peter Lorre's series. In the usual role of Number One or Number Two son is Hymer--who gets into trouble and makes a nuisance of himself just like he was an honorary Chan himself!

Overall, well written, exciting and up to the usual high standards of the series. The only serious knock I have against this film is that although it's set in Puerto Rico, there's no one who remotely looks or sounds Hispanic in the film. Of course, considering they have a German guy playing Moto, I guess this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
"Gee, you know, it's stupefying."
classicsoncall12 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
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.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Moto in Puerto Rico.
admjtk170116 April 2000
This is one of the later Moto pictures and not as good as the earlier ones. Peter Lorre is his usual great self. And, there is a great nostalgic sense of the time and setting. But it doesn't have as much life as the previous entries in the series. It is still worth seeing. Just don't expect to see Moto at his best. It is better than "Mr. Moto's Gamble" and far better than the 60's attempt at reviving the character, "The Return of Mr. Moto". This was based on the novel, "Murder in Trinidad" which did not feature Moto and was filmed before and since. For this film the locale was changed to Puerto Rico. At one time this was slated to be filmed as a Charlie Chan film, "Charlie Chan in Trinidad".
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
"Gee, you know...it's stupefying!"
utgard1412 March 2014
Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) investigates diamond smuggling in Puerto Rico with comic relief sidekick Twister McGuirk (Warren Hymer). Pretty good entry in the Moto series. The second-to-last, sadly. Lorre's flawlessly fun, as usual. A lot of people don't seem to like the addition of a sidekick for Moto and I sympathize with that. However, it's really not that bad if you like Hymer's shtick, which I do. If you judge it on its own and not by comparison to the best of the series, I think you'll like it. Exceptional supporting cast features Jean Hersholt, Leon Ames, Richard Lane, Douglas Dumbrille, Robert Lowery, and Paul Harvey. Amanda Duff fulfills the movie's quota for pretty. Ward Bond appears in the opening scene as a wrestler who gets tossed around by Mr. Moto. Also, watch how they drive those big old cars around those tight street sets. I kept expecting someone to clip a building!
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
It's not the heat it's the humility!
kapelusznik1816 November 2013
***SPOILERS*** Mr. Moto, Peter Lorre, is sent to the island of Puerto Rico to check out a diamond smuggling ring that's responsible for the murder of a Government Agent, Rodney Graham, who had infiltrated it. Faking an appendicitis attack Mr. Moto and his good friend and bodyguard, as if he needs one, professional wrestler Twister McGurk, Warren Hymen, is kidnapped by the smugglers on his way to the hospital only to lead the local police straight to them. In what was a wild brawl the leader of the group Capt.Dahlen, Eddie Marr, escaped to the Puerto Ricen swamps where his smugging operation originates from. Now again faking that he in fact is not Mr. Motto Mister Motto gets himself, together with Twister McGurk, recruited into the diamond smuggling ring using the allies of wanted and on the lamb hood Yoko Simura.

Not one of the better Mr. Moto movies with the fearless and martial arts expert Mr. Motto getting his nice clean and pressed white suit and pants wet and dirtied with mud in the swamps where the diamond smugglers are operating out of. It takes a while for Mr. Moto to find out who's really behind this diamond smuggling ring that has already murdered two people including the Governor of the Island John Bentley, Paul Harvey, who had uncovered his identity. It's when Capt. Dahlen is caught in his attempted escape,on a motor boat, from the law that Mr. Moto devises a fool proof plan to get the head of this diamond smuggling ring to come out in the open. That in him trying to murder the seriously injured Capt. Dahlen before he comes out of his coma and talks to the police!

***SPOILERS**** As the saying goes "Dead Men Tell No Tales" and that also goes for Capt. Dahlen. He was dead all the time but the clever Mr. Moto kept that from the person who was to eventually "murder" him to keep him from talking. A neat trick on Mr. Moto's part in having him expose himself by killing Capt. Dahlen a second time, he in fact died in a shoot out with the police on the high seas, in him not knowing that he was dead already!
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Peter Lorre's Mr Moto tackles a gang of diamond smugglers.
maksquibs27 November 2007
In the long line of 'politically incorrect' Hollywood racial casting, Hungarian born Peter Lorre's Mr Moto is probably the least in need of historical/cultural apologies to facilitate our enjoyment of the eight dandy pics he made as the polite, but not quite knowable Japanese detective. Most were smartly directed by ex-actor Norman Foster, but this late entry was helmed by 'routinier' Herbert Leeds who brings a good deal less to the party. Still, even when playing more closely within the conventions of drawing room detective yarns (and with too much forced dimwit comic relief), Lorre manages to elevate the slim story about diamond smuggling in the tropics into something entertaining and a bit perverse, with nice support from Jean Hersholt, Leon Ames, Paul Harvey & Douglas Dumbrille all in spiffy white suits.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Another Winning Entry
Michael_Elliott3 July 2009
Mr. Moto in Danger Island (1939)

*** (out of 4)

Seventh film in the series finds Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) tracking down a diamond smuggling ring working from South America through Puerto Rico. Along the way various murders begin to happen with a wide range of suspects. I've read that this was originally intended to be an entry in Fox's Charlie Chan series but it works well as a Moto movie. The movie has a nice pace to it, a great supporting cast and overall nice story, which makes this here another winner. What works the best is the cast and the lead performance by Lorre. He certainly never struck me as looking Japanese but he certainly digs deep into the character and delivers all the goods in terms of manor isms and various gestures that he does throughout. Warren Hymer adds a lot of nice comic touches in his role as the dimwitted wrestler who befriends Moto early on in the film and refuses to leave his side. Richard Lane, from the Boston Blackie series, does a very good job in his role of the Commissioner and we also get nice turns by Jean Hersholt, Amanda Duff, Leon Ames and Paul Harvey. Even though the film is set in Puerto Rico, you really can't tell that but the stuff in the swamp contains some nice atmosphere. The movie is certainly one of the better entries in the series and makes for a nice, fast paced entertainment.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Diamonds get Rough
Hitchcoc3 February 2016
I thought this was pretty good. It takes place in Puerto Rico where a gang of diamond smugglers are at work. On the way over, Moto meets a professional wrestler who tags along with him (perhaps we could call them a tag team). Once they arrive, the military man in charge is under scrutiny for allowing things to occur under his watch. As is usually the case in these types of films, there are all kinds of suspects. Peter Lorre is at his best in this one as he must play roles in order to keep everyone off their game. A question I've been pondering has to do with how many white suits Moto has. Once again, as I've said at other times, "How is it that the bad guys can fire a hundred shots and not hit any of the good guys?" There are plot problems like over the place as well. But still it's pretty entertaining as are most of these films.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Mr. Moto series continues.
michaelRokeefe11 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Herbert I. Leeds directs Peter Lorre in this episode of the Mr. Moto series. Diamond smugglers in Puerto Rico murder a lead investigator; this forces the U.S. Government to call upon super sleuth Kentaro Moto(Lorre)to further investigate and break up the suspected criminal ring. As always when summoned, Moto's powers of reason prove flawless when dealing with dim-bulb hoodlums. With martial arts and mental prowess, the unassuming and mild mannered Mr. Moto is victorious in meeting the challenge. Deadpan humor is not lost in the crime and drama. The supporting cast features: Jean Hersholt, Richard Lane, Amanda Duff, Leon Ames, Paul Harvey and Warren Hymer, as Twister McGurk.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Oh yes, the one with Ward Bond as a wrestler...
gazzo-21 September 2001
Studio bound, filled with the Dumbrille's of the era, yer basic walk through. Not nearly as good as the one with all the Brits; it was a series on its way out by then. Worth a watch if you haven't caught it yet, the Willie Best type stuff is hard to put up with though. Poor guy, aka 'Sleep and Eat'...

** outta ****
5 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Damp and dismal
Anne_Sharp16 July 2001
Not one of the brighter entries in the wildly uneven Peter Lorre-Sol Wurtzel Moto series, this one sets our hero on the trail of the obligatory jewel smugglers in glamorous, exotic PUERTO RICO, where he encounters a snippy library clerk and a tippy rowboat among other perils.
4 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
"Hey, Mr. Moto! Indemnify me for these mugs!"
bensonmum222 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Mr. Moto has been called to Puerto Rico to investigate diamond smuggling. As his predecessor was found murdered, Moto knows that the gang he's up against will kill to keep their illicit business in operation. Moto quickly comes to the conclusion that there must be leak within the Governor's inner circle. But these are trusted men! Surely Moto must be wrong. And what does the swamp that once harbored pirates have to do with the band of modern day criminals? It's up to Moto to put the pieces together.

While none of the movies in the Moto series could be called "high art", most provide at least an entertaining way to spend just over an hour. Of the 6 or so Moto movies I've now seen, Mr. Moto in Danger Island is easily the least of the bunch. While Peter Lorre is as entertaining as always and seems to be giving it his all, the plot lets him down at every turn. In many of these movies from the 30s, the plots rely on coincidence (or plain old dumb luck) to solve the mystery. The set of circumstances required to solve the mystery in Mr. Moto in Danger Island borders on being ridiculous. And while I'm on the subject of things in the movie that bothered me, I'll mention that not once did the movie feel like it was actually set in Puerto Rico. I cannot remember seeing anyone who even resembled a Puerto Rican. Given all the white guys present, the movie looks like it should have been set in Des Moines instead of Puerto Rico.

Still, it's Moto and I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. I just love these stage-bound adventure type movies form the 30s. As I mentioned, Lorre is entertaining. For the most part, the supporting cast is just as strong. I always enjoy Leon Ames and Douglass Dumbrille every time I see them pop-up in one of these movies. Also on the positive side, while it may not have looked like Puerto Rico, the movie still looked great. I'm not all that familiar with the cinematographer, Lucien N. Andriot, but I'll give him the credit for making Mr. Moto in Danger Island look far better than it should have given its meager budget.

In the end, it's not great, but I can think of far worse ways spend and hour. Fans of the Moto series will find enough to make them happy. For what it's worth, I'll give Mr. Moto in Danger Island a 6/10.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Puerto Rico, you lovely island
bkoganbing11 April 2013
Now I realize that the Mr. Moto features were B pictures from 20th Century Fox and I have a low bar set for them accordingly, but you would think that a film set in Puerto Rico would have at least one person of Latino background as a character. Even a small scene where Peter Lorre goes to a library to do research the librarian could have been a librarian from Kankakee, Illinois. Darryl F. Zanuck should have been more alert here.

With that the film does sink to below average in ratings. As for the plot itself, Mr. Moto On Danger Island finds the intrepid Japanese sleuth hired by a consortium of diamond merchants to put a stop as to his smuggling the gems from Puerto Rico. It's important enough so that the territorial governor of Puerto Rico, Paul Harvey is in on it and is giving him full cooperation. Not that it does Harvey much good, because Harvey winds up a homicide victim and Colonel Richard Lane of the army who had been investigating the situation previously winds up with the blame and the suspicion of being the man in charge of the smuggling.

Such folks as Robert Lowery, Leon Ames, Douglass Dumbrille and Jean Hersholt are in the cast, any one of them a likely villain. And for comic relief the intellectually challenged Warren Hymer is along as a professional wrestler who strikes up the acquaintance of Peter Lorre while on the boat bound for Puerto Rico and attaches himself to Lorre.

Fans of the series will like this, but I fear few others.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Goodbye, Mr. Moto
gavin694215 July 2014
The U.S. government asks Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) to go to Puerto Rico to investigate diamond smuggling after an earlier investigator is murdered.

This was the final film of Mr. Moto, at least until his very brief revival decades later (with mixed results). As much as Peter Lorre excelled in the role, it ran its course and few have probably mourned the loss.

The script was initially a Charlie Chan story, but quickly turned into a Moto tale. What does this say about the two that they could be interchangeably altered so easily? What is interesting is that for all the concerns of racism this series may provoke (with a German portraying a Japanese man), the possibly more racist portrayal is the black boat captain. Looking back today, it is often surprising how few black actors their were in mainstream films, and those that were present were treated as comic relief.
0 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Quicksand and swamps?
RemiFasolati-881-7718823 January 2014
Watched three Mr. Moto movies: One was "The Mysterious Mr. Moto". The 2ns one was, I think, "Mr. Moto's Last Warning".

Maybe the best of the three was this one, "Mr. Moto in Danger Island: (1939) Danger Island is apparently Puerto Rico

Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre). Geez, I thought it would never end. But still, in this series, if you're a Lorre fan (I am)… I give it a "6". Not as high as others rated it.

Mr. Moto picks up a sidekick, a wrestler named Twister Mcgirk, when he goes to Puerto Rico to investigate diamond smuggling and a missing investigator. (I didn't know diamond mines were big in Puerto Rico but that is explained). Twister's grammar makes Slip Mahoney (Bowery Boys) sound like Laurence Olivier.

I saw Ward Bond among the wrestlers but he wasn't in the credits.

I've been to Puerto Rico; I didn't see any swamps or quicksand but… okay. Maybe I missed it. All I saw was luxury hotels and beautiful beaches. Oh, and I didn't see any Puerto Ricans in this movie.
0 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed