Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Thankfully, MR. MOTO

I’ve finally seen a Mr. Moto film. In fact I’ve now seen the first two Mr. Moto films and the second one was even better than the first! I’ve known about this series of movies for years but have never had the chance to see them. The recent release of the first four in a box set last year has remedied this deficiency in my film education.

I’ve been a fan of the Charlie Chan movies for a long time and from what I’ve read Moto was seen as a kind of companion series. Peter Lorre plays the Japanese detective with a lot of style and an amazing amount of energy. He (and his stunt double) are quick on the draw and have little problem tossing bad guys around with Judo moves Chuck Norris would appreciate. These martial arts skills are one of the sharp differences from the Chan character that really pleased me. This investigator has more than just a gun as a weapon of defense and seeing such a physical take charge kind of lead was a blast. Indeed, Moto can be a little bloody thirsty as he offs quite few folks in the second film with both gun and knife!

Another interesting difference is Moto’s ability with disguise. For the first few minutes of THINK FAST, MR. MOTO he is disguised as a crouched beggar trying to sell a large diamond to an unscrupulous dealer. Only years of watching Lorre in various movies allowed me to spot him under the very effective makeup. Adding to the fun in this first film of the series is that the script refuses to show its hand by keeping Moto’s motivations for his often shady actions a mystery. Even at the halfway point it was possible to think Moto was not working in anyone’s interest but his own. Since the film is now easy to see on DVD I’ll not spoil any of the fun. I’ll just recommend it and its immediate sequel as time well spent if you’re a mystery fan.
Now I have to fight own the urge to track down the books the movies were based on!


Cheryl said...

Nice essay, Rod! Glad you finally had a chance to see a Mr. Moto film. I've been a Moto fan myself for years. I also wanted to let you know, if you didn't already, there is an authorized biography on Peter Lorre -- "The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre", by Stephen Youngkin. Nice section on the Moto films.


Rod Barnett said...

That's another of the long list of film books i need to read. Thanks for the kind words.