“Chop Chop and drive much-y careful.”
Posing as a street vendor in San Francisco’s Chinatown Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) visits an import, export shop that has a tapestry of a Chinese Tiger embroidered on it. Coming out of the shop is a man with a mask on his head and a British Flag tattooed on his wrist. Inside the shop Moto offers to sell the owner (Frederik Vogeding) a large diamond implying it is stolen. In a large basket behind the counter is a dead man. When a local cop comes into the shop a fight ensues and Moto escapes.
Later Moto boards the ship the Marco Polo bound for China. On board the ship is Bob Hitchings Jr. (Thomas Beck). He is the son of Robert Hitchings Sr. (George Hassell), the owner of the shipping line. Hitchings Senior gives Bob a confidential letter for the man who runs the Shanghai branch of the company, Joseph Wilkie (Murray Kinnell). Mr. Moto is assigned the stateroom across from Bob. Moto notices that the ship’s steward, Carson (John Rogers) is the same man with the tattoo from the import shop. Bob and Moto become friends.
In Honolulu, Gloria Danton (Virginia Field) boards the ship. Bob becomes attracted to her and they begin a shipboard romance that turns into love. Gloria is a little mysterious about her past. What Bob doesn’t know is that Gloria was planted on the ship to keep track of Bob and report back to her boss, Marloff (Sig Ruman). Marloff owns the nightclub that Gloria works in and is the head of a smuggling ring that uses the Hitchings Line to smuggle diamonds from Shanghai to San Francisco. The steward, Carson, is one of his minions. When Moto catches Carson trying to steal the envelope, he gracefully tosses the man overboard.
When the ship docks Gloria disappears. In Shanghai, while Bob is looking for Gloria, Moto is looking for the head of the smuggling ring. They just happen to both be in the same place.
“Think Fast, Mr. Moto” was released in 1937 and was directed by Norman Foster. It is crime drama and is the first of eight films featuring the Japanese detective played by Peter Lorre. The films were based on the character created by John P. Marquand.
I have a fondness for the Mr. Moto films, even though the series is very racist. The star, Peter Lorre, is Hungarian-American and Jewish. There were Asian actors at the time but the lead is played by a white man. Even in the film there are actual Asians, such as Lotus Long and Philip Ahn, just to name a couple. Still the character of Mr. Moto is intelligent, quick witted and an exceptional crime fighter, not to mention just a little scary when faced with evil. Lorre plays the Japanese investigator with charm and polite humor yet exudes a quiet intensity that belays his casual façade.
J. Carrol Nash has a part playing an East Indian merchant and one of Marloff’s minions, Adram.
Mr. Moto's Hangover Remedy: In a tall glass add a measure of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, 1 egg, 4 dashes orange bitters, 1 jigger Worcestershire sauce, 2 tsp sugar, a pony of absinthe, fill to top with gin, Stir gently, Drink.