Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) is on an archeological dig in Tong Moi, when a plane crashes nearby. Aboard is Victoria Mason (Rochelle Hudson). Victoria is a woman aviator who was reportedly trying to travel solo around the world by plane. Also in the jungles of Tong Moi are two American cameramen, Marty Weston (Robert Kent) and Chick Davis (Chick Chandler), making newsreels of jungle wildlife. When Moto examines the plane, he finds a used flare. It tells him that the crash may not have been accidental, but Victoria may have intentionally crashed the plane near Moto’s dig. Moto is a little suspicious of her arrival.
Victoria is welcomed by the Rajah Ali (J. Edward Bromberg). Marty and Chick are excited about Victoria literally dropping in and what to get on film the Rajah welcoming her to Tong Moi. The high priest, Bokor (George Regas), however, doesn’t want the Americans around. When the Rajah’s favorite wife drops dead it gives the priest an excuse to declare the Americans responsible and sentence them to death. He accuses their camera of stealing the life of the Rajah’s wife. Moto finds that she was actually killed by a poison dart. Disguised as an old wise man living in the nearby temple of Shiva, Moto secures the release of Weston and Davis before Bokor tosses them down a well.
In a secret chamber inside the temple Moto finds a cache of weapons and ammunition. Bokor has been stockpiling weapons and hiding them in the temple. Moto is really a spy and sends a note via carrier pigeon to his superiors warning them of Bokor’s stockpile. Moto doesn’t know that his notes are being intercepted by the Rajah. The last note reveals that Bokor is planning a revolution against the French who run the territory and also plans on overthrowing the Rajah. The Rajah is only playing dumb and now is aware of what Bokor is up to. Moto has been exposed to the Rajah and is also on Bokor’s hit list. Then Victoria turns out to be not what she appears.
“Mr. Moto Takes A Chance” was released in 1938 and was directed by Norman Foster. It is a crime mystery and the fourth of eight Mr. Moto movies by 20th Century Fox that featured Peter Lorre as the Japanese detective. It was actually the second Mr. Moto filmed but the release of the film was delayed until after “Thank You Mr. Moto” and “Mr. Moto’s Gamble”. The Mr. Moto character was created by John P. Marquand.
Although it isn’t the strongest addition to the Mr. Moto series it’s still an enjoyable film. Lorre’s Yoda-esque disguise makes the movie look more like “Star Wars” meets “The Temple of Doom”. Although it looks like a Jungle movie it is still a Mr. Moto feature. The duo of Marty Weston, played by Robert Kent and Chick Davis, played by Chick Chandler fill two spots in standard movie tropes. Marty is the love interest for Victoria and Chick is the comic relief.
It’s not stated where the fictional village of Tong Moi is, but it is somewhere in the area known as French Indochina. Indochina covers several countries. My guess is it’s probably in Laos.
Victor Sen Yung, who played #2 son in the Charlie Chan series, has a bit part as a Khmer Soldier.