In the Arabian Desert an excavation, led by Howard Stevens (John King), unearths the crown of the legendary Queen of Sheba. Alongside him is Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre) disguised as a Viennese professor. Prince Suleid (John Davidson) is aware of Mr. Moto’s disguise. Mr. Moto has hopes that the crown will bring out a notorious criminal named Metaxa who is believed to be dead but Moto is of the opinion that he is very much alive and would stop at nothing to possess the crown.

Stevens brings the crown back to San Francisco to the Fremont Museum. Mr. Moto is also aboard the ship traveling under an assumed name. One of the other passengers is Archie Featherstone (G.P. Huntley), a dorky Englishman who knows Moto and accidentally but loudly outs him as being the real Mr. Moto. Moto says he was traveling incognito because he was on vacation and didn’t want to be bothered by any business.

Overhearing this exchange is a criminal named Wendling (John Bleifer) who works for a bigger criminal named Joe Rubla (Anthony Warde). Rubla is after the crown so that he can have the stones re-cut and sell them. No sooner does the ship dock when Joe and his gang try to steal the crown. Their efforts are thwarted by the bumbling Featherstone, but Rubla isn’t giving up.

Once the artifact is set up at the museum a different pair of criminals are scheming to steal the crown. Eleanore Kirke (Virginia Field), who had been on the ship and was playing up to Howard, is in league with a man named Paul Borodoff (Victor Varconi). It’s Eleanore’s job to keep Howard busy while Borodoff, pretending to be an insurance investigator, examines the alarm system so he can come back later to disarm it and steal the crown.

As Mr. Moto tries to identify Metaxa he and Featherstone are also being stalked by Rubla.

“Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation” was released in 1939 and was directed by Norman Foster. It is the last of eight Mr. Moto films produced by 20th Century Fox that featured John P. Marquand’s character Mr. Moto and starring Peter Lorre. There wouldn’t be another Mr. Moto film until 1965 when “The Return of Mr. Moto” would be released, this time starring Henry Silva as Moto. The original series ended when Lorre’s contract ended in 1939. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 ensured that no more Mr. Moto movies would be done, nor would Marquand write any Mr. Moto stories for quite some time.

The plot with three separate villains trying to steal the same Macguffin is an interesting one although slightly confusing at times. Peter Lorre in his final performance as Mr. Moto is also fun. His character is both lethal and charming at the same time. The fly in the ointment is the obtuse G.P. Huntley as Featherstone. In most of the Mr. Moto films there is a useful idiot that Moto plays off of and they are all lame. This one is no different. It’s not totally surprising that he shows up at a costume party in blackface. I believe someone referred to him as the Jar Jar Binks of the Moto series.

If you can ignore Featherstone the movie is actually full of amusing moments, some by Lionel Atwill as Professor Hildebrand the museum curator. Normally the villain in films, here he is the bombastic and slightly flustered head of the museum. Some of his exchanges with Moto are funnier and far more subtle than Featherstone’s very loud bull in a very small china shop.

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