DVD Review: Mr. Moto Collection vol. 2

Mr. Moto Collection Vol 2

Fox Home Entertainment

“You must help me! …Reeck!” This was one of Peter Lorre’s final lines to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (Reeck being his pronounciation of “Rick”). Casablanca was my introduction to Peter Lorre, then of course I saw the unbelievably funny Arsenic and Old Lace. Peter Lorre is one of those actors that grows on you bit by bit, until you say “Peter Lorre?! I LOVE HIM ! !” (Or perhaps you are part of the population that says, “Oh, you mean that bug eyed guy?”, or “Oh, yeah; my Mom loved Columbo when I was growing up.” That last one makes my weep. Not a lot…about as much as that Indian from those late 70’s littering commercials.) Anyway, when I was asked to watch Mr. Moto and write a review I said, “Peter Lorre?! I LOVE HIM ! !” So I went in primed. It was fun seeing Peter Lorre playing a good guy, instead of a weasel.

Unfortunately, these four films–Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939), Mr. Moto in Danger Island (1939), Mr. Moto’s Last Warning (1939), and Mr. Moto’s Gamble (1938)–seemed like a rehashing of Charlie Chan. (Of course had I watched Moto first, I might have said, “these Chan films seem like rehashings of Mr. Moto.”) Accordingly, I was very interested to learn that Mr. Motos’ Gamble was originally slated to be a Warner Olind Charlie Chan movie, but for reasons I will not go into here (you’ll have to watch), Mr. Oland was being difficult during filming…so they literally changed, in the script, “Charlie Chan says,” to “Mr. Moto says.” (This explains why Charlie Chan’s “Number One Son” Lee [Keye Luke] was in the movie. If you have seen any of the Chan movies you can tell by the way Mr. Moto treats Lee Chan that this was originally a Chan movie.)

I watched the extras from Moto, and they discussed how Mr. Moto would dress in a disguise and kill people with no remorse (for a good cause, of course). I said, “WHAT!?I want to see THOSE Motos! ! !” Oh, well. Also included as a bonus is The Return of Mr. Moto (1965), starring Puerto Rican actor Henry Silva as Moto; in this incarnation they have dropped trying to make Moto sound or look Japanese, and just refer to him as “The Jap,” or “The Oriental.”

All in all, if you are a fan of Peter Lorre, these movies are a must. If you are a fan of 30’s movie making, they are a must. If you are a fan of white men dressing up and speaking with an Asian accent: Seek help. Seriously.

Randy Otteson

P.S. Thanks to Miz Cheryl for correcting a title mistake in the review.