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Sunday, June 22, 2008

MYSTERIOUS MR. MOTO (1938)


The fifth entry (of eight) in the endearingly odd series is one of the best. Norman Foster, who directed six episodes. co-wrote the tight script which opens with Moto (the irreplaceable Peter Lorre) escaping Devil’s Island with fellow inmate Leon Ames. Naturally, Moto is secretly there on a case, budding up to Ames because he’s part of a British-based murder-for-hire scheme. Back in London, Moto gets Ames to employ him as valet so he can uncover the whole criminal organization. (Lorre has a great time playing duo Asian stereotypes off each other in a manner that only a German refugee Hungarian Jew working in Hollywood could have done at the time. And without a speck of jaded irony.) Physically, Foster does wonders with the low-budgets he had to work with and he has far better casts than similar series usually got (Henry Wilcoxon & Erik Rhodes both give tasty perfs). He's even able to keep the dopey comedy to a minimum on this one. Go Moto!

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