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Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Peter Lorre’s debut as the mysterious Japanese detective is largely on target, but has some trouble figuring out what tone to take. Later entries would leap effortlessly from sly parody to adventure to the inevitable drawing room explanations without breaking a sweat. Here, series coordinator & helmer Norman Foster overworks his material, determined to hide his minuscule budget with more studio-bound local color, action sequences, disguises and romantic sidebars than he really needs. This entry, about diamond smuggling, is still tremendous fun for anyone who can deal with the Golden-Age Hollywood custom of non-PC racial casting. It’s amazing how convincing Lorre, a displaced Hungarian Jew, is as the polymath Asian undercover agent even when playing against the real Asian actors who show up in supporting roles.

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